Ron McColly's strong work ethic goes back to his early years growing up in Gary.
McColly, 75, president of McColly Real Estate and a 2019 inductee into the Northwest Indiana Business & Industry Hall of Fame, began his work career at an age when most youngsters are just starting school.
"I worked as a stock boy in the grocery store at age 6," McColly said.
His grandparents, Cora and Fred McColly, owned Gary a grocery store called Belmont Grocery and a bowling alley called Ridge Lanes. McColly worked at both.
"I got into a working habit and a saving habit at a young age," he said.
McColly started working at the bowling alley in his teens, first performing general duties then later bartending. McColly later also worked for a family-owned funeral home called Linton and McColly Funeral Home in Glen Park.
At the funeral home, McColly's work included ambulance trips and parking cars when there were funerals.
As a youth McColly also had a paper route.
"I liked collecting the most," he said of that job.
McColly, who graduated from Lew Wallace High School and attended Indiana University, said his success hasn't been fueled by just his strong work ethic but also by his habit of reading.
"The number-one thing in life is reading. You need to educate yourself every day," McColly said.
Reading even played a role in his quest to receive financial assistance from his grandmother in 1974, when McColly wanted to start his real estate business.
"The ironic part was when I asked my grandmother for a loan she said she only had one stipulation: that I subscribe to the Chicago Tribune," McColly said, adding,"I read three newspapers to this day. I think reading is a big part of life."
Some fellows he met at the bowling alley who were in the real estate business talked him into getting his real estate license.
"They told me if I got my real estate license they would train me," McColly said.
McColly began working in real estate at age 24 and started his own company at age 30.
McColly Real Estate, now the largest independent residential real estate company in Northwest Indiana and the Chicago Southland, is part of McColly Companies, which includes Community Title, McColly Bennett Commercial, McColly Insurance, McColly Auctions and the the McColly School of Real Estate.
It is an exclusive member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, a prestigious global network that includes Luxury Portfolio International, according to the company's website. McColly Real Estate is annually recognized among the top brokers in the U.S. in the RealTrends 500 Broker Report, ranking No. 161 nationally for closed transaction sides for year-end 2018.
McColly Real Estate includes 23 offices, with 470 broker associates and 100 employees.
Newspapers, including the reading of columnist Ann Landers, continued to play a part in McColly's adult life.
McColly lists Landers among the people who have influenced him the most.
"I'd start with Ann Landers. I read her column for 25 years," McColly said.
Others McColly considers mentors include Albert Einstein and Jack Bogle, founder and retired chief executive of the Vanguard Group.
McColly said Bogle is also responsible for one of the quotes he likes to keep in mind: "Don't look for the needle in the haystack, buy the haystack."
"It you learn on a continuous basis, good things will happen. Mentors are so important," McColly said.
Investors Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the late Dean White, whom Forbes magazine called a "real estate and advertising kingpin," are also among
"One of the biggest mistakes I see is learning from our experiences instead of learning from others," McColly said.
After opening his real estate business in 1974, McColly joined a national franchise in 1976.
His company joined the Better Homes and Garden network in 1986 and in 2003 became an independent company.
Between 2007 to 2011, the real estate business in general went through some tough times with the Real Estate bubble," McColly said.
"They made sub prime loans and everyone qualified," McColly said.
Things started to change in 2012 for the better.
"There's a shortage of homes right now," McColly said, adding, "Anything close to the state line is hot right now including St. John, Crown Point and Munster. We're lucky to be in close proximity to Chicago," McColly said.
In his spare time, McColly enjoys golfing and reading and also attending conventions and educational seminars.
"What I get the most satisfaction from is being successful and learning things I need to learn. You probably learn more from the mistakes you make than the good things you do," McColly said.
McColly said he also gets a great deal of satisfaction out of helping others become successful.
"That's because the people I met in the bowling alley helped me," McColly said.
In addition to starting his own real estate company, McColly in 2004 purchased Innsbook Country Club in Merrillville.
"Myself and a partner purchased it and did extensive improvements," McColly said.
Why go into real estate? McColly said the three biggest necessities in life are food, shelter and clothing.
"Shelter is the best. It's a big thing and will never go out of style," McColly said.
What sets McColly Real Estate apart from other companies?
"What makes us different is we're independent. There is brand loyalty," McColly said.
What set apart him in his early years as a Realtor?
"Forty-eight out of 52 Sundays I had an open house. I'd say those open houses were the No. 1 thing to start out. You have to get out and meet people. That's what makes the difference," McColly said.
'A stalwart business leader'
Pat Huber, former president of the Crown Point Community Foundation, said she delayed her retirement to help with the fund-raising campaign for the newly launched Dean and Barbara White Southlake Family YMCA in Crown Point.
Ron McColly was one of those individuals Huber knew she could count on to contribute.
"Because I knew quite a people I reached out to Ron McColly," Huber said.
Huber called McColly a visionary.
"I think he sees beyond just like Mr. White or any entrepreneur," Huber said.
Recreational amenities, like the new YMCA as well as good school and good hospitals, are a wonderful incentives to draw people into communities and good tools to be used by Realtors.
"Those are huge pieces to get people to move to Northwest Indiana. It's a huge point for Ron McColly. He is a really smart man. He is extremely intelligent and very well read," Huber said.
"He (McColly) is just a great community guy. He always calls you back," Huber said.
Peoples Bank Executive Chairman David Bochnowski called Ron McColly "a stalwart business leader in Northwest Indiana."
"His business has moved so many people into their dream homes. Their presence has been a dominant one as far as home sales," Bochnowski said.
"Ron is just an honest, trustworthy guy and that translates into all those who work for him," Bochnowski said.
His firm has a well-deserved position in the community, Bochnowski said.
"He is so modest for a guy who has been so successful. Whenever I might meet him he has a new idea about how Northwest Indiana can propel itself forward. Improving the quality of life and place is always at the top of his mind for him whether its in a casual setting or formal," Bochnowski said.