John Gomes (MBA, ’02) is co-founder of The Eklund|Gomes Team, a luxury division of Douglas Elliman Real Estate that Forbes dubbed “the Marvel heroes of real estate.” With more than 100 agents covering New York, Florida, California, Texas, and most recently Nevada, Eklund|Gomes is the largest real estate team in the country, with over $4.5 billion in transactions and properties that run the gamut from a $65 million Manhattan penthouse to a 20-acre riverside spread outside a Texas ghost town.
Gomes and his partner, Fredrik Eklund (star of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing reality show), are veritable “brokers to the stars” who have worked with Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake, and Bruce Willis, among others. Gomes also serves as creative director on large condo projects, overseeing the entire process from development to sales, which includes selecting the architects, interior designers, landscape developers, stagers, and marketing and sales teams.
“Having an MBA is like having a tool belt,” says Gomes, who studied entrepreneurship at the Zicklin School. “Accounting, finance, marketing, advertising — I use so many things from my tool belt every day.”
Surprisingly for someone now astride the heights of the luxury real estate world, Gomes came to business, and the Zicklin School, in a roundabout way. After prelaw studies as an undergraduate, he worked as a paralegal at a major New York law firm “chained to my desk with no creativity involved,” which was enough to convince him to abandon his dreams of law school. After a good friend studying at Zicklin praised the school, Gomes applied to the MBA program — only to be turned down initially.
Gomes’ passion and grit rose to the fore: “I picked out my brightest-colored clothes, put on some music, got dressed, and prepared myself mentally to walk over in all my confidence to the admissions office and find out who had written the [rejection] letter.” He sat down with the director of admissions and explained that he didn’t have especially strong scores or grades because of his dyslexia. “I’m a different thinker — a unique thinker,” he told her. “But that doesn’t mean I have a low IQ or can’t be a successful businessman.”
It worked. His acceptance letter arrived a week later, and Gomes went on to become vice president and then president of his class before graduating cum laude. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears were shed along the way, in some cases literally.
“Because I’m dyslexic, I had to take copious notes in class. I have terrible penmanship, so when I came home, I’d decipher the notes and rewrite them all,” Gomes says. “I cried a lot — it was painful to stay up so many hours working, but I was determined to get it done.”
The effort proved to be worth it, not only for Gomes’ success in the MBA program — where his excellent grades earned him a free-ride scholarship — but also because it turned him into a highly organized, efficient executive. “I became very systematic in how I do things. I used to have lots of ideas, but I never wrote them down, so I never followed up on them. Now people say, ‘You’re so OCD, you’re so organized!’ That all came out of my training at Zicklin.”
Now that Gomes has arrived, he wants to use his platform to promote diversity and inclusion in real estate by offering opportunities to promising, diverse candidates — much as the Zicklin School did for him: “I’m a biracial man who never felt like I fit in anywhere,” he notes. “Finally, at Zicklin I could fit in and yet stand out. It really made a difference.”
“A big part of the reason I applied to Zicklin was the diversity,” Gomes sums up. “That’s so important to me as a business owner. I’m all about inclusivity. It’s one thing to learn a topic and skills. It’s another layer when you learn through the different perspectives of people from different parts of the world or with different life experiences.”