By: Malcolm Mayhew
Running toward the roar is nothing new to Jamey Ice. In fact, you could say he thrives off of those moments when the entire outcome seems in doubt.
Ice, a Fort Worth lifer, felt that risk when he played with his touring band, Green River Ordinance, during his first couple years of marriage. Living off $1,100 a month at first was a risk he not only was willing to take, but one he says in hindsight he “loved.” He felt the risk when he and co-founder Jimmy Williams started their company, 6th Ave Homes, geared toward sprucing up and flipping homes south of downtown Fort Worth.
But there was no risk quite like the one the company took in 2016.
Williams and Ice are both avowed home renovators, and they staked their early reputations on the fact that they could take something old and make it shine. But by their own admission, they weren’t businessmen, or at least not in the classical definition.
That’s why 2016 was such a run-toward-the-roar moment. They turned their flipping business into a full-service buying and renovating company. They went from personally renovating houses to buying and selling them, too. Today, they have more than a dozen real estate agents — the company calls them “guides” — brokers, a loan consultant, a contractor team and an in-house design team as well.
Now, 6th Ave Homes can buy (or sell) a house for you, design it from scratch and then renovate it to your exact specifications. It’s truly a one-stop shop for a bourgeoning market increasingly demanding fixer-upper-style customized homes.
But the first steps of turning the company from a project between friends to a full-fledged business encompassing more and more employees was, admittedly, a run toward the roar.
“That was a scary thing,” Ice says. “We had never done that. We knew a lot about transforming a house. We knew a lot of selling and investing in houses and helping families. But we didn’t know how to do that public side of it. I feel like we’re still figuring out that public side of it.
“That was a scary moment when we said, ‘Let’s do that,’ but I think if you’re intentional with your ‘why’ — what is it going to look like, why are we doing this — then your ‘how’ is always going to change. We’ve always had the mentality that we’ll figure out the ‘how’ as we go, as long as we’re true to who we are at our core.”
Sometimes the safest place to be is the one that feels the scariest. Lions — with their intimidating teeth and deafening roars — are designed to provoke fear. But the real danger lies with the smaller, quieter lionesses. In the animal kingdom, the lion’s job is to roar and send prey scattering away from the startling noise — right into the path of the waiting lionesses, the true hunters. The roar doesn’t represent the real danger.
Likewise, humans sometimes have an instinctive desire to shy away from pursuits that look and sound scary. But often, running toward those challenges and conflicts is the best (or only) way to grow and meet our goals. In business, those who run from the deafening noise never reach their full potential, while those who turn and face the fear thrive.
For Ice, following that roar was a no-brainer. After all, he’d been doing it his entire life.
“There’s freedom in knowing you’re going to be OK no matter what happens,” Ice says. “And that frees you to run towards the roar and take some of those risks.”
Another unknown was simply going through the hiring process as they expanded into the real estate market. The first time Ice readied himself to sit down for an interview to hire new people, he realized he’d never done one before — from either side of the table.
“I’ve never had a real job in my entire life,” Ice says. “I’d never been in an interview. I don’t have a resume. I’ve never had a resume. I remember I had an interview with potential people who wanted to come work for us, and I’m like calling friends saying, ‘What do you do in an interview?’ But again, you figure those things out as you go.”
Today, 6th Ave Homes continues its wild expansion. They recently bought and restored an abandoned Main Street warehouse in Fort Worth and turned it into an events venue and a blank canvas for local shops and eateries. They’re also looking into starting an in-house mortgage arm to help shepherd their buyers through the process with even more certainty and clarity.
It’s another risk, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point. Ice’s vision for the company is to continue to run toward those roars so they can continue their exponential growth of the last few years.
“You never meet a successful person who hasn’t lost big at some point in their lives,” Ice says. “It’s rare to meet someone who played it safe who had lots of success. Risk and success sort of go hand in hand.”
And Ice wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jason Forrest is CEO and chief culture officer at Forrest Performance Group in Fort Worth. With more than a decade of coaching and speaking experience, Jason is a leading authority in culture change and an expert at creating high-performance work cultures through corporate training programs. He writes this column for each issue of FW Inc.
By: Malcolm Mayhew