By Kathryn Skelton Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Real estate developer Brenda Fontaine said she decided to write a book because she needed to put out there what her adversities were. Her hope is that people can relate to her achievements and failures and see that if she can succeed, anybody can.
Brenda Fontaine was afraid of what people would think. She wrote her book, anyway.
About growing up with a violent, alcoholic mother who would threaten to kill her.
About the time her 9-year-old twins fell out of the back of a truck and cracked their skulls.
About the doubters who didn't think she could hack it in real estate -- including a hyper-competitive agent who went so far as to wish her stomach cancer.
She fought on.
Fontaine said her business memoir is honest and, she hopes, inspiring.
She has framed the self-published "The Limitless Real Estate Leader" around her life and long career, closing with tips such as, "Fail your way to success."
"I needed to put out there what my adversities were because I feel that it can hopefully help people relate, that if I can do it, anybody can," said Fontaine, 64.
She started writing the book last spring, on yellow legal pads, often sitting outside her house on Woodbury Pond in Litchfield. She touched base with a business coach every two weeks -- John Brubaker, who also wrote the forward -- to keep herself accountable.
Writing a book was on her bucket list, "but (initially) I didn't know what I was going to write about," she said.
Fontaine grew up on the outskirts of Lewiston, on Old Webster Road, then a dirt road with grass growing down the middle. Her mother was an alcoholic with mental health issues, she said. Her father was loving and a hard worker who put in long hours, maybe to get away from her mother.
"I felt if I told a couple of stories it would give people an idea of what I went through growing up," Fontaine said. "My fears. Because I have a lot of fears.
"My mother was not all bad," she said. "It's just the alcoholism put out an evil spirit in her."
Her first sales experience was knocking on doors to sell Avon and modeling for fashion home parties as a teenager.
"It made me feel like an adult; that's why I enjoyed it a lot," Fontaine said. Those were the good times with her mother, as well: "When she stayed busy doing that, it kept her mind occupied."
She writes in the book about meeting her husband, Claude, and the twins' horrible accident and recovery.
"So awful. It was the worst day of my life," Fontaine said.
And about Claude nudging her toward real estate when it was clear she was ready for something else besides owning her own day care.
Fontaine said she took the state real estate exam twice, passed on the second try, and intended to work at it part time, drawn by the flexible hours and new challenge.
"I needed the money to buy groceries; real estate wasn't 'something to do' or a hobby, so there was no room for failure," Fontaine said. "I think that's what caused me to really take it seriously and feel like a real job. I went in every day. I did what I had to do to get the business going."
In 1983, after working part time for two weeks, she decided to go all in.
"I loved helping people get to where they wanted to go," she said. "They were happy and they were happy with what I had done."
All three of her daughters, two sons-in-law and Claude work at the Fontaine Family real estate agency today with Fontaine. The office, which has two locations, nine employees and 30 independent contractor/sales agents, is on track to finish 2016 with between 535 and 550 transactions and roughly $70 million to $75 million in sales.
The book details the moves that got them there.
Fontaine said she promised God early in the year that if she was successful, she'd share the keys to that success. She didn't run into a lot of help from other agents starting out.
"They felt we were all in competition with each other, and it's true to a certain extent, but I feel like by sharing, you help others, which in turn they help you, too," Fontaine said. "In this business, you co-broke with other agents. You want a win-win. When you can share each other's success stories, it helps both of you."
The agent who wished her stomach cancer "hated me because I was selling more than he was," she wrote in the book.
"If they're wishing you that, it means they're wishing you dead," Fontaine said. "It was very hard to work with him."
The man hadn't known that Fontaine's father died of stomach cancer at 53. Her mother died at age 70.
She wrote "Limitless" with other real estate agents and entrepreneurs in mind but said she thinks home buyers and home sellers might also find it interesting to get an agent's perspective on the industry.
The book will be available in the next two weeks on Amazon.com and other online sellers. Fontaine said it felt good to hit her goal of writing and putting it all out there.
"I always tell my agents, 'You've got to write down your dreams because once they're written down, they become goals,'" Fontaine said. Another bit of advice: "When things go bad and you have bad days, you just have to move on. Tomorrow's another day."