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As the founder of The Field Team in Manhattan, Nikki Field has focused on guiding agents to find their niche. After carving out her own specialty selling medical offices, Field grew her career to include teams across the world.
It’s paid off. Her team has sold over $3.5 billion in real estate and consistently ranks as the top team at Sotheby’s International Realty. She’ll be at Inman Connect New York in April speaking about women in real estate.
She spoke with Inman on Wednesday about building the right team, the importance of having a succession plan in place and the leader of her Moscow desk going silent for over a week after Russia invaded Ukraine and the world responded with intense sanctions. As of Friday, Field’s colleague remained missing in action, she told Inman.
What follows is a version of the conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.
Inman: You’ve talked about getting started. Your initial strategy was being specialized first and foremost, and then emphasizing training new team members into your partners. Is that still your process or has it changed over time?
Nikki Field: Anything of size generates from a very successful foundation. My foundation was really a partner and then a partner and an assistant. That assistant, Helen Marcos, started 19 years ago. No experience in real estate at all. She’s now the No. 3 producer on our team.
To curate and create your own team is probably the only way I was going to have control over my brand. And my brand is known not just locally or nationally but internationally as being very deeply sourced in market truths and market reactions. Market changes and market opportunities.
We’re real estate advisors, we’re not salespeople. My favorite line to my team is never let them see you selling.
And this is a worldwide brand. You have teams and sources all over the world?
Whether it’s a head of our European Desk, we have an Asian desk. Right now, obviously, the head of our Moscow desk is very quiet. I haven’t been able to get her to respond to me in six days. They’re definitely frozen. This is somebody that’s part of my team but sits in Moscow. But communication has been stopped.
[Editor’s note: Field updated Inman on Friday, telling us she still hadn’t heard from her team member in Moscow. “Regrettably no. Total silence,” Field said in an email.]
What is your team’s strategy to work with so many different international clients?
We’ve trained them to know that we are their wealth advisers. And it really works well. There’s no charge for that. We extend our services, our resources, our relationships in order to provide them opportunities that they may not know they have.
You have this team. You have this approach to bringing them on and making them specialists. Tell me more about how you lead them day-to-day. What is your style?
Sotheby’s designed new offices about two years ago. 35,000 square feet here in Manhattan on Madison Avenue. I just wanted a bullpen. I took a page from Mike Bloomberg’s style when he was mayor here. I just want to be in the center of everyone. I didn’t want a private office. I want everyone to be in the know of whatever is going on. Right now there are probably eight people that are listening to me.
You’re on a panel at Inman Connect New York focused on women in real estate. I wanted to focus on not just that but leaders in real estate. What has changed in this time since you’ve become a foremost leader and what remains the same?
This is a phenomenal career for women. This is one of the few where you don’t age out. One of very, very few. The longer you’re in it the more it seems you seem to incur the experience and the gravitas that people sort of lean to you for that information. Also women have been a natural in real estate since the beginning.
As with all high-income careers, men quickly took over. They started with commercial and retail and soon became legends in the residential arena as well. But women are still predominant in residential real estate. And at the top you’ll see that they’re equal. There’s 50 percent [to] 50 percent women and men if you look at the Wall Street Journal RealTrends numbers.
Women have one decided disadvantage. We’re working on it here in New York. Women are not natural mentors. They didn’t learn to be mentors in school. Many of them weren’t mentored when they started their careers. They are not encouraged to be mentors as they grow in their careers. This has made men excel ahead of us. The old boys’ network encourages it from a very early age. Rightfully so and successfully so.
How are you working on it in New York?
I have a couple networks here in New York for women mentoring. One I really love is the Succession Group, which is women and daughters in real estate. We are obviously looking at the succession plan and how we maintain our business even after we’re gone. Having a succession plan is very, very important.
Your daughter works alongside you, right? Is your succession plan in place (if you’re even thinking of retirement right now)?
Yes. My daughter Amanda Jordan works with me. Amanda was in finance for 10 years at Morgan Stanley, while I was doing this with non-family members. Her husband and I conspired to try to get her into real estate. I was purely doing it for selfish reasons. She was my perfect feeder for business. She, however, was not at all interested in working with her mother.
I kept offering her such great stuff like choosing her own hours. Flexibility on whatever time she wanted off. Flexibility on whatever deal she wanted to work on. Trying to match her income in finance. Ultimately she succumbed and thought she’d try it out. She came and within a week or two she said, ‘Why didn’t I do this earlier?’
The succession plan is in place. Amanda has been with us six years. She also was the No. 2 producer on the team. She knows what she’s doing. She’s doing it extremely well.
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