A Tale of Mentorship and Growth With Anthony A. Luna

Anthony Luna 9:56

Yeah, we were paying for text messages in those days. So that wasn’t cheap. Well, that’s true. 

John Corcoran 10:01

Okay, kids, you don’t understand how hard we had it, we had to pay for every text message. So you see, you go, you go to work, and you actually work at the Boys and Girls Club and then you go off to Chico and you end up graduating. And then you come back to where you came from. You come back, and you work at the Boys and Girls Club. Now, there are many people that would have just run away after having that experience that you did, you know, dodging bullets, growing up gang violence, that sort of thing. What brought you back?

Anthony Luna 10:28

So, I want to correct one thing, I’m actually a college dropout, I did not finish college, I’m about my wife will not let me live this down. I’m about four classes away from graduation. I have still not completed them and really don’t plan to have done continuing education other ways, but did not graduate.

John Corcoran 10:45

So that’s, I think there’s a certain point where you get credit for work experience. Isn’t that true? Sometimes?

Anthony Luna 10:52

Nice. Right. Just on the wall. 

John Corcoran 10:56

Yeah. So when you deliver the keynote speaker, or something like that at the what’s it called the commencement speech? Maybe? Yeah, it’d be an honorary degree. Give me that honorary degree.

Anthony Luna 11:06

Yeah. So.

John Corcoran 11:08

Actually, by the way, I have had pad pass guests on this podcast that got commencement speeches, because of an interview that I did on this podcast. Oh, interesting. So another EO member, so we’ll have to share this episode with Chico and maybe you will get.

Anthony Luna 11:25

It was a great, great time in my life and a great experience and great professors. But I think that the combination of I never really stopped working. So I was working through college and between working crazy hours at the Boys and Girls Club there and all the other things I have in my life and just kind of missed those final classes and moved on with my career. Got it. And since the job we get there.

John Corcoran 11:46

So then you brought it back, you came back to the Boys and Girls Club.

Anthony Luna 11:51

Yeah, so I was working for kind of what led me back to LA. The entire time I was in college, I was working for the Boys and Girls Club that’s in Northern California in the Chico area called Boys and Girls Clubs of the North Valley. And they operate all the clubs in Butte County, and now some other counties in that area. And started out as a tutor, just like I was when I was in the LA organization as a kid, and kind of worked my way through the organization as a tutor, and then elite Letha sorry, I education coordinator, and was managing the education department for a period of time and then eventually was offered the job that I was really after which was managing the teen center. So I really had a passion for working with teens, especially teens that I felt like I connected with that had rough upbringings or challenges at home or challenges in the community. 

And really enjoyed working with leadership programs and mentoring other other teams. So that’s where I was, you know, really working and traveling with that group of kids to various leadership conferences. And it was at one of those conferences that my former CEO from the Boys and Girls Clubs of LA Harbor approached me and asked if I would come home, and I told them no, the first three or four times, but Mike Lansing is a persistent man who usually gets what he wants, when it comes to, you know, employment and grants and funding. And eventually, I couldn’t say no anymore. And he eventually encouraged me to come back and manage all of the teen centers that the LA Harbor organization had opened at that point.

John Corcoran 13:22

And by the way, we may have skipped over, but when did you meet George mayor and who was George mayor? Yeah,

Anthony Luna 13:29

 I met George mayor, when I was a member of the Boys and Girls Club. I was about 15 years old at the time. And George had learned about the Boys and Girls Club from a family member that was living in New York and realized, you know, I have a Boys and Girls Club, five minutes from my home, 10 minutes from my home, and I want to go learn about what they do. And like George George didn’t go for a tour only he decided he wanted to not only go for a tour, but he wanted to start mentoring kids, teens, and he wanted to start a mentoring program and find other professionals to help mentor teenagers. So he started that in 2005. And he’s been doing that ever since. So for almost 20 years, George has been running the Mentor Program, Boys and Girls Club.

John Corcoran 14:12

And now George is a Holocaust survivor. Hi George. Yeah, an easy story to tell tell the story about how he survived the Holocaust to Georgia.

Anthony Luna 14:21

The child survivor of the Holocaust. He was three when the war broke out. And when World War Two broke out, his parents actually entrusted his life with members of the community in both Poland that he didn’t even know. They were Catholic and Christian families that could safely harbor a young Jewish boy and risked their own lives to protect him isn’t really that you know, in in World War Two in that in that time when the Nazis came in, if they found a family had harbored As a naughty child, not only would you be murdered in the child being murdered, but your entire family was at risk of being murdered, and sometimes entire apartment building is there as well. Not everybody was involved with the Jewish child. 

John Corcoran 15:15

Wow, That’s incredible and so they harbored him and he survived the war. I imagine many of his family members perished. And he makes it to the United States. And he eventually builds the company that you are now CEO of Coastline. It and so it’s so this, this man comes into your life at 15 years old. And you actually didn’t even know what he did. You just knew that this is this older man wearing a suit. What did you think of him at the time?

Anthony Luna 15:43

So you know, I mentioned a Dell earlier, my closest friends since I was you know, since I think we’re third or fourth grade together. George was mentoring at Dell first at the Boys and Girls Club. And Georgia partnered me with a mentor who worked for a company. They are now a defunct mortgage company, but they helped to start the whole wheat recession. Oh, seven recessions.

John Corcoran 16:10

I think they were called countrywide. Or CES. I think I don’t

Anthony Luna 16:18

even know who he was introducing me to. But my mentor was an executive over at countrywide. And what right when, just one day, I was supposed to meet with this guy, and I show up to breakfast, and this guy never shows back up. Later, a week later.

John Corcoran 16:33

That’s about right. drops.

Anthony Luna 16:34

I think everybody knew what was going on for about a week. So that was my mentor, he disappeared. And then George, I think felt bad, like, Oh, I just introduced this guy that disappeared. Let me Why don’t you come and join Dell? And I’ll mentor you both? Yeah. And I think at first I remember, at Dell telling me not really sure about this guy, you know, he’s this older gentleman, and comes in a suit every day to see me it’s kind of weird.

And we didn’t know anybody that wore a suit to office work every day. Yeah. And here goes this older guy that, in our minds, you know, didn’t have anything in common with us. It didn’t look like us didn’t come from communities like us. What could he possibly know about what we’re dealing with? And the stresses we’re dealing with? Yeah, little did we know, he knew, you know, much more than then we could imagine and experience things far worse than than our deepest nightmares or worst nightmares.

John Corcoran 17:27

And How did that come out? What do you recall? Did he tell you his story?

Anthony Luna 17:31

Yeah. So every year, George still does the same field trip every single year. And every year if I can, I still try to go on the field trip with him as a chaperone, because it’s just that powerful of a day. George, there’s a museum here in Los Angeles called the tolerance museum. And George starts the day with, you know, donuts and hot chocolate at Boys and Girls Club and kind of has like a little you know, get together and kind of explains to the members, you know, most of the time there are, there’s 50% of the kids are returning members that want to go again with George and have the experience again, and about 50% are people that have never been or teams that have never been to the Holocaust Museum or the tolerance Museum. 

Rather, George starts by explaining what the museum is about and what its goals are. And then sharing his story, and sharing his experience and his family’s experience. And that’s how you heard the story. And that’s how I heard the story. And I remember just, that was the moment was like, Okay, this is this is different. This is not what I was expecting from this guy. So not only have here his experience, and hear how it’s affected his life and how it affected his parents, and the fact that, you know, there was a period of time where his parents thought he was dead, the the home that he was supposed to be in being protected and being harbored, was bombed by the by the Nazis. 

Luckily, George and the family at that time that were protecting them were off in another town, and that went to another town to go visit. So they weren’t home when the bomb went. But his parents thought he had died. So imagine, parents not only trusted you with somebody they didn’t know hoping at best, but now they think you’re dead. And I think George’s dad found out, through a friend of a friend like no, we saw your son, he’s up in this other village. He’s totally fine. We saw him up there.

John Corcoran 19:19

So the parents survived the Holocaust. Both his parents and his parents survived.

Anthony Luna 19:24

I believe they were both separated as well. And they were both being protected by other members of the community as well.

John Corcoran 19:31

Wow. Wow. So you’re I imagine your understanding of who George is completely changes after you learn this information. And so you know, kind of fast forwarding in the story. You have built your building career basically in the nonprofit world. And now you’re CEO of a real estate company. Now that’s an unusual trajectory unless you’re like managing a portfolio of real estate for a nonprofit world which you weren’t you were managing team programs. So you run into him later in life. or maybe you’re in your 20s or something like that. And what does that like when you run into him again?

Anthony Luna 20:06

Yeah, so I’ll go back for a second and say that nobody grows up saying I want to be a property manager. I’ve never met anybody in the profession that says, I knew I wanted to be a property manager since I was five years old. Yeah, it’s always an accident, how we end up here, so just find you love it at some point. But I was already managing a portfolio for a single client in Long Beach with my wife, we were engaged at the time. And I was doing that at the same time that I was still working for the Boys and Girls Club. At this point in my career, I was no longer in direct service, I was more on the grant management side managing.

It was at that time about 13, after school programs at wrong school campuses. So I was hiring and training and managing the grant requirements. So it’s basically an office job at this point. So I went from, you know, 16 hours doing direct service where eight hours was behind the scenes preparing for the day. And then you had another eight hours when the kids got there to really like an eight to 10 hour day behind a desk, and I was a little bit bored. So I was used to these crazy hours and crazy days and knocking them till midnight. So I was looking for something else. And my wife was going back to grad school at the time, so we needed to replace the income. So I got into real estate, and I was managing a single client in Long Beach, and really fell in love with the business and fell in love, especially on the asset management side and renovation side construction. 

And we were at a dinner party, the gal kept coming back to the story. We were at a dinner party celebrating Dale’s graduation from the police academy. And George was in attendance at this dinner party. And the friend who threw this dinner party always likes to have these icebreaker games. They are really deep questions to have the group, the dinner party kind of think about and share. And in one of those questions, we got to a point where we were talking about what’s new, and everybody’s lives. We hadn’t seen each other a lot in a few years. And I mentioned that Lauren, my wife and I were now in property management. And I was really enjoying it. And I was thinking about leaving my career and nonprofit management and to really chase after this real estate career full time and really start to build a business in property management. 

At this point, I still did not know what George did for a living. I still do not know what he did for a living. I knew he owned businesses. But I didn’t know what they were. And think about a week later, Dell calls me. He goes, Hey, George wants to meet with you about an opportunity. And I said, “What’s the opportunity? He’s like, I don’t know anything about his business. I figured a Dell you don’t must have known what George does? What’s the business? He’s like, I really don’t understand what he does. So I don’t know, you don’t have to ask him. I had lunch with George and George kind of just showed me, you know, showed me his business and showed me the portfolio. And I realized how similar it was to what I was already doing. And he showed me the software that he was trying to implement. And it was a software that I understood very well. 

And it successfully implemented it in the portfolio that I was managing. And George asked me to take a leave of absence from both of those opportunities, my current job and the real estate world. And take a two week two week leave of absence. And to be honest about you know, with these people that is what I was considering. And I think by about day three of that leave of absence, George looks at me, we’re driving back from a property he goes to, I really want you to join me full time. How do you feel? How do you feel about the first couple of days? It’s like, I agree, like, I’m gonna just, I’m gonna let them know, I’m going back and I’ll give them some time and to replace me. So that was in 2017. So about seven years later. Yeah, we are.

John Corcoran 23:43

And I read an article that was actually in 2018. It was about George and I mentioned you and it kind of described you as the heir apparent to this company. So that’s, that’s a major life shift in a year to go from, you’re working in nonprofit management to working in real estate management. And not just that, you know, this man who you’d known didn’t even know what he did professionally now wants to turn over the business to you, you know, in addition to you know, there’s issues of how do you finance it, how do you acquire it, stuff like that, but that’s a major life change for you.

Anthony Luna 24:17

Yeah, it was. It was a huge opportunity that George’s white barber presented to us. 

John Corcoran 24:24

So. Why do you think he chose you?

Anthony Luna 24:29

I still ask myself that question a lot. And I’ll share what he shared with me. I think George always saw the properties that he owns and the tenants and the properties he managed for the clients. He really cared about all the people involved in the tenants’ staff properties, all over the relationships. And George for many years was looking for a junior partner that would succeed him in the business that would eventually buy him out of the business. And he had tried it a few times and really hadn’t found that person. And I think because of our relationship, George really has been a part of, you know, some formative years of my life and been involved in some of those periods of time where I really had challenges and worked through them. 

And a lot of times we rely on him to work through them emotionally. I think George had a trust factor with me that we could, we could really share, he could share, you know, what’s worked best and what hasn’t worked in the business. And I think also, he saw my background in technology and my background in managing people and what that could do for the business. So soon after joining them, George presented an opportunity that I could earn via sweat equity, kind of as the business grew. And as I drove the business development and grew the portfolio, I could acquire shares through that sweet equity. So that wasn’t the initial way to begin earning some ownership stake in the company. Yeah, I think as George saw quickly that growth was happening. It presented a kind of a next conversation of possible exit, and potential buyout completely a few years ago.

John Corcoran 26:10

Was there any part of you who was afraid of this opportunity, I mean, you DJ in high school, and then you manage some properties for one client. And then all of a sudden, you’re acquiring this massive, you know, company, I mean, there’s a lot of people who would be like, Hold on, wait a second, things are happening fast.

Anthony Luna 26:31

I fell in love with the business, I really fell in love with what we do. Again, it’s very accidental. When you get into property management, and you find that you love it, it’s completely accidental. But something turns on. And I found it, I found the part of the business and the type of products that I really enjoyed the types of clients that I really liked working with. And in some ways, you know, there were some parallels, there still are some parallels to, you know, working with an at risk teen and some of the challenges that come from it. 

But you know, part of the exciting part of working with an amorous teen is knowing that behind the trauma behind the challenges that they’re going through at the moment, you can see what they you know, the goals they have have for themselves, and the life they want for themselves. And you’re really just trying to help them, get there and give them the mentorship and give them the tools and give them the introductions to the right people, the right programs so that they can achieve those goals. And in some ways, you know, the type of real estate we do is value add, value, add reconstruction and property management of commercial assets. A lot of ways it’s kind of what you’re doing, you get an asset from a client, or you’re buying an asset for an investor, that you can see what it can become. 

But it’s not there yet. And it’s got some, it’s got some trauma, it’s got some damage, got some issues, it’s got some problems with the county or has problems with the construction issues. So I really enjoy working with that kind of product.

John Corcoran 27:54

It’s interesting that there was a really interesting parallel between your background, your story, the work that you did with the Boys and Girls Club and how it makes sense to the work that you do today. This has been great. Really interesting. Hearing your background, hearing your story. I’d love for people to know where they can go to learn more about you and connect with you, Anthony.

Anthony Luna 28:16

Yeah, absolutely. So probably the best place to connect with me where I’m most active is LinkedIn. So Anthony, a luna on LinkedIn. I’m also fairly active on Instagram and post there pretty regularly. So same thing, it’s Anthony Luna, but there’s an underscore between the A on either side. And then also on Forbes, I’m a Forbes contributor. So Google entity, Luna, they’ll find those Forbes articles and other publications that I’ve been a part of.

John Corcoran 28:42

And by the way, I just realized I completely skipped over my gratitude question, but I think we know the answer or at least one person who put the person who you would be grateful to but I want to give you that opportunity. There any particular people that you would want to chat with thank Giorgio.

Anthony Luna 28:58

I think the overarching is really the Boys and Girls Club movement in general. You know, I think if it weren’t for the Boys and Girls Club and the experiences that I had, and the people that I was introduced to George Mayor being you know, the most pivotal, pivotal in my life and life-changing has been George mayor. But there are many, many people that I was introduced to that were either mentors at the Boys and Girls Club or staff people who work there. Mike Lansing has been a huge mentor in my career as in the nonprofit world. 

But even now as I serve on the Board of Directors, he’s been the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of LA Harbor for 30 years. And he’s retiring this year and it would be a mistake not to thank Mike and all the work he’s done for me but so many of my friends and neighbors in San Pedro, throughout the harbor area and can go on. There’s many people in the girls club that were really life-changing. Because of the mentorship and the care and love they provide you get to meet so many people like you.

John Corcoran 30:01

Anthony. Thanks so much. Thanks, John.

Chad Franzen 30:07

Thanks for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.