How the Military Positioned This Top Producer for Success in Real Estate

Danielle Fountain did not follow the typical path into real estate. Prior to getting licensed, she spent 10 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Personnel and Service Officer, where she rose to the rank of Major, was certified as a negotiator and mediator, and worked directly for senior leadership.

She loved the work, but the demands of the military left her work-life balance anything but balanced. So she parted ways with the military, got her real estate license, and became the top producer by volume at her brokerage just three years later. 

That’s when she and her wife, Taylor, decided to form Austin-based The One Realty in partnership with Side. Danielle built The One Realty around the Air Force’s core values: “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” 

Here are some key principles she learned in the Air Force that she brings to running her business each and every day.

1. Lead with integrity

“The most important thing as an agent is to build your integrity,” said Danielle. You have to prove to clients you deserve their trust — and the way to do that is by being consistently honest and straightforward.

“Some listing agents will tell you, ‘Oh we got multiple offers on this house,’” said Danielle. “I will literally take a screenshot of the offer, redact the confidential information and numbers, and send the screenshot to the other buyers agents to prove I’m being honest.”

And cementing her reputation as an agent with integrity has opened new doors.

“I once had a prospective client who suggested I do something a little shady,” she recalled. “I told them: ‘If that’s what you want to do, then I can’t represent you.’ And the client actually decided to work with me because of that, because they knew I was going to be upfront with them if anything unethical was going on.”

2. Tailor your approach to build trust

During Danielle’s final appointment in the Air Force, she oversaw the Department of Defense’s largest lodging and dining operations while deployed in Qatar.

“I had hundreds and hundreds of people beneath me,” she explained. “Having the opportunity to lead and manage people like that taught me how to work with all kinds of different personalities.”

Now she brings that approach to her work in real estate.

“I’m a chameleon,” explained Danielle. “I know how to talk to my tech clients. I know how to talk to my first-time buyers, or the mom who is going through a divorce. People are important to me, and I absolutely honed my ability to read people in the military.”

3. Hold yourself accountable

Danielle’s military-honed personal discipline helped her grow her personal production from $0 to $10 million in sales in less than three years.

“I was used to having a rigorous schedule,” she said. “I was used to holding myself accountable. You don’t really call in sick from the military, and I still bring that ‘let’s get it done’ energy to everything I do.”

Each day, Danielle wakes up with a purpose, knowing there are people counting on her to perform. The people may have changed now that she’s a civilian, but the work ethic remains.

4. Always focus on the solution

“In the military, things can go severely wrong if they aren’t done correctly,” said Danielle. “And you can’t spend too much time focusing on what went wrong, or you won’t actually solve the problem. You have to concentrate on the solution.”

If the power grid gets knocked out for a week in the middle of a transaction, you can’t dwell on the fact that the closing might be delayed. Instead, reframe the problem as: What can we do to get this closed on time?

5. Reframe how you think about negotiation

“In real estate negotiations, you’re not really negotiating numbers,” said Danielle. “What matters most is your ability to negotiate with the individual sitting across the table from you.”

As a certified negotiator and mediator for the Air Force, Danielle learned that the most important negotiation work happens before you even get to the table.

“I look up everything I can about agents I’m going to negotiate with beforehand,” said Danielle. “Once I understand how they operate and have had a chance to build a rapport, I know how to approach the negotiation with them. With some people, I’ll need to appeal to their emotions; some will be more persuaded by numbers. It changes from person to person. It all comes back to my ability to understand people, and that came directly from the military.”

At first glance, Air Force Major and top-producing REALTOR® don’t seem like careers with much overlap. But Danielle has incorporated her military training into every aspect of her real estate career — and her business has flourished as a result.

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