By Maggie FitzRoy, Contributing Writer
When he worked in retail management for Wal-Mart, Marc Jernigan loved his job.
After moving to Jacksonville, he enjoyed owning and operating a restaurant.
When he embarked on a real estate career, he fully embraced that, too.
But real estate has never been just about selling houses for him. From the beginning, he’s volunteered for leadership positions with the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, and through the years, worked his way up the chain of command.
This year, he serves as president, a voluntary position that will consume a lot of his time while he also continues to operate his full-time business as a Realtor with Exit Real Estate Gallery.
And he is looking forward to it.
He recently became team partners with Diane Cook, also a Realtor in Exit’s Orange Park office, so he can better serve his customers while leading NEFAR’s 7,500 members into the future.
“NEFAR is a well-oiled machine,” Jernigan, 52, said last month while preparing to assume his new role.
As a result, he doesn’t anticipate any serious issues. But he does have goals in mind and a theme for the year: “Professionalism in Paradise.”
As a Jimmy Buffet fan, Jernigan said “paradise” describes the region. And he regards professionalism as a challenge for the entire industry.
In a recent National Association of Realtors “Danger Report,” professionalism was at the top of the list, he said.
The problem is some agents are not trained properly or are not as conscientious as they should be. He believes better communication and common courtesy are key.
Due to the nature of the industry, he said Realtors need to communicate with each other all the time, but many fall short.
For example, when showing a home to a buyer, it is professional courtesy to get back to the listing agent to talk about how the showing went. Many don’t.
In addition, some listing agents don’t respond promptly to a showing request, which causes delays and could lose a sale.
Being courteous is about “following the Golden Rule,” he said.
It’s simple things like turning the lights off in a house after a showing and making sure the front door is locked.
He said the Orlando association offers a class on professionalism, which he and several other NEFAR members have taken. If it expands to other associations around the state, NEFAR will likely offer it.
In the meantime, Jernigan plans to highlight the importance of professionalism in speeches he gives at luncheons and other events.
He also would like to see more Realtors take on leadership positions with NEFAR as a way to serve and learn.
And he plans to encourage members to financially support the Realtors Political Action Committee. It promotes laws that favor homeowners and the real estate industry. Jernigan said he is a major investor.
He may occasionally address issues he believes are important through NEFAR’s weekly email blast, he said, in addition to discussing them at meetings and in speeches.
Some of his other goals for the organization include developing closer relationships with other local NAR-affiliated associations, including in St. Johns and Nassau counties, and developing more business partner relationships with lenders, title companies, home inspectors and other real estate-related companies and professionals.
Cook, who is 2017 Women’s Council of Realtors Jacksonville president, expects great things from Jernigan as president.
“He is so even keeled and very open-minded and also very well respected. People trust him,” she said. “I think he will open Realtors’ eyes to the opportunities for them to become involved to make our industry better.”
Jernigan said he would likely still be happily working in management at Wal-Mart in Austin, Texas, if his parents hadn’t “schemed” to bring him and his family to Florida with them in 1999 by opening a restaurant they gave him to run.
Schlotzsky’s Deli, a franchise in Orange Park on Wells Road, did very well the first year.
“And then they tore up Wells Road and it killed our business,” he said.
The road construction project to expand the two-lane road lasted three years, cutting sales by more than 70 percent.
So Jernigan knew he had to do something else.
“I said, ‘Let me try real estate,’” he said. “And I have been in it ever since.”
He joined Watson Realty in 2000, where he remained until last year, when he joined Exit to team up with Cook.
He sold about $3 million his first year in the business and has since consistently stayed in the $4 million to $6 million range.
With four children, he liked the flexibility of real estate as a career and the leadership opportunities.
He started as an area council chair and after going through NEFAR Leadership Academy, was asked to join the board of directors.
He then became a line officer and worked his way up, from secretary to treasurer to president-elect to president.
Teaming up with Cook has been a good fit, he said, because she is a technology expert and he is more of a “face-to-face and shake hands” person.
They are busy, with numerous listings and buyers, but being highly organized has always been a high priority for him, so he is not worried about running a business while serving as NEFAR president.
“I am excited for the year. The market itself is going to be very dynamic,” he said.
Any agent who is out there working, “will be very successful,” Jernigan said.