“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Brian Cusick loved this quote by Emerson as a teenager. What he didn’t realize at the time, however, was what lay before him would eventually look a lot like what was already behind him. And that destiny was determined by what was, and will always be, within him.
When Brian looks back to his past, his most vivid memory, growing up in Maryland, was spending summers sailing on the Chesapeake Bay with his family. They would set sail from Annapolis and only occasionally come ashore at various ports during weeks on the water. “Once home from these voyages, when I was back in my own bed, during the stillness just before sleep, I could still feel the physical movement of the water under me as surely as though I was still offshore. I loved that lingering experience after a long time out on the water. It was like the last bit of vacation was reluctant to let go,” Brian recalls.
Those childhood memories and love of the water led Brian, as a teenager, to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where he worked on the boardwalk at “Funland,” running the carnival rides and games. Working six days a week on the boardwalk during high school summers enabled Brian to save money for college. After high school, he went off to Saint Thomas University in Miami for two years. In his junior year of college, Brian returned to Maryland and finished his bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Maryland in College Park. After graduation, he started working at investment firm T. Rowe Price in Baltimore. During his five years at the firm, Brian worked his way up to a position managing corporate retirement plans for private U.S. companies.
Brian’s entrepreneurial spirit was just beginning to grow and, as a result, in the mid-‘90s Brian found himself at a crossroads. He could see the years ahead in the corporate investment world and determined he was not ready to commit to what seemed like a non-challenging path. To the shock of friends and family, he decided to take a chance in sales. “I had a friend tell me they were paying salespeople crazy amounts of money compared to what I had been making because a lot of deregulation was happening in telecom sales, and we could also wear shorts and a t-shirt for work! I had been dressing like a banker at my previous job,” Brian explains.
Brian found that he had a powerful skill: he won annual sales awards for his performance and remained in sales until about the time Bell became Verizon. By then, he had worked his way up to project manager, coordinating between the IT department and the business development side of the company, project managing the automation of ordering systems. “It was incredibly challenging, but I learned so much about project management and communicating between disparate groups, keeping an eye on the target even though people involved had competing goals. This turned out to be critical preparation for real estate sales, having to really listen and understand client needs, navigate emotions and competing interests, and corral it all into an efficient, achievable plan to ensure success,” he says.
Soon after Brian successfully completed his project with Verizon, his bosses congratulated him and then shut down his department. Luckily, by that time, Brian was already in real estate part-time. Additionally, he had recently completed his master’s degree at Georgetown University (which Verizon paid for) in liberal studies. “My education at Georgetown was foundational in helping me become an entrepreneur and work for myself. Key elements were developing critical thinking, firmly establishing a sense of self, and learning through the study of history the ultimate victories of perseverance,” he says.
Brian’s interest in real estate developed out of his own experiences buying and selling property and his desire to run his own business. He went into real estate full-time right as the financial system was collapsing in 2008. By partnering with another agent and focusing on foreclosures, he made it through. As the market picked up, Brian moved to a bigger company, and eventually landed with Keller Williams Capital Properties four years ago.
Brian also became involved in various volunteer opportunities. As a docent at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Brian presented interactive video conferences with schools, nursing homes, and community centers. He also volunteered as a garden docent at the Hillwood Museum and Garden and volunteered with Food and Friends, an organization that provides meals in the metro area.
Today, Brian runs his business with his husband of 21 years, Jeff, who handles operations and marketing. “It really works better this way, and is so much more effective and profitable for us,” Brian explains.
In many ways, Brian is navigating back to where he began. He and Jeff have a weekend home on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, where he can overlook the water and watch the sunrise every morning. Memories of the family sailing vacations of his youth are never far from his mind while watching the sailing regattas from his deck. Brian also plans to make it back to Rehoboth Beach, in Delaware, where he worked as a teenager. He and Jeff plan to purchase a retirement home there and split time between the Bay in Maryland and the ocean in Delaware.
Brian looks forward to what lies before him and appreciates what lies behind him while being eternally grateful for the durable sense of self he has developed within. That favorite old Emerson quote was certainly a guide … and has rung true for Brian in his life and career.