Entrepreneur of the Year: Jeff Shipley
Entrepreneur of the Year: Jeff Shipley
Embracing failures is not typical in the world of entrepreneurship. However, Jeff Shipley isn’t your typical entrepreneur. Shipley believes that embracing failure is a pre-requisite to success and often reminds the team of this formula. “As a leader, it’s important to be transparent and vulnerable enough to share your own failures and more importantly what you learned from them,” Shipley said. “Failure is a good indication you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone—where the magic happens!”
Shipley, a local businessman, originally from Devil’s Lake, currently owns and leads 12 real estate-related companies with multiple locations covering two states, and this number is growing rapidly.
JSE, Inc., Shipley’s parent company, was recently honored with a #1,327 ranking on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies. Moreover, locally this month, four of the companies were named as finalists for InForum’s Best of the Best in the Red River Valley. “It’s certainly been an amazing year for all of our companies,” Shipley said. “The recognition just validates the extraordinary talent that our teams continue to attract. While I might be the one that is handed the award, it’s the team that deserves the credit.”
JSE, Inc. started as The FM Real Estate Team in 2009 with less than 10 people. Now, JSE Inc. has become a family of companies with a unified goal of helping others live the biggest life possible.
KW Inspire Realty, acquired by Shipley in 2015, has become the largest residential real estate broker in North Dakota, adding 62 agents in 2018 alone. Spire Custom Homes, started five years ago and added over half a dozen newly designed plans with local market price points to fit the needs of our expanding community. Regency Title, acquired in 2017, has more than doubled its market share, setting year over year monthly growth records in 6 of the last 7 months. Most recently, Shipley started Forward Mortgage, which is already being recognized as one of the top mortgage companies in Fargo Moorhead and has instantly provided real value to our team members and homeowners.
Experiencing such quick growth over 10 years comes with its challenges, but Shipley says, “My role has been to find and hire great people who value what we value, set and share the vision and get out of their way.” The vision of JSE Inc. is vast and scalable with growth at every level, allowing opportunity for both veteran and new professionals to build careers worth having and businesses worth owning.
Following a people-first approach, integrity is their most highly protected principle. Shipley believes that a business is only as good as its people. “My grandma once told me that you must be able to lay your head on your pillow at night and know that you have your word,” he said. “Never lose that.”
This along with asking great questions, embracing failure, and constantly working on yourself and your mindset are attributable to the organization's growth.
“We’ve put our all into building this unique culture that really is hard to understand from the outside and hard to explain from the inside,” Shipley said. “While each company has a different product or service and is independently operated, we support each other at a very high level. We focus on communication and constantly discuss how we truly win together. Nobody succeeds alone!”
Education and personal growth is another value important to Shipley. To invest in their people, over 1,100 education opportunities were provided to staff and agents in 2018 Inspire U, the newest company in the family, offers personal growth and mindset courses to the community among continuing education courses for local agents. “We value personal growth and see it as key to growing a solid business,” he commented.
“Our people amaze me every day,” Shipley said. “They are constantly creating opportunities to give back in their own ways, using their time and unique talents, and finding passion serving many of our local non-profits. We also love to serve together, as it is a great way to team build and contribute at the same time. We’ve recently had a great time at the Ronald McDonald House & YWCA and ran fundraisers for the Dorothy Day House, Local Food Pantry and the United Way, among many others.”
The team also makes sure they take care of their own. In times of difficulty with members or families of the team, they all step up. “Sometimes it’s financially, sometimes making meals, or support with their business—that’s the true magic in who we are, and what we are building. It’s not something we advertise, you won’t see this on billboards or magazines, it’s just who we are, it’s what we do, our culture. Our team knows we all have each other’s backs if and when you need it. It's just who we are and that's priceless.”
The family of companies was created to empower team members and agents to take ownership and run businesses on their terms and build their own brands. “It’s not about me—it never has been,” Shipley said. “I gain joy by creating the opportunities for others to succeed and adding as much value as possible so there is no better place for them to build a business or career that supports their BIG WHY…that in itself is my own BIG WHY. These people are my second family. I will always do my best to help them succeed.”