Own Your Life, Chase Your Dreams

How one rowdy kid got his head right, survived Iraq, and co-created one quickly ascending, very-talked-about real-estate dream team.

interview by Veronica Pasfield | photos by Ford Yates

A bundle of contradictory nouns populate Rob Allen’s life story: rebel and overachiever, world traveler and hometown guy, perfectionist and broad-minded old soul. We set out to write a story about Sage Realty Partners, a very-talked-about and swiftly ascending real-estate brokerage for our upcoming Home Special Issue. But the more we talked with co-founder Rob Allen, the more it became clear that we wanted to write about his pretty remarkable story.

Rob is the kid who graduated at the bottom of his class from McGuinness, and magna cum laude from Oklahoma City University School of Law. He’s an Iraq war hero with a Purple Heart and former Chesapeake Energy attorney who once worried he’d wait tables at Texas Roadhouse for the rest of his life. He's an affable guy who also helps support veterans who also underwent some tough transitions from combat to civilian life via Warriors for Freedom.

For those about to buy or sell a home, these things matter for one simple reason. The guy at the helm of Oklahoma City’s most high-profile boutique brokerage has come out the other side with a relentless investment in fundamentals. To the brokerage he recently founded with cousin Chris Allen, a long-time Realtor, these men bring the procedural orthodoxy of military officers softened by an easy Okie energy.

Chris and Rob started Sage Realty Partners in 2017, after Chris helped his cousin find a new house. Rob studied property and contract law at OCU, and Chris had been a Realtor in Oklahoma City metro for over a decade by then. They asked themselves what an ideal brokerage would look like. They were sure of one thing: it would be comprised of full-time, professional Realtors only—even if such is a rarity here.

Let’s be honest, for all of its achievements, Oklahoma City too-often tolerates “good enough is good enough.” Sometimes that translates into a laid-back charm, other times it’s downright maddening.

Chris Allen

Chris and Rob share a common ethos apart from that. Chris graduated from the Air Force Academy, and served as a decorated pilot all over the world, including a stint as a presidential support pilot and one of five Nuclear Airlift Aircraft Commanders.

“Neither Chris nor I are the type to fall in line,” said Rob. “I don’t think it’s in our DNA. We’re both take-charge types that want to improve the industry and the people around us. We want Sage to elevate standards.”

Last year, Sage captured the attention of Territory by swiftly adding some of the city’s top realtors and rolling out a robust, modern brand. We asked them to help us put together an editorial package that guides our readers about some of the most important decisions facing homebuyers and sellers.

We also asked Rob to share about his winding road in life, and how it shaped him as an entrepreneur. We hope you enjoy this preview of Territory's first Home Special Issue.

TERRITORY: What made you decide to settle in your hometown?

ROB: I like that Oklahoma City is constantly trying to find a way to make itself better. Success has never been a given for this city. We don’t have mountains, and we don’t have beaches. We have good, hard-working people that want better lives for themselves and their families.

Tell me a bit about growing up in Nichols Hills.

My parents owned a flooring company together. Dad is a funny, Clark Griswold type. Mom is creative and organized, a rare combo. In 1993, she engineered her dream of buying an RV and traveling the country for a year. She did this with no internet, no email, no social media. She wrote letters to the state tourism bureaus and asked for advice. She calculated gas and routes using paper maps. A whole book could be written on how that trip affected me. How could it not change my worldview, right? My family truly spent time together. I read over 30 books that year—not bad for a 7th grader.

I have no doubt that I grew up very, very fortunate. I got to go to private school and grew up in a safe, loving home. But my parents consistently reminded me that nothing was going to be given to us, that you have to work very hard in life—and that life gets harder and not easier. Yet despite those constant reminders, I still thought, ‘Everything will be okay.’

“The Army humbled me, helped give me focus, and turned my weaknesses into strengths. It totally unlocked the person I was always supposed to be.”

Teen years—fair to classify them as rambunctious? In your senior year at Bishop McGuinness, you joined the Army.

Rambunctious is a good word. My middle-school principal described me as “the smartest C student he ever had.” I graduated from high school near the bottom of my class. Fast forward 15 years, I graduated law school magna cum laude. It was never a matter of intellect or potential; it was a matter of effort.

My father is an Army combat veteran of Vietnam. Both grandfathers were in WWII. No one ever pressured me to enlist, but I always wanted to be a soldier. I grew up hearing my dad’s stories. When I enlisted, I had no idea what to expect.

I went to University of Central Oklahoma and served in the National Guard. I goofed off a lot. But one weekend a month, I’d shave my face and polish my boots. I was a really good soldier, and I felt proud of myself. That was the beacon of light in my life.

When 9/11 happened, I wanted to go active duty in the Army. My commanding general agreed to let me go if I would do one deployment. They said I could go to Egypt (peacekeeping mission with beaches) or Kuwait (likely invasion of Iraq). I thought, ‘If I’m going to go, let’s go.’ Within months, I was in Kuwait.

You talk about that experience giving you a “light bulb moment.”

I was sitting in guard tower in the middle of the night. We were just north of Baghdad and it was pitch black and I was staring out into the darkness. My battle buddy and I were working a 12-hour shift. He was asleep on the floor next to me. During deployment, you have a lot of time for self-reflection and I had some stuff to figure out.

I just kind of had this aha! moment when I realized nobody’s going to take control of my life for me. I knew I needed to apply the Army’s work ethic and values to every other aspect of my life. That was the moment I decided I’m going to be in control of my own life. I’m going to stop living like a frat boy. I’m going to re-enroll at UCO and go straight into ROTC—combine being a soldier with being a student.

I got home from Iraq, and within a week I walked into ROTC and signed up. I was 23. I started making the dean’s list and was ranked the top cadet. I commissioned as an officer, went active duty in the Army, completed a second year in Iraq, got into law school, made dean’s list and Law Review. I got the internship at Chesapeake, graduated with honors and got hired on as a litigation attorney there.

How did being a soldier shape the entrepreneurial side of your life?

Some of it will sound cliché, but it’s the truth. As mentally and physically exhausted as I may get, I know how to work through it. I learned that integrity is the cornerstone of trust. People can trust that I’ll do what’s morally and ethically right, even when nobody’s looking.

I believe people are drawn to high standards. They have to be invested in order to maintain them for everyone else. Imperfections dilute our brand. By maintaining these standards in our brand, the cream very easily rises to the top.