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Omaha Magazine

Retirable Before 50, Still Not Retired at 60: Van Deeb Keeps Speaking

Jul 24, 2020 08:49AM ● By Kara Schweiss
Van Deeb in jeans and a blazer

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Van Deeb was in the enviable position to retire at age 49 in 2009. He’d built a nationally known, independent real estate firm from the ground up. He’d also authored two motivational books and created a second career as an inspirational speaker.

Deeb sold his company and envisioned keeping a modest schedule of speaking engagements and dividing his newfound, ample free time between homes in Omaha and Arizona. 

“I felt at the time that golfing and traveling was what was supposed to make you happy. But it was the opposite for me,” he said. 

Deeb began working again, and over the past decade has ramped up his speaking engagements, launched a weekly podcast, written two more books, and even returned to selling real estate. He’s busy giving back to the community, too, including serving as a trustee for the Omaha Business Ethics Alliance and being involved in various activities with the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Business. 

Now that he’s 60, Deeb said he’s further from retirement than ever. 

“I need to have purpose every day. I still get excited about getting up in the morning and going to work. I still feel like a punk kid,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “until I look into the mirror.”

Although Deeb has special expertise in real estate, the audience he speaks to is diverse, from college students to mom-and-pop proprietors to Fortune 500 leadership teams. It works, he said, because his fundamental theme is universal. 

“My number-one goal is to help those who want to be successful accomplish what their mission is,” Deeb explained. “Success may not have anything to do with business or wealth…It’s not ‘I want to be rich.’ I want to help people live a more quality life.”

Deeb said to make his presentations “value added,” he reaches out to the booking company or organization well in advance to uncover challenges and concerns. 

“That way I get a chance to find out what people are thinking and how I can really help them. I customize my speech to benefit people I’m speaking to,” he said. “I become not just a speaker, but also a consultant/facilitator.”   

An important point that comes up repeatedly is the need for managers to change their mindset about employees’ wants and needs.  

“If they treat their employees like they do their customers, they’ll accomplish more of their goals,” Deeb explained. “People today, more than ever, need to feel like they matter.”

As for individuals, Deeb emphasizes that success is not only a choice, it’s also attainable for anyone. 

“I am an average person that made the decision to be above average.” he said. “This is my message to others: with drive, determination, desire, and an incredible work ethic, anybody can accomplish anything they set out to do. My goal is to help those—who choose to—be the best that they can be.” 

Deeb now reaches an even broader audience through podcast content focusing on inspiration and motivation. 

“I only use content from my experiences and what is relevant today,” he said. “One of the reasons I’m still selling real estate is that I want to be relevant to my audiences.”

Deeb emphasized that whatever the medium, he wants to speak with a finger on the pulse of the modern workforce.

“I’d never listen to a motivational speaker who hasn’t ‘been there and done that’ like I have. I’ve been in the trenches. I’ve been broke. I did not grow up with a silver spoon; I had to earn everything,” he said. “And I am grateful.”

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This article was printed in the August/September 2020 issue of B2B Magazine.