MOST WOULD PEOPLE WOULD SAY that real estate is challenging enough when you’ve had a few years in the game and you’re in peak condition. After beating a cancer so aggressive he thought he only had three months to live, Clinton Knop bought the business of Century 21 in Bunbury, WA. Now with a team of 18 and a strong partnership with Paul Duffy, this year the office was awarded the 2100 Cup – an accolade the Century 21 Group only gives to the very best of the best. Charles Tarbey, CEO of Century 21, has described Clint as “Gold through and through”. Now Clint wants to use his story to inspire and help others.
WITH A NICKNAME OF ‘the Strongman’, looking at Clinton Knop today you wouldn’t be able to tell how much he’s been through in the last six years. He has a love of a healthy lifestyle and his friends and colleagues will tell you a heart probably bigger than Phar Lap, open to anyone who needs support, or a kind word.
There are many people in the industry who already know his story. For those of you who aren’t familiar, here’s a quick rundown. Leaving school in the 80s, he spent time in the Air Force, in the mines, in photography and in IT, and in the car industry. The car industry, he says was an ‘easy place to earn a living’, but it was always about making a dollar and the ‘close’, rather than getting to know people. Clint was ultra fit and felt pretty much bulletproof.
In 2009 he felt something wasn’t right and just ‘didn’t feel good.’ Seeing his GP and a specialist, Clint was diagnosed with testicular cancer, after which he had surgery and was sent home. Over Christmas that year he still didn’t feel great and began to research his symptoms. He took himself for a full body scan, just to be sure.
Visiting his oncologist in January, Clint was expecting to be told to have a bit of ‘tidy up’ chemotherapy post the surgery he’d already had. Showing his doctor the body scan that he had commissioned himself, he felt the news was not going to be good but didn’t expect it to be quite as bad as the prognosis he was given. Clint recalls his doctor’s words well. “He said, ‘There is no easy way to tell you this: you have three, maybe six months to live’.” The scan had revealed tumours everywhere, close to his brain, lungs and heart; not small tumours, but tumours the size of golf balls. He was just 37 at the time.
Swallowing a figurative lump in my own throat, I ask him how it felt to be faced with his own mortality. “I grew up in a Christian home, so I have faith. And because of the way it happened and my sense of humour, I kind of laughed it off. I was like ‘Cancer, come at me, do your best. I am going to whoop your ass. How much worse can this be than the flu?’
“I remember going home to my wife and saying, ‘Honey, I’ve got cancer’ and she said, ‘Really? Okay. Well, what are you going to do next?’ So it wasn’t, ‘Oh, woe is me. Oh my God, that’s the big word.’ It was okay, what’s the next step? Where do we go from here? The journey was just day to day.”
Within a couple of days Clint started a gruelling schedule of chemotherapy that would become his life for just about every day for four and a half months. Clint describes that period as ‘heavy and intense’, where he spent a great deal of time soul- searching, at times so sick he confesses to wanting to end it.
“When I tell people that I was in therapy for that long, often they can’t believe it, I guess to look at me now. But I won’t dress it up; chemo is hard. There were some days where I would be on the kitchen floor, couldn’t wear clothes, had heartburn so bad I couldn’t breathe, had ulcers in my mouth so I couldn’t eat, almost at a point where I wanted somebody to put a bullet in me; and I would be thinking, ‘This can’t be – where’s the light at the end of this tunnel?’ The hole is so dark and deep and black in there you just become it….” he trails off for a moment. “It’s funny, because when I talk to you I can taste chemotherapy in my mouth. The memory makes you taste it.”
Being so sick, it would have been very easy to go down the path of self-pity. Clint’s attitude, however, was the exact opposite. “I went from somebody who probably had it so together, to feeling so helpless. But you realise that there are so many people out there on this journey. Everyone’s journey is different; some people have it a lot harder than others, I guess it makes me extremely empathetic to understanding people’s perception of what cancer does and how it affects them and their families. When I was really sick, if I could get down to the children’s ward after finishing therapy for the day, I’d have a look at all the kids and say to myself, ‘I have nothing to complain about.’”
Quitting the car industry, Clint decided to move to Bunbury to jump on the real estate boom and got into the business of renovating houses. It was during this time that Clint’s father suggested he get involved in a real estate business. “My Dad and the previous owner (of this office) were friends. He came to visit me when I was working on the houses that I was renovating; I thought he was looking to get a listing out of me, or to sell or manage the properties! But he had alluded to Dad that he was thinking about retiring and said, ‘why doesn’t your son come in and do something like this?’”
Clint continues, “So I did. But it was all very new to me. I had no idea about anything to do with real estate. And to be quite frank I don’t think I had any real business experience – the car industry was different. With real estate the connection you make with people can be far greater. You can really help people because they are all going through their own ups and downs.”
I am amazed that he managed to achieve buying a business, recovering and getting a real estate licence all at the same time. Clint laughs. “Yes, it was pretty frightening at the beginning. I had staff who had been there for some time and didn’t like me. The way I had been introduced into the business was tough, I suppose, and a lot of these older guys had been around for a while; so when I brought my ideas to the business they either quit, or told me I was silly and then quit.”
Clint also acknowledges that he was very lucky to have his predecessor sitting in the chair for the first six months while he went and did his licence, and he kept running the licensee’s role in the business. He used that time not only to get more involved but also to learn about property management. “I was racing up to Perth and back and still getting a bit of therapy, doing my course and then coming back on weekends to sell and show houses. Nothing out of the ordinary…”
I’m thinking more like extraordinary, actually. “I honestly have to tell you, Sam, I just…. I don’t use the word ‘blessed’ a lot, but I have just had the best people walk into my life at the right times and help me. Yes, I went through some really tough times. But I kept thinking I have a responsibility now to a group of people who work for me. I’ve got to pay their wages. And I had to do it myself, as my name and reputation depended on it.”
Today, the business of Century 21 Advance Realty has grown, having adding partners Paul and Darralyn Duffy two years ago. Paul is Director/Principal with Darralyn being the ‘backbone of the business’, handling all of the office administration. Clint’s father is still involved too and does the books for the business. “I’m very, very lucky that I’ve had the experience of my dad around, and I’ve had some beautiful salespeople and staff members and property managers who have cared for me and said, ‘I just wanted to work with you because I can see the journey you’re on; I can see what you’re about.’ I feel incredibly lucky to have had the right people around me at the right time. Considering what I make them put up with, they need a medal just for that!”
The 2100 Cup is a special award given by Century 21 for only one office every year. The strict criteria include embodying the Century 21 system, embracing and implementing the correct tools and systems, playing a significant role in community leadership and demonstrating an ability to evolve and change; someone who is not afraid of new ideas and ways of doing business.
Clint (and the entire office) now work with a very long list of charities, and he is a regular participant in various charity auctions. In presenting this award to the Bunbury Office, Century 21 CEO Charles Tarbey said, “Business and community involvement need to be aligned and Clint has managed to combine the two successfully to the benefit of many. His commitment to consistency has allowed him to build a following that is the envy of the industry in his area.”
Clint’s cancer is not completely gone; he still has a tumour on his adrenal gland which to date has not been growing. He attributes this to a healthy lifestyle involving the right type of diet, working out, not eating processed foods, using natural remedies and drinking plenty of water. “Putting the wrong things in your body is like putting diesel in a petrol car. Your body is just like a mechanical engine and if you are not servicing it correctly it’s going to break down. That philosophy applies in real estate or any other career.”
Given Clint’s focus on his health I ask what his ideal day looks like now. “I love to train a few days a week in the gym then hit breakfast at a local cafe. Then it’s always exciting to get to the office and see my work family. The days are best when I get to help someone somehow, whether for a chat, financial help or giving my time. It’s the one thing that completes me. And of course when I get home to my beautiful family and get to eat!”
While in current good health, and a physique most people would be very proud of, Clint still keeps it real and admits to having bad days, moments of poor self- esteem; a result of how the illness and subsequent treatment has affected him both physically and emotionally. The takeaway is to understand we all need to love ourselves enough to look after ourselves. “I want people to start believing in themselves, no matter what shape or what they look like. It seems only when the red flag comes up that people realise they need to make changes. If you think you’re going to die, that’s when the human spirit really kicks in. People think I’m this wonderfully strong guy and yes, I think I am too. But I have bad days like everyone else, and that’s probably why I can easily empathise with others who may not be doing it so easy.”
What is next for you and the business? “I’d love for us to continue to strive, not necessarily to be the biggest, but be the best at what we do. To completely release the tag of real estate agent and be the ‘only agent’ that people call.” Recently Clint has also created the brand CK Inspires which he uses for speaking/events, for which people are calling upon him more and more. “Ultimately I’d like to be sharing my story with others and if it helps just one person then I’ll feel it was all worth it.”
One last piece of gold from the Strongman: “You have to be the best person you possibly can be every day. You already are but, like a good marketing plan, it’s nothing without implementation. You need to make your dreams your reality.” And if you need help with that, Clint says, you can give him a call.