BTU #169 - Marine Corps to Residential Real Estate (Drew Morris)

It was very painful to watch that savings account dwindle after I got out. My last paycheck from the Marine Corps was September 1st. After that it was all commission. I had to really step in and find out where the next paycheck would come from.
— Drew Morris

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Drew Morris is a Residential Real Estate Broker at the New Era Group at Your Castle Real Estate. He started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served as a Marine Corps officer for seven years. He transitioned directly from the Marine Corps into his current position, where he has worked for nearly five years.

Why Listen: 

Drew went directly from the Marine Corps into Residential Real Estate. However, beyond this just being an episode pertinent to other Veterans interested in Real Estate, there are two reasons to listen to this episode. The first is our conversation about commission-based jobs. Drew does the best job I've ever heard about why Veterans should consider a commission-based job. I know most members of the military have a negative association with this sort of job, but Drew has some compelling points. Second, Drew has great advice about sales. Sales is the most cited challenge in my interview with Veterans - selling oneself, networking, and sales in general. Drew's advice will hit home for many listeners.

Our Sponsor: 

  • StoryBox - People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at

Selected Resources: 

  • Fred Wilson @ Union Square Ventures in NY has a website called - he does a daily blog (often short) about startups, venture capital, and things he has seen in a long and successful career. He has a series called MBA Mondays, where he takes a particular topic and the archive of these topics are quick, well informed reads. 
  • Brad Feld wrote Venture Deals - if you’re looking to get into VC or raise money as an entrepreneur, it’s a great, easy read. It really helps you understand how the deals are structured, what the deal points where people negotiate, and a great overview on how fundraising happens.
  • Newsletters
    • CB Insights - a newsletter that covers early stage and active companies. There are links at the bottom of each email that are articles they’re reading they like.
    • Matter Mark - similar to CB Insights, it’s a great source of information about trends and insightful articles.

Transcript & Time Stamps:


Joining me today from Denver, CO is Drew Morris. Drew is a residential real estate broker with the New Era Group. He started out at the Naval Academy and served as a Marine Corps Officer for 7 years. He transitioned directly into the company that he’s with now.


How would you explain what you do for a living?

It’s pretty much what you would think. I help people buy and sell homes and land.


At what point did you decide you wanted to go into real estate?

I didn’t start studying for my real estate exam until March of the year I was getting out of the Marine Corps. Up to that point, I had looked into various other opportunities including business school and operations roles. Being in Colorado, I was looking into the energy sector as well. Coming out of a recruiting role also made me interested in sales. But after doing a ton of travel and deployments while on active duty, my wife and I were looking for something stable that would allow us to stay in Colorado. So I started looking into residential real estate. It was never on my radar until a few months before I got out. But it was the one thing that ended up being really fun and exciting to me. I’m able to invest in my community and have the flexibility to be involved in various community projects through this job. After I decided that I wanted to go down this road, I started pursuing my real estate license.


Could you talk about what it’s like to be in a 100% commission role?

It’s incredibly terrifying! In the months leading up to getting out, I was told that I needed to have a certain amount saved up to pay the bills because it would take a few months to get going in real estate. It was very painful to watch that savings account dwindle after I got out. My last paycheck from the Marine Corps was September 1st. After that it was all commission. I had to really step in and find out where the next paycheck would come from.

So it was definitely scary but once you get to a point where this world works for you, it all starts to come around. I was very fortunate to work with some top agencies because I was able to learn from them. Now I’m at a point where it seems more scary to be in a job where I have a salary and I’m subject to the whims of company leadership.


I love that description of the appeal of an all-commission position.

But I won’t sugarcoat it either - there are some times when I work for 3 months straight every day. During those times it might sound nice to be in a salaried position. But then there are times when I’m able to travel with my wife and kids and I have the freedom to create my own schedule. My wife and I just adopted 2 kids from Haiti and I was able to spend several weeks in Haiti during that time while still keeping up with the work that I needed to do.

So you can make it whatever you want to make it. I try to keep a regimented schedule. There’s a wide range of opinions on how real estate agents’ days should be scheduled. But really you can make it what you want.


If someone on active duty is interested in going into this field, when would you recommend they start taking their real estate exams?

I would recommend 3-6 months prior to your separation. The test is not designed to make you a great real estate agent. It’s designed you to expose you to some of the legalities and legal issues with real estate. So I would recommend reaching out to real estate agents in your network and start being a sponge around them. Having a 6 month window would be great.

When I was in the process of getting my license, I went to some inspection and contract classes and that really helped get me up to speed.

As far as an amount of money to have in the bank - I would say 6 months is a good amount. Usually you’ll make your first sale around the 90 day mark.


What does your day-to-day look like?

There is no day that is the same as the other. Usually your day is dictated by the transactions you’re working on at that time. Typically for me I’ll get up  and hit the gym around 6:30, eat breakfast, and then start my work day around 8 or 9. I have a home office and then I have an office in Denver. The first part of my day, I’m just going through emails and looking at current transactions, finding out what will be important in upcoming days and what deadlines we’re looking at. I also send an email to all of my clients weekly to touch base with them. At lunch, I try meet people in the area and build relationships with them. In the afternoons, I’m working with clients on various activities. After 5 pm is when a lot of buyers will want to look at properties.

The weekends is really where the rubber meets the road. It’s very common for me to be out with clients on Saturdays showing properties and then doing documentation and writing offers.

I’m also part of the Metro North Chamber of Commerce. Twice a month we meet. Each of us represent a particular industry and that’s really interesting to get to learn from them.


What are some signs that someone might really like this industry?

You would like it if you have an entrepreneurial mindset and are ok with the “eat what you kill” idea. That you’re going out and generating your own business. One of the most pivotal moments for me as a real estate agent was to start thinking more like a business owner. That was really helpful to me to hear. This isn’t a career where you’re in your pajamas working from home. You have a duty to serve the people of the community who are trusting you with their time and money.

People need to have a servant mindset in this role. If someone needs help showing a property or coordinating an inspector, you have to be willing to help out. You’re not above anything. Those things can really make a difference in people’s lives.

If you don’t have the discipline to maintain your own schedule, this might be a tough job for you. If titles mean a lot to you, this might not be the right industry for you.


Do you have any resources you would recommend?


Ninja Selling

The Greatest Salesman in the World

The Millionaire Fastlane

The Seven Levels of Communication


What is advice you would give someone interested in going into sales?

A book that has shaped how I approach my business is Go Givers Sell More. They talk about that in a sales role you have to change your mindset of what a salesperson is. Really a salesperson’s job is to create value for the customer. You’re helping them to make the best decision for them. So for me I think about how I can add value to the real estate industry and to my clients. When you start thinking about it like that, sales seems much more authentic.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

Education is key. Be a lifelong learner and raise the bar on what is possible for you. Strive for excellence and don’t settle for mediocre. For people thinking about real estate, it can be an amazing opportunity. If you want ot come into this industry think about how you can serve and provide value to your community.