When Pat Hiban puts his mind to something, he makes it happen. That's how he became a brand-name Realtor in Howard County, and that's how he turned his book, "6 Steps to 7 Figures," into a bestseller.
"I always thought in my mind that I should write a book," said Hiban, 46, during an interview in the conference room of his Pat Hiban Real Estate Group office in Columbia, a Keller-Williams affiliate.
His plans took shape after his friend Ken Hovet, the football coach at Marriotts Ridge High School, died of cancer in June 2010.
At the funeral, recalled Hiban, person after person described Hovet as a mentor. Hiban figured he had cultivated about 65 mentors in his own life, but, "I wasn't pulling anyone else up." He decided he could mentor others by writing a book that outlined his strategies for business success.
Hiban worked with a ghost writer to boil down his ideas to six steps and create a readable tale of overcoming adversity and creating a multimillion-dollar income while working about 200 days a year.
The book is published by Greenleaf Book Group, which charges an initial fee but then pays a 35 percent royalty on each book, Hiban explained. To qualify for bestseller lists, he had to sell 9,000 books. He has sold 14,000, mostly by traveling to 50 cities in 30 states since February and speaking to groups of agents in each city, outlining the concepts in his book and pre-selling copies.
On Sept. 26, the day the book went on sale, 10,456 books were shipped out, putting the book at No. 6 on the New York Times list for paperback advice and miscellaneous, and No. 65 on the bestseller list for USA Today.
"I wasn't surprised," said Pat's wife, Kim Hiban, of her husband's success in both writing the book and making it a bestseller. "I think it was something he wanted to do for a while.
"When he sets his mind to something, he accomplishes it."
Hiban has close-cropped blond hair and looks almost as youthful in person as he does in his well-known print and television ads. His leg bounces when he talks, and he can't suppress his enthusiasm for just about any topic.
His six steps aren't complicated or surprising, but following them takes determination. They are: Set goals and affirmations, track your progress, find mentors and masterminds, act, build on it, and invest.
The book is written as an advice guide for Realtors, but it also provides life lessons for anyone. In it, Hiban tells of growing up as one of five siblings in Howard County. He didn't speak until he was five, and he was put in special education classes in first grade because he was thought to be learning disabled.
He graduated from Wilde Lake High School in 1983 and went to Frostburg State University, choosing sociology as a major in his junior year, mainly because of the relatively easy course requirements.
"I really didn't know what I wanted to do," he said.
After graduation, he worked as a substitute teacher at Harper's Choice Middle School and drifted into real estate, mainly because he wanted to be his own boss. He started at Grempler Realty, which no longer exists, and said he learned about the business by mimicking a successful agent, Erv Norgren.
"We were literally back-to-back and there were like six inches between us," recalled Hiban. "One day he turned and said, 'It's starting to echo in here.' " Norgren was flattered, Hiban said, and "he started telling me more and more."
From that point on, Hiban made a point of asking for advice and reaching out to potential mentors whenever possible.
'Persistent and relentless'
One such mentor is Michael J. Maher, 42, head of the Maher Team real estate group in Kansas City, Mo., and author of the best-selling "(7L) The Seven Levels of Communication: Go from Relationships to Referrals," published in October 2010 by Author Solutions.
Maher said Hiban, seeking book-writing advice, was "persistent and relentless, and called me incessantly, all in a good way."
He said he's not surprised Hiban wrote the book and shepherded it onto bestseller lists.
"As soon as Pat said that he also wanted to be a best seller, I had no doubt that he would be," Maher said.
Hiban's determination also has taken him to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and other world-class peaks. In the book, he tells the story of his brutal Kilimanjaro climb. He suffered altitude sickness and wanted to quit, but forced himself to take five steps at a time.
"Your goal doesn't have to be something outrageous (although it can be!)," he writes. "All you need to do is keep affirming that this is something you want and something you will achieve, and then keep working toward that goal."
About 10 years ago, one goal for Hiban was to work fewer hours. He struggled to overcome his belief that self-worth was tied to hard work, and fought his urge to do things himself, instead of delegating.
He now takes off more than 150 days a year, and says it has been years since he went out house-hunting with clients. Instead, he manages the Pat Hiban Group with partner Mike Sloan, invests in real estate, travels, and enjoys family time in Clarksville with wife Kim and their two teenage daughters.
Sloan, a Columbia native who graduated from Oakland Mills High School in 1990, joined the Pat Hiban Real Estate Group in 2002. He said Hiban surprised him by writing a book, but conceded, "I also didn't think he would climb Kilimanjaro."
Once Hiban sets his mind on something, Sloan said, "He goes and finds people who will help him do it."
Finding those people is clearly important to Hiban.
"If he has something he wants to do, he finds somebody who has already done it, and he will contact them," Maher said. "It doesn't matter if it's Joe Blow or Donald Trump."
Well-known for ads
Locally, Hiban may be best known for his television commercials, which include the line, "I'm not bragging, I'm applying for a job" and tout his "sensible listing program," which involves "flexible commissions and the freedom to cancel at any time."
One ad is a spoof of home makeover shows, and another shows children dressed in oversized suits, saying they're Hiban.
Hiban began running TV ads in 2001, after hearing of an Arizona agent, Russell Shaw, who was having success with them. Hiban cold-called Shaw and asked for advice.
"Russell not only helped me write my commercial, but he also helped me rehearse the script on the phone before I actually shot and produced it," he wrote.
Once again, Hiban had reached out to a mentor, and once again the mentor had come through.
With his new book, Hiban hopes he can be the one providing the advice.
"I don't mind if other people use my ideas," he writes. "People call me all the time and ask for a disk with my commercials on it, which is why we simply put them on YouTube. They're now easier to find ... and copy."
Pat Hiban's six steps aren't complicated or surprising, but following them takes determination. They are:
• Set goals and affirmations.
• Track your progress.
• Find mentors and masterminds.
• Build on it.