Johnny L. Collins, II is a prosperous title insurance executive, and the president of Community National Title, LLC (CNAT), a full-service forward-thinking title agency headquartered in Dallas, Texas. As one of Dallas, Texas’ leading business owners, his approach in business— fostering powerful, committed, mutually beneficial relationships—is a testament to his successful track record.
Today, Black leaders in business continue to encounter odds and adversities to succeed. However, Collins has remained focused and steadfast not flattered by materiel things that hold no value but thinks and plans long-term wealth building to ensure that everyone eats.
He’s picked a lane in the title industry and mastered it. Now, the son of an exceptionally talented real estate mom, and a hard-working father that passed at 47, has made history as the first Black person to be added to the Texas Land and Title Association (TLTA) board in the organization’s 115-year history. He will serve as Agent At-Large Director.
While in Los Angeles, I sat down with Collins to discuss his new role at TLTA, family—from his successful mother to his uber-talented wife R&B singer and songwriter Toni Estes, philanthropic efforts, paying it forward, and his success as a title agency owner.
Q. How does it feel to be the first black person to be added to TLTA since 1908?
A. You know it’s a funny thing. It’s more of a duty for me in this stage of my life. The lack of representation in my industry is what makes me hate that I am the first one. On the other hand, I’m proud because it represents the work that’s been done. Either way, I don't take it lightly. There have been hundreds of thousands of black men/women just in my generation that have never been recognized by their peers as worthy of having a voice. I’m grateful for the opportunity but I’m ready for the work as well!
Q. What is the primary responsibility of a title company?
A. Being a disinterested third party who makes sure all terms of the real-estate contract are followed to the tee legally and as described in the contract between two willing parties.
Q. According Zippia there are over 4,485 title agents currently employed in the United States. The most common ethnicity of title agents is White (68.0%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (15.4%), Asian (7.0%) and Black or African American (6.9%). How did you get into the title industry?
A. Total fluke. I had no intentions of being in the day to day of the title industry. I’m a real estate kid. My mother owned a real estate brokerage—legendary in her own right—she did a lot of great things in Texas when it wasn’t popular for people who look like me to thrive in Texas and real estate. That’s what’s in my blood, and title has been a derivative of that. I think it’s probably the most boring business on the planet, but it’s proven to be exciting and lucrative. For my family, and everyone in our organization and their families.
Literally I was tired of hearing my partner curse at escrow officers that didn’t want to close blue-collar workers after hours. Suggested that we start are own title agency so that we could close people after hours versus asking people to take off in the middle of the day. At the time a lot of our mortgage clients –buyers and sellers—didn’t have that option. Nine months later we were in the game! The rest is pain, pleasure, and rewarding history!
Q. What is your opinion about the slow growth of Blacks being added to the title industry?
A. Companies should reflect the people in our communities. The lack of diversity deters knowledgeable and professional individuals from other backgrounds coming into the title industry as they don’t see themselves represented. I’m here to change that image.
Q. Russell Simmons, one said, “If you wake up deciding what you want to give versus what you’re going to get, you become a more successful person. In other words, if you want to make money, you must help someone else make money.” What are your thoughts on this?
A. I agree. When I got in the business, I was the only Black agency owner for a long time. I strongly believe in paying it forward and increasing the number of Black title agents through mentoring and through CNAT University, a school I opened to offer high-level insight on industry laws and standards, diversity, ethics, sales, and mental empowerment.
Q. What is your biggest personal accomplishment?
A. My biggest personal accomplishment is an ongoing dual role. It’s a husband and a present father. Some days I’m better at it than others but in the end, I’m committed to making sure my body of work will leave a legacy of understanding and memory of what a husband and father should look and sound like.
Q. What did you learn from your biggest failure?
A. There are times when you only get one chance at it. In these moments it will be a combination of your preparation, knowledge, and will, that gets you through.
As a believer I also realize that sometimes things are beyond me, and the lesson is buried in the grace of surviving the failure. My junior year of high school I placed last in the 400m at the Texas state meet. I was so embarrassed. I had about 989 family members alone in the stands. After the race my father walked up to me smiling and said, “Welp you still have a home to go to. Let’s go get a steak, lol!”
Q. Who would you like to have brunch with dead or alive and why?
A. My father and my son together. My father died at 47. I was 21. I’d love for him to see what his seed grew into. Although he always told me I’d be okay, I’d just love the opportunity to show him. In the days before his passing, he made me commit to keeping his memory alive with his grandchildren. One of his greatest pains before he died was that he was not going to be around to see his grandkids.
Q. How do you keep your marriage to R&B singer and songwriter, Toni Estes, fresh and exciting?
A. The excitement in this stage of our marriage is still very present. I think the rhythm of life between two crazy people is enough, lol! As far as keeping things fresh it takes work. It takes commitment and a willingness to stay in the fight together. There are no secrets around having a great marriage. It takes work!
Q. How do you and your wife Toni collaborate peacefully on projects?
A. Sometimes we don’t. But she’s still my girl! So, we figure out how to figure it out! I think the biggest thing is just making sure that each other is heard throughout the process. There are no individual winners in marriage.
Q. To quote the beloved icon and billionaire Oprah Winfrey, “True philanthropy comes from living from the heart of yourself and giving what you have been given.” How do you give back?
A. My wife and I love giving back to the people in our city and other cities as well. Sometimes my strategic corporate responsibility giving plan is thrown out the window because I can’t say ‘no’ when it’s a charity that I value, appreciate, and admire. One being Morning Star Prayer Center. We were blessed to bless families by furnishing 1,100 homes for $1million dollars. It was the best feeling.
Q. What is your mission in life?
A. My life’s mission is to raise great kids and build something that my wife and I can be proud of. The pride will come from knowing that others have been impacted tremendously from our efforts. Or however God chooses to use us.
Q. What is your mission in business?
A. To build predicable and reoccurring income and get paid today and tomorrow for the work I did yesterday.
The original article may be found at Urban Magazine