When Patricia (Pat) Petersen, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty president, first started in real estate in the late 1970s, almost all of the owners of real estate companies were men. In the ’90s — by then owner of the company — she and a group of other female company owners got together and created a meeting where they could relax and compare notes.
- Daniel Gale Sotheby's international Realty President and owner, Patricia Petersen is grooming two women in her senior management for her succession in a couple of years' time.
- When Petersen does handover she will remain with the company as chair and active in community relations and charity board work.
- Daniel Gale's has negotiated with the Zillow Group and realtor.com for their listing agents to be the only agents on their advertised house listings.
In the ’90s — by then owner of the company — she and a group of other female company owners got together and created a meeting where they could relax and compare notes.
The Spa Ladies (as they were initially called) included Laurie Moore-Moore (formerly of REAL Trends), Jenny Pruitt of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, and Michael Saunders of Michael Saunders & Company.
Their first meeting was at a spa in San Francisco.
“Between facials and massages, we just had the best time — we all bonded,” said Petersen.
They compared strategies and details of their business in the most positive ways.
They were so excited about the meeting that they wanted to put a press release out, but they thought “Spa Ladies” wasn’t an ideal name if they wanted to be taken seriously. So they named themselves the Brain Trust.
“Much more businesslike than ‘Spa Ladies,'” said Petersen.
The group eventually wound down as the market got more competitive — but the lessons remained, and it wasn’t dormant forever.
Groups of like-minded realty groups can lead to useful strategic collaboration
Petersen, who serves on the advisory board of Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliate network, and Pruitt, have now revived the Brain Trust name and formed a collaborative group at Sotheby’s where eight businessowners currently meet.
Men are allowed this round — and the participating companies have to have a minimum of $1 billion in sales, said Petersen.
“It is very useful to share information on things like marketing, new tech, cost-cutting and budgets. It is a great collaboration among top brokers in non-competing markets who have common ownership of the Sotheby’s International Realty brand,” said Petersen.
Petersen has built Daniel Gale — an established business of 15 agents when she started in 1977 — to a business of $2.5 billion sales volume with 800 agents.
Based in Long Island, it has 25 offices there and two in Queens, which is a good feeder location for Long Island.
The company president agrees there are not enough women at the top in real estate across the country, but she thinks there are plenty of women in the New York region — naming Barbara Corcoran, Dottie Herman and Diane Ramirez as examples.
Grooming the third generation of Daniel Gale
At Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, 80 percent of her agents and staff are women, said Petersen. She has some excellent male agents too, she added.
“Men bring a different work ethic — they work at real estate as a real job — while women become addicted to the business and throw themselves into it.”
Peterson has earmarked two women to take over from her in a couple of years. In 2015, she sent these two top managers, Deirdre O’Connell and Deborah Hauser, to the inaugural Realogy Ascend leadership succession course to help prepare them for their new roles.
They were given a great financial grounding among other things there, she said.
Petersen’s plan is to remain chair of the company and to be taking on more of a community relations/rainmaker role with the company. She is an active member of a number of local charities.
The CEO stresses when the time comes, she will not be moving on, but rather “moving over.”
“I want to leave the best organization behind that I can for the third generation so the next generation can go forward and grow. I have no desire to sell the company,” she said.
In her own case, Petersen grew as a leader in her early 40s after losing her husband in the mid 1980s. At the time she was general manager, going on to buy the company a few years later from the Gale family in the early ’90s.
“I was passionate about the business, but this was new territory. I had to rise to the occasion and become the support for my family and the leader of the company,” she said.
Building the business carefully
Over the years, Petersen has done six acquisitions and set up nine new offices.
The President bought O’Connell’s Long Island company nine years ago. O’Connell is currently general sales manager and a regional manager at the company, while Hauser is one of the most successful regional managers.
In terms of skills and attributes, “they overlap in so many ways,” said Petersen. They are also full-time sales managers — O’Connell in Manhasset, and Hauser in Cold Spring Harbor.
Petersen has also brought her daughter, Christine, into the business. A relocation property specialist who worked for Sotheby’s International in London, she heads the relocation department at Daniel Gale and has increased it by 30 percent over the past three years, building up the international side.
There are plenty more plans to grow and acquire new ground, with the intention to expand to the south shore of the island, she said.
“Strategically, we are very careful. We know where we want to grow and we look for the right partner. If we can’t come up with a right partner, we start from scratch.”
Putting marketing and tech together
One interesting strategic step Petersen made a few years ago was to merge her marketing and tech department — and finding a manager who was well-versed in both areas who could make sure they worked in concert.
“I saw that the new medium for us, for our marketing efforts, was going to be technology. It was a natural merger,” said Petersen.
The marketing and technology division has won a number of awards, she added.
“I feel we are on the leading edge with technology, creating programs in-house, which are unique to the industry.”
According to her chief technology officer, Jon Evans: “Tech and marketing collaborate on everything.”
Evans likes the way Petersen gives her staff free reign.
“Pat has a philosophy of hiring the right talent and empowering them; she’s incredibly forward thinking,” said Evans.
In the last year the department has launched five new technologies, including new in-house apps and a new “find buyers” tool, he said.
It works like a standalone ad agency on projects such as the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Long Island’s North Hills, for which Daniel Gale has a dedicated sales and marketing team.
Negotiating a special deal with Zillow
Evans has recently achieved a coup for Petersen. He has negotiated deals with the Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com real estate portals so that consumers browsing Daniel Gale listings online are only being directed to the Daniel Gale listing agent, not to other paying agents.
“Internally, we figured out a way to make it affordable,” said Evans.
And there was some heavy negotiating.
“Our deal is unique and rare. I would say we are among a handful of the larger brokerages to structure such a deal with the big three.”
“We have seen a 400-percent increase in buyer leads, and we have got a decent amount of seller leads, too.”
The marketing tech department is letting the world know. “We are using it in recruiting, in marketing, to tell the world we are the only ones doing this,” said Evans.
“Part of the service we provide for our homeowner client is that the very best person, the listing agent, is the one who will be handling any inquiry. If 90 percent of the business is starting from the internet, then you want that lead to go to the listing broker, and the buyer broker likes to work with the listing agent, too, ” said Petersen.
“My inventory is the best there is. It was making me crazy,” she said.