It’s not enough to maintain the status quo, Douglas Elliman’s Peter Hannis Hernandez writes. Making your mark as a leader involves a growth mindset and a focus on the bottom line.

It was the end of 1987, and I had reached the top 1 percent of all agents on the Westside. I achieved that milestone working in the Venice/Marina Del Rey market, which did not have the highest average sale price. My father had recently passed away, and I was contemplating my future. I had reached the pinnacle of my sales career, and I was wondering what to do next. 

The thought of growing my sales business was not inspiring me, and I had the thought: “I wonder if I could make as much money or more managing people.” I approached the owner of the company I worked for and asked him if I could run the company for him.

He responded by giving me the office in Marina del Rey to manage. I grew the office, and it became extremely profitable. The company then moved me to Santa Monica, where I managed an office on Wilshire for them and their pricey, smaller location on Montana Avenue. Combined, those two offices became as profitable as any office in the firm. 

My company was then sold to a major brokerage. When they saw what I had accomplished, they promoted me to president and COO of Orange County, where I was managing 800 agents and approximately 15 offices.

New horizons

I oversaw marketing and relocation. It was the first time they had promoted a manager directly to president, and it was an honor and privilege that I will always be grateful for. During my five years in that position, we grew to 1,500 agents and profits surged.

 The secret to my success was that I understood the company wanted growth and profitability. Too many managers think problem-solving and deal-fixing is everything. Too many managers are maintenance managers, keeping everything status quo. You have to be a builder because we all want growth and profitability.

Growth came in 4 ways:

  • One was recruiting top talent and identifying promising talent.
  • The second way was coaching agents up — taking agents with potential and helping them increase their production through coaching and accountability.
  • The third was supporting agents with and encouraging agents to use top-notch affiliate services, like title, escrow and mortgage.
  • The last secret, of course, is expense control. It’s very easy to think all we need is one more sale, and we can pay for all our expenses, but that’s not the way it works.

Leadership is complicated

When you are promoted to leadership positions, you will face opposition. When I was promoted to manager, the two top agents threatened to leave. Since I was an agent and competitor in the same office, they felt threatened.

They argued that upper management had made a huge mistake. I had to prove myself to them and work very hard to earn their respect and trust, and it wasn’t easy. I called every day begging for them to meet with me, and about 30 days in, I finally got the meeting. We have had a wonderful working relationship ever since and remain good friends today.

When I was promoted to president, I had a similar experience. The regional manager at the time wanted the job very badly and, unbeknownst to me, had his hat in the ring. Unaware of this, when I was given the position, he went M.I.A and quit. I worked hard to try and keep him but it was just too much for him.

He was very popular and I had a lot of work ahead of me to win over the team. I think it was a mistake for him to bail. One thing you learn in corporate life is that everyone has their day, and everyone gets passed over.

The other hard lesson is that you are not the only person with a good idea. The long game is key, and loyalty and hard work generally win the day, especially if you are adding real value through growth and profitability.

Peter Hannis Hernandez is the president of the Western Region at Douglas Elliman. Connect with him on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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