Welcome W. Wilson, Sr. has led a life that rivals any Texas tall tale. In his nine decades, he has accomplished things many people only dream of experiencing—in multiple arenas. Entrepreneur, entertainer, Navy man, public servant, businessman, family man, advocate and fundraiser: in all these roles he has found success, met challenges, gained wisdom and mentored others.
Now, this Texas real estate success story has added author to his list of accomplishments. After the publication of Always Welcome: Nine Decades of Great Friends, Great Times & (Mostly) Great Deals, we spoke with Wilson. Hear is just some of the wisdom that packs the pages of his riveting book.
What 4 tips would you give to someone just starting out in real estate development?
1. Be willing to make a pitch to someone you’ve never met.
2. Don’t let immediate success go to your head. In a good economy, everything works. You are not invincible; you have absolutely no control over the economy.
3. Never go against your gut instincts. Unless you agree with it, don’t follow an expert’s advice.
4. Don’t hesitate to copy something that works. In school, if you copy you are failed. In business, if you copy someone successful, you will succeed.
What was your first job? And did it have any impact on the direction your life took after college?
My first job was program director for a radio station in Brownsville, Texas, which my father owned. I was 14 years old (he thought everybody should have a full-time job at age 14). At 15, I was a newscaster and a disc jockey when I was a senior in high school. My first job in Houston was selling advertising for the University of Houston weekly newspaper, The Daily Cougar. That job was a game changer for me. I had to learn to get “no” for an answer, and not be slowed down.
When the Korean War broke out, you received orders to report to the Navy. How did being in the military shape your life?
When I was called to active duty I was the assistant director of the College of Nursing at the University of Houston. I arrived in boot camp in a designer suit and tried to act like a big shot with the chief petty officer in charge of the company. After listening to me for several minutes, he said, “Wilson, I am sure you were somebody very important in civilian life, but right now, you’re in the United States Navy. I’m going to give you some advice, and if you take it, you’ll have a great navel career. If you do not, you’re in for years of hell. Now get with the program. I want you to stand up and never sit in my presence again, and I want you to leave my office and don’t you dare ever come back unless you’re invited by me.”
I got with the program, and three days later he put me in charge of the entire company as Recruit Chief Petty Officer. Later I graduated first in my class in officer school. I served two years in Japan as a Naval Officer.
In your book, you have a list of “Welcome’s Rules of Order: How to succeed in business and in life by avoiding my mistakes.” What are the top three?
1. Be willing to ask for the order. (80% of salesmen never do.)
2. If you have important things to do today, tackle the most difficult one first.
3. Learn how to be happy. Believe you are worthy of happiness… Frame every so-called disaster with these words, “In five years, will this really matter?”
Tell us the story of behind your unusual name.
I was born at home 90 years ago on March 17, 1928. The doctor had told my parents that I would be a girl and the announcements had been ordered with pink ribbons. (You can imagine how much the doctor knew 90 years ago.) I surprised my parents by being a 12-pound boy. Being born at home, the doctor folded his bag and left. Three days later they are now arguing about what to name the boy. Three weeks went by; they’re still arguing. Twenty-two days after I was born, my father arrived home from work and said why don’t we name him Welcome, so he will know he’s welcome although he’s not a girl. And that’s what they did.
Cover | Welcome W. Wilson, Sr. at the Triple W Ranch circa 2012 | Courtesy photo