I stumbled into real estate about two years ago. One of the investors in my first startup, Jade Mills, asked me to work for her to improve the technologies she was using. I didn’t know anything about real estate, I needed to make rent, and I thought I had time left in my days to work on something new. Naturally, I agreed.

I had always known that Jade was a very successful agent, but I had no idea just how big-time she really was until I started working with her. For the sake of keeping this short and sweet, I’ll just give you the highlights: She’s sold over $4 billion of real estate in the past 10 years. Last year she did over $300 million, two years ago she was the #1 agent in the entire world for Coldwell Banker. She’s been on Bloomberg TV, The Ellen Show, Forbes Magazine, The New York Times; the list goes on and on. In the six months I worked for her, not a month went by during which she didn’t appear on a national media outlet as a real estate expert.

Most importantly, Jade did not inherit her empire. She built it from scratch.

The daughter of a dairy farmer, she started her career as a single mom working as a Cocktail waitress to provide for her family. As a struggling entrepreneur and founder of a bootstrapped startup, who worked evenings as a tutor in order to make rent, I could relate. Eager to soak up every bit of advice, I spent six months working alongside the “$3 Billion Dollar Woman” (as named by the Hollywood Reporter), providing my technology and strategy insights while learning a whole lot about real estate, sales, and life. Here are the most important lessons I took away:

Family Over Everything

Jade works harder than anyone I’ve ever been around. She reads every single one of the 400-500 emails she receives a day, usually at night (often until midnight or later) because she’s at appointments all day. Her work ethic is exceptional. And yet, she will drop whatever she is doing to answer a call from any of her children or grandchildren. No matter if she’s at a $50 Million dollar listing appointment or about to speak on a panel at a real estate conference. She works hard because she loves it, but nothing is more important to her than family. Despite her intense workload, she’s more present in the lives of her loved ones than most people who work much, much less than her.

Reputation Matters

No matter what business you are in, building a reputation of integrity, loyalty and trust is essential. I’ve seen Jade refuse to work on deals that would have made her hundreds of thousands of dollars – because it involved people with a bad reputation. Jade’s clients stay with her for decades because she always puts their needs first. This often costs her a listing or commission in the short-run, but it’s allowed her to build a brand of trust and integrity for herself. Her reputation is the cornerstone of her business and the reason for countless referrals and repeat-business. Competing agents often call her to get an unbiased, honest opinion about a property or client because they know she will be straight up with them.

Be Grateful, Be Happy

Being around Jade is fun. She’s always in a good mood, sincerely interested in what people have to say, and fully present in the moment. She radiates happiness, and people love spending time with her. It goes without saying that this is an absolute key for a realtor, and for anyone working in sales. Knowing about Jade’s background and that she did not have an easy life, it’s truly inspiring to see how happy and grateful she lives it.

Exhibit Self-Control

Luxury real estate is a high-pressure environment. A lot of money is on the line, negotiations can get intense, and mistakes can be very costly. While in Jade’s office I got to listen in on a lot of phone calls and negotiations. I heard other agents yell and lose their self-control. Jade never did. She always remained collected, cool, and extremely friendly. It gave her an advantage because she was always the one in control.

Urgency is Key

Jade told me once that lack of urgency is the reason why 99% of realtors don’t have more business. Here’s a typical situation that happened almost every week in one form or another: Jade is talking to her husband at dinner about something unrelated to real estate. Some name comes up. Jade realizes this could be a potential client. Jade picks up the phone right after dinner, finds out the person’s number, and makes the call. There was never any hesitancy in calling people or getting things done. If she got a lead, she was on it immediately. She didn’t ever procrastinate or defer work.