Jason Mittman: "S.E.C. Mentorship"

Jason Mittman: "S.E.C. Mentorship"

Here is a very likely conversation that could have happened to me this year:

Me: I may need to understand the bankruptcy process.
Attorney: OK, let’s talk.
Me: I closed on land using debt without it being fully entitled to develop . . .

About two years ago, I came close to purchasing a large parcel of land in Texas. I had the feverish “hunter” mentality and was determined to close the deal. The self-talk in my mind developed the typical answers when one is looking to get the deal done: This area is rapidly increasing in value, nothing can go wrong, it is OK to accept the seller’s terms even though they are risky for me to accept, it will be worth it, it is going to be a “great deal.” You get the idea.

One of the many benefits of the S.E.C. is the vast knowledge—and the willingness to share that knowledge—of its members. Gary Vandenberg, S.E.C., graciously came down to look at the land. He and I walked the land along with a colleague of Mr. Vandenberg’s. Gary, though he liked the land, went home not as enthusiastic as I was about the deal terms.  A week later he called me. Mr. Vandenberg did like the land. It was the land terms he strongly opposed. Gary presented a passionate argument, ending with “please do not do this deal with those terms.

Fortunately, I listened. If I would have closed, Gary would have been correct on the future problems. I would have fought my way through and not have taken the “nuclear option” of bankruptcy. It would have been a long and hard fight, taken tremendous effort, and created ample stress. Having a skilled S.E.C. like Gary who was willing to speak up with needed truth prevented a long, difficult, and unnecessary struggle.

The S.E.C. acronym stands for the Society of Exchange Counselors. It also stands for “Service, Education, and Counseling.” All three, service, education, and counseling, are attributes of a great mentor.

For me, having a great mentor is the single factor that has led to my real estate success. It started at the age of 18. I had a lawn care business and bid on the yard of San Antonio businessman, Mr. Robert Jorrie. He was a towering and intimidating, leader. I did not get the lawn care contract, but I did get something much more valuable. Mr. Jorrie gave me his business card with the offer to call him if I ever needed anythingI sat on that card for two weeks before calling him. I was too naïve to know what “direct line” meant on the business card for the large law firm he founded. He answered, and I reminded him who I was. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Can I ask you a question?”
Jorrie: “You just did. What do you need?”
Me: “I want to know how you make your money.” (Note: Only a naïve 18 year old would ask such a brazen question!)
Jorrie, after a long pause: “Are you asking how I am wealthy or how I make a living?”
Me: “Aren’t they the same thing?”
Jorrie: “ No. Be at my office Monday at 9 a.m. It is a law office, so dress accordingly.” He then hung up.

I showed up Monday dressed the best I could afford (Goodwill dress shoes, using a sharpie to make them look better).

After being shown to his expansive corner office, the door was shut, and he invited me to sit down opposite his side of the large antique desk in one of two worn-out leather chairs. He looked at me silently for what seemed to be an uncomfortable eternity. When he finally spoke, he said: “I make a living as a lawyer. I am wealthy from real estate. Want to learn?” I said yes.

That was the beginning of an 8+ year mentorship with Mr. Jorrie that changed my life.

He taught me everything, from how to show a building to lease and what a balance sheet and personal financial statement meant to applying for a loan, the importance of paying brokers in full right away, and much, MUCH more, including his becoming a father figure to me. Robert Jorrie’s mentorship, his gift of patience, time, and wisdom, was the greatest gift bestowed on me of my life.

I have had many more wonderful mentors over the years. Some have become lifelong friendships, and some have become business partners. All have benefitted me.


Those core S.E.C. words can guide you through our COVID pandemic. I have been gifted for years by patient mentors offering me their Service, Education, and Counseling.  If you are reading this article, you are exposed to the S.E.C. and have benefitted from a handful of mentors who helped you along your path. You would not be where you are today without them. The S.E.C. is an organization built, and sustained today, by great mentors who have gifted generations with their knowledge and time.  What are you doing, what can you be doing, to be a great mentor, right now? Pay it forward.

Today, in the time of COVID, the need for mentors is momentously amplified in all areas of life. Who can you reach out to today? Who do you know in need that could use some wisdom? What skills can you offer? Who could use a simple five-minute check-in phone call? We all have many valuable skills. The question is, are you doing so? Reach out to the S.E.C. Guest Relations Committee and ask how you can be a great mentor for an upcoming meeting. Reach out to a past S.E.C. Guest, an S.E.C. Member, an upcoming S.E.C. Meeting Manager, someone in your community, your local college, church/synagogue, Chamber of Commerce, real estate association, business networking group, and so on. The need is great, the opportunity is endless, and the reward for helping another succeed is tremendously satisfying.

As we wrap up a hard 2020, consider for your 2021 goals allocating a portion of your time to being a valuable and committed mentor in someone’s life. It will positively impact them—and you. As has been so generously done for me, your time mentoring/advising/coaching/ COUNSELING another will be a pivotal point in another’s future.

Some resources to help you get started:

  1. S.E.C. Guest Relations Committee: sign up to be a great mentor.
  2. Indeed.com, “7 Qualities of a Great Mentor”:
  3. “5 Traits to Mentor a Child”:
  4. Goverb, “5 Attributes of a Great Business Mentor”:

Items to discuss with your mentee for an upcoming S.E.C. Meeting:

  1. Reach out as soon as possible to introduce yourself.
  2. Let them know you are glad they are attending.
  3. Ask what opportunities they are bringing to the meeting.
  4. What is the guest’s #1 goal to achieve?
  5. For a first- or second-time guest: they will be drinking out of a fire hose with terminology, deal structure, quantity of deals, and more. Remind them that it is normal and OK to not understand everything and be a bit overwhelmed.
  6. Tell them to ask you questions as a mentor as often as needed.
  7. During the meeting, remain available, encouraging, and attentive to your mentee.
  8. Let the Membership Committee know what you thought of your guest.
  9. A reminder to not present deals they do not control.
  10. Tools needed for a successful guest meeting:
    • Good internet connection (virtual)
    • Good lighting (virtual)
    • Good microphone and speakers (virtual)
    • Quiet area (virtual)
    • Dress code (this is the same virtual and in person)
    • Know how to and actively make use of the “boards”
    • Uploading packages in the book (define a 5-star package)
    • The pre-meeting happy hour (virtual happy hour if attending online)
    • The pre-meeting training available
    • How to use the meeting software
    • The differences from the meeting software and Zoom (virtual)
    • The meeting agenda
    • “Putting in” your number for a deal
    • Signing up for a moderated session, and what pre-moderation is
    • How a quick pitch differs from a moderated presentation
    • The guest breakfast on Monday
    • Education offering on Sunday
    • The importance of following up
    • “One meeting” in the room
    • Networking/lunches/dinners—meeting new people at the meeting