5 Quick Questions with Tommy Choi

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This month’s 5 Quick Questions is with the amazing Tommy Choi in Chicago, IL.  Tommy is one of those people who never fails to make the person next to him feel like the most important person in the room. He has mastered the art of being grateful and is one of the most gracious people I know. What more can I say…? I had a chance to chat with Tommy about gratitude, busy-ness, being real on social media (and in life)…and of course, food.

1. If there’s one word I always associate with Tommy Choi, it’s gratitude. Talk to me about how gratitude affects your personal and professional life.

Gratitude is everything for me! Being grateful for every moment, whether it goes your way or not, has been the key to my success because that mental state allows me to stay observant and learning based versus emotional. Gratitude is what keeps me recession proof.


2. I think we REALTORS® sometimes struggle with expressing gratitude to our clients — we don’t thank them adequately or we go over the top and it may seem unnatural. On a professional level, how do you show your gratitude and what advice to you have for those struggling with that?

I LOVE this question! Gratitude doesn’t have to be displayed in a grand way AND gratitude doesn’t have to be for the obvious and greater things in our lives. For example, of course I love my daughters and of course I’m grateful for them, but that’s not my everyday gratitude. The same can be said about being grateful for your health, happiness and success, etc. Those are obvious. The challenge I think people face in expressing their gratitude outside of the “big ticket” items is because gratitude is a muscle and just like any other muscle you have to exercise it. My day starts every day with our team huddle and the first thing we do is share what we are grateful for. It’s an exercise that allows us to work out our gratitude muscle and be grateful for the little things like Starbucks mobile orders or GrubHub. Those little grateful moments compound into bigger ones eventually! I practice this within our industry during negotiations by personally expressing every call, email or text to the other cooperating Realtor with my gratitude for their hard work whether we have a deal or it’s a complete heated back and forth negotiations. What this small act of gratitude has done for me is 1) get deals done and 2) raise the bar on professionalism AND see it reciprocated back.


3. As much as I hate the word, I know that you are busy. You run a company, you sell real estate, you’re a national speaker, you’re Immediate Past President of the Chicago REALTORS® (for 2020) and you will be Vice President of Association Affairs for the National Association of REALTORS® (for 2021). You have a beautiful family and you love to travel. How do you make it all work?

GREAT question. The biggest key in balancing for me has been by clearly communicating my goals to everyone that is important to me. For instance, my family. We have a standing meeting on Sundays at 9am (during breakfast) where we have our “Family Meeting”. This is our time for every one of us to go around and remind each other what our goals are and what we are doing this week that support those goals. I know it sounds silly to share with my 7, 4 and 2 year old what my professional and personal goals are; I felt that way the first time I shared. The power in this is that it acted as the conduit to my girls as to why “daddy was not home again.” Now they get excited and ask if I “got the listing” when they see me the next morning. What this exercise also did was allow me for the first time to communicate to my family AHEAD of time where I would be during the week.


4. Social media makes our lives appear so perfect — from our sales numbers to our family lives, we post our “highlight reel,” which can make it easy for others to think we face no bumps in the road. What has been a challenge you’ve recently faced and how did you overcome it?

A huge challenge I’ve faced in the past year has been my mental health and working on me. SO many people depend on me to be 100% so I can pour into them to support and see their growth. The challenge I faced in that was in order for me to be at 100% I needed someone to pour into me. For the past 12 years I’ve been in the real estate industry, I been running on pure talent. In those years, with my growth I saw new titles come on in my business and personal world. Broker/owner, top agent, husband, dad, mentor, leader, speaker, etc. and with those new titles came added pressure from myself to be the best. I was physically and mentally exhausted and drained. The solution I found was through a therapist. Someone to speak with on a weekly basis to help file my thoughts, be a parking lot for my brain and most importantly someone non-biased to just listen to me. I wish I had done this YEARS ago but it was something that I looked at negatively. Like you something had to be “wrong” with you to seek professional mental health through a therapists. Boy was I wrong. I am such a proponent for people speaking with a therapist!


5. You are the epitome, in my opinion, of the servant leader. You raise others up, you serve with kindness and humility; in short, you’re the kind of leader that others strive to be. But leadership can pose challenges to this attitude: politics can be ugly, ambition can be seen as selfish, and new leaders or potential leaders with good intentions can become frustrated in the wake of those kinds of challenges. What advice can you offer to those who have felt beaten down or thwarted in their leadership journey?

As long as you’re giving without expectations and giving because you truly care about whatever it is that you are giving back towards, everything will work out. Being the change you want to see can be challenging because not everyone may like it. However, as long as you’re not compromising your morals or standards and the change you seek is positive for the greater good, know that if you’re NOT pissing someone off then you’re not doing a good job. So don’t let angry people be your measurement on your effectiveness.


BONUS QUESTION: You love food; I love food; this seems an appropriate question for us to discuss: if you were having a kind of “last meal,” for example, you were shipping off to a dessert island for a year and you wanted to indulge in a decadent, amazing, phenomenal last supper of sorts — what would be your appetizer, entrée, dessert, and beverage(s)?

My app(etizer) would be the house-flared thick cut bacon that is topped with a black pepper, Michigan maple syrup, dark chocolate glaze over it (from Chicago’s Prime and Provisions). My entree would be the spinalis (a.k.a. ribeye cap steak) from Maple & Ash. My dessert would be orange creamsicle cotton candy from RPM Steak. My beverages would be a Weller old fashioned with my app, then a bottle of Realm Moonracer wine with dinner, and with dessert, a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. NOW I’M HUNGRY.


Tommy Choi co-founded the Weinberg Choi Residential team in 2007 with his business partner Josh Weinberg. They celebrated the opening of their own Keller Williams Market Center in January of 2017. Since that time, the Weinberg Choi Residential team has sold over 800 properties, and over $300 million dollars in sales volume. They are consistently ranked in the top 25 Real Estate teams in Chicago, which puts them in the Top 1% of Chicago Association of Realtors’ top producers. Tommy also currently serves at the Immediate Past President of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® (after serving as the 135th President of CAR and the first Korean-American President in the Association’s 135 year history). He also serves as an active member of the Illinois REALTORS®, and was the National Associations of REALTOR®’ 2019 YPN Advisory Board Co-Chair. In 2021, he will serve as the National Association of REALTORS®’ Vice President of Association Affairs under President Charles Oppler.