Inman is exploring what the future of real estate leadership should look like through a series of articles, Q&As with industry pros, and an upcoming five-part series called Leadership Week. Please send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re a leader who wants to join us for our exclusive Disconnect in The Desert event on March 26-28, or want to recommend a colleague, send a note to email@example.com explaining why.
Diane M. Ramirez is the chairman and chief executive officer of Halstead Real Estate. Under her leadership, the firm has grown from its original goal of three storefront offices in the most important communities in Manhattan to its current size of nearly three dozen strategically located offices, with 1,300 agents throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Riverdale, the Hamptons, Hudson Valley, New Jersey and Fairfield County, Connecticut.
We recently sat down with Diane to pick her brain about the future of real estate leadership.
As a leader, what keeps you up at night?
I have made a point over my career to be as organized and forward-thinking as possible. At the end of the day, this has generally allowed me to sleep soundly knowing that I have accomplished everything I possibly can and that tomorrow will be the start of new opportunities and challenges.
Halstead has always been known as an innovative firm, and so on the nights that do keep me up, I am thinking about how we can improve the ways we implement our new tools and ideas so we encourage and achieve the adoption we know is possible.
If you could change one thing in real estate, what would it be?
The fact that real estate is commission-based can be both exciting and alluring. Many agents, including those who are brand new to the industry, believe that a big deal is right around the corner.
The truth is that the key to their success is hard work and diligent planning. It can often take years to build your business, and you must be driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and a real fire in your belly throughout your career.
If I could change one thing in the industry, it might be to set up some sort of periodic litmus test for agents, perhaps at key stages in their careers, to evaluate their continued readiness to work as hard as they must to remain relevant so it continues to be financially viable for them long term.
How have your expectations of your management team changed over the past two years?
The responsibilities of our executives have become far more comprehensive over the past years. Their jobs now involve so much beyond managing expectations, being a deal doctor and helping agents develop and keep their goals on track. As a result, we expect our executives to be extremely well-rounded.
In addition to their more traditional roles, we take a lot of pride in the fact that our executives maintain and embody our collaborative company culture — both within the office and by fostering connections between our agents outside the office — as well as develop deep expertise in our technology and help lead the implementation of it.
Our executives are also constantly networking for new talent as well as acting as a ready ear for agents’ personal and business issues. It is important to us that they not only wear but thrive in wearing many hats.
How do you keep your team competitive?
It is so important that we mirror for our executive team the support they provide to our agents. Everything our executives do for the agents — listen, collaborate, support, mentor and celebrate — we do for them so they have the confidence and the ability to go the extra mile to ensure we are at the top of our game for our agents and as a firm.
With so much disruption in real estate, what’s your best advice for managing change?
Lean into change. Real estate has always been a constantly evolving industry, and this continues to push us to new heights. Change will always be an important part of the business. Our agents help people make changes and transitions at each critical stage in their lives. And as the brokerage community, we must view innovations within our industry as positive things that will keep us on our toes and, more importantly, empower us to help clients make improvements in their own lives.
At Halstead, an important foundation of our culture is not just a willingness but a true desire to embrace this kind of change. We are always ready and searching for new tools and ideas that will make us a better company for our agents and clients; it’s not simply change — it’s innovation.