Tad Bromfield had six miles left in a more than 140-mile quest to complete Ironman Florida in 2012. But he was on his back, staring at the roof of a utility cart, his energy spent on more than 130 miles of swimming, biking, and running. In his mind, his chances of finishing were about as good as him someday walking on the moon.
As Bromfield lie there, he remembered a quote by Ironman founder John Collins: “You’ll get to the point where you can make the decision [to go] either way. If you go on, then you win. If you stop, then you lose.”
Bromfield didn’t want to lose. He finished Ironman Florida, and one year later, he shaved almost two hours off his time in Ironman Chattanooga.
“There have been many times when I have wanted to quit something,” Bromfield says. “When I found the strength to finish what I had started, deep-seated confidence was the result.”
Bromfield is a commercial Realtor with over three decades of experience in direct sales and marketing. Early in his career, he worked for a supplier of legal compliance products to independent banks in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He was new to the job, and had taken the place of a company representative who had shipped fake orders to several of Bromfield’s customers. These orders were arriving as Bromfield introduced himself to his clients.
One bank VP was waiting to give a company representative a piece of his mind. Bromfield apologized for this predecessor’s actions and tried to explain what had happened, but the man didn’t buy it. As Bromfield thanked him for his time and handed him a notepad with his name and contact information, the man took the notepad, angrily shouted, “This is what I think of you and your company,” and slammed the notepad in his trashcan.
Bromfield reached into the can, retrieved the notepad, and said, “Please don’t do that. I have to pay for these.”
Undeterred, Bromfield persevered, and two years later, the bank purchased his company’s loan processor system.
“I don’t like to quit. I’ll keep working, working, and working,” he says.
That said, even the most dogged salesman understands that some deals will never happen. In the same way, Bromfield has reached points in his life when he knew it was time to move on from one endeavor to another.
One such change led to the launch of Sentinel Commercial Properties. Exhausted after years on the road, and missing the personal relationships he’d developed during the early years of his direct marketing career, Bromfield was ready for a change. When a serious running accident sidelined him during his rehabilitation, he decided he was ready for a change of career.
“My job had become more about the volume of people I could contact by phone or the Internet, and I wanted to get back to developing one-on-one relationships,” he says. “I also wanted to be my own boss.”
With his background in direct sales and marketing, real estate seemed like a good option for Bromfield. He chose commercial real estate over residential because of its numbers-driven nature. “There’s truth in numbers,” he says. “I can point out specifics to my clients.”
The technical nature of commercial real estate also appealed to Bromfield. “Commercial real estate is about zoning, traffic counts, and placing your business on a signalized hard corner,” he says. “That’s a good fit for me.”
Despite its technical nature, Bromfield says commercial real estate is still a one-on-one business, and involves finding out who people are and what they want. “I do my best to understand my customers,” he says. “I care about them, and genuinely care about facilitating what’s best for them.”
Bromfield worked for local real estate firms from 2006 to 2009, then started his own company. He named it “Sentinel” to impart an image of him standing firm and maintaining careful watch over his clients’ interests.
He laughs at the thought of launching a commercial firm during one of the toughest periods of the real estate downtown. “That was a great time to get into real estate,” he says, laughing. But instead of being deterred by the rugged conditions of the market, he set about establishing relationships one at a time and relying on his perseverance to help him build momentum.
“I have persistence in spades,” he says. “Commercial deals can take years to reach fruition, and hinge on demographics, zoning, and a number of financial considerations. But I don’t give up.”
Bromfield also determined to continue doing business as he always had: in an ethical manner. “I strive to treat my clients like I would want to be treated: with honesty and respect,” he says.
A native Virginian, Bromfield has lived and worked in the Greater Chattanooga area for more than three decades. After earning his B.B.A from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., he and his wife, Jane, moved to Scenic City in 1980. The two are the proud parents of three sons: Drew, 31; Joseph, 28; and Stephen, 24.
Although Bromfield, 61, has no plans to tackle another Ironman, he is swimming extensively, and plans to complete in Swim the Suck, a ten-mile splash through the Tennessee River Gorge, in October.
That leaves plenty of time for Bromfield to build his customer base, which he’s doing one client at a time. “I derive a lot of satisfaction from developing business relationships,” he says. “I want my clients to understand I will stand sentinel for all of their real estate