“One of my core values is ‘act with integrity, even if it hurts your pocket’,” says Kenny Letner of Aweigh Real Estate. “People are taught from day one to represent their clients to the best of their ability, but when the client wants something that could violate the contract, ethics or morals, we need to protect them from themselves.”
Kenny’s approach to real estate was shaped by his 20 years of experience in the United States Navy. As an independent duty Corpsman, he was often sent out to sea on a ship with no doctor aboard, responsible for all areas of occupational programs, including heat and hearing programs, food-service sanitation and pest control. He handled all dental, medical and daily sick calls, and as a First-Class Petty Officer reporting to the XO and CO, he often had the uncomfortable job of giving them bad news.
“These officers are accustomed to other officers reporting to them, and here was this enlisted guy telling them what had to be done,” Kenny laughs. “My only defense against high-ranking people was the Navy instruction manual, and I always came armed with the chapter and paragraph that referenced my directions.” He explains that the document signed by COMNAVSURFLANT was as good as the admiral’s voice issuing the order, and that concept has served him well in real estate.
“I make sure our agents know the contract very well, and it’s professional, not personal,” Kenny says. “When an agent comes to me with a problem, the first question is ‘Who do we represent?’ and my next question is, ‘What does the contract say?’” In that framework, a contract dispute can easily become personal, something Kenny doesn’t tolerate. “Let the contract argue for you,” he advises. “No one can push you around if you have a well-written document, even if they don’t understand it.”
He cautions that when someone else doesn’t do what they were entrusted to do, it doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for it, another lesson learned in the military. Kenny shares a story that drives this point home. “When I was enlisted, a Master Chief told me a sailor in my charge needed a haircut,” he recalls. “I said ‘Aye, aye, Master Chief’ and relayed the message to the sailor.” A few days later, the Master Chief conducted an inspection and called Kenny to his office, where he had him sign a counseling chit for failing to follow orders. “I informed him that I ordered the sailor to get a haircut,” Kenny remembers. “And he said, 'No, you didn’t follow my orders; you were supposed to make sure he GOT the haircut.''
That hard lesson helped strengthen Kenny’s already rock-solid work ethic. “Growing up poor in the foothills of Appalachia, we joked we might want to steal the neighbor’s trash so it looked like we had something to throw away,” he shares. “In my family, you were one of four things; a brick and block mason, a logger, a moonshine runner or you joined the military — I did all four.” He remembers that one of his dad’s heroes was a Supply Corps Chief whom he looked up to for most of his life, and Kenny was gratified that his dad was proud of his son when he retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer.
When Kenny moved back to Hampton Roads in 2004, he obtained his license and learned all he could in the three years he needed to wait to become a broker. Kenny says, “At three years and one day, I got my broker's license, and at three years and two days, I opened my own company, Aweigh Real Estate.”
Kenny is grateful for the path that led him to real estate, and his company name and logo reflect that. Aweigh is an old English term meaning “to move off the bottom,” and his logo depicts the Navy chief’s anchor with a fouled chain, meant to remind one to be humble. “If there’s a big problem, you always ask the Chief,” Kenny says. “I feel tremendous responsibility for my agents’ success, and my core values are non-negotiable.”
Kenny’s Core Values
- Act with integrity: Do the right thing, even if it costs you money.
- Be committed to service: We serve our clients, each other and our community.
- Grow through learning/education: We’re a team of proactive, curious learners.
- Have determination: We stay in hot pursuit of the goals we commit to, even when the going gets tough.
- Focus your energy: Be present in whatever you’re doing, focusing your energy on it.
- Have fun: We find energy in doing meaningful work while we genuinely enjoy life.
“I work hard, but I wouldn’t have any of this success without my wife, Sabrina. She told me to go big or go home, and her support has meant more to me than anything. I respect and admire all she has done in life.”
"Being a part of Kenny's team is such an honor. We often joke and call him our work dad, but the truth is, this title is very accurate. Kenny will go to bat for any of our agents in a heartbeat. He takes our phone calls at all hours of the day and night and always smiles while doing it. If you ask any individual agents at the company, they will tell you Kenny makes us each feel like his favorite agent, and none of us has any idea how he does it. Real estate can be especially demanding and difficult, and Kenny is always our quiet in the storm; he keeps us grounded and level-headed through all of our trials. Kenny holds a wealth of knowledge when it comes to real estate (and other random topics). You'll rarely go to him to ask a question he doesn't know the answer to. He has harvested a huge family atmosphere within the company, which is something you don't get at just any brokerage. I am so grateful to be a part of the Aweigh family and to have Kenny in my corner as a broker and 'work dad.'" —Emily Vining, Real Estate Agent and Team Lead