Women Of The C-Suite: “Share your expertise on several platforms” With Dottie Herman

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Women Of The C-Suite: “Share your expertise on several platforms” With Dottie Herman

“Share your expertise on several platforms, this is especially important for digital outlets, including social media and other digital content channels such as Medium.com. Create a powerful and purpose driven personal website where you can share your viewpoint, values and message. Don’t be afraid to promote your accomplishments, services and credentials. This is how you build momentum.”
I had the pleasure to interview Dottie Herman, the CEO of Douglas Elliman, which is the third largest residential real estate company in the U.S.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After graduating from Adelphi University, I began my real estate career in 1978, while working as a broker for Merrill Lynch on Long Island. In 1989, Merrill Lynch sold their real estate division to Prudential, where I stayed on as one of their leading brokers. With the change in ownership, I was convinced that I could run the company myself, so in 1990 I borrowed $9 million dollars from Prudential to purchase Prudential Long Island Realty. Despite being told that I would never succeed, I turned the company into the powerhouse brokerage on Long Island and then in the Hamptons, where once again, I was told I’d never make it.

Certain I was ready to conquer the Manhattan market, in 2003, my business partner Howard Lorber and I purchased Douglas Elliman, Manhattan’s largest and most prestigious brokerage firm.

Today, Douglas Elliman is the largest residential brokerage in New York City, with over 7,000 real estate professionals and 675 employees working in more than 110 offices and the third largest real estate company in the United States of America. This still feels like a dream, given where my career started and the challenges I’ve overcome to grow the business to where it is now. Hard work and dedication goes a long way.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

In life there are no guarantees. So in 2003, when my partner Howard Lorber and I purchased Douglas Elliman Manhattan’s largest and most prestigious brokerage firm, I was ready to conquer the Manhattan real estate market. I had no fear of the giant risk we were taking. To truly succeed, You need the ability to dream and see that anything is possible

This starts with vision

My Dream was building a company. I liked making money but that was never the driver — the reason behind my motivation. Success was. I saw my mom in my mind and wanted to prove myself. I wanted to be great at what I did. I’m not an average person so average was never an option.

Today, Douglas Elliman is the largest residential brokerage in New York City, with over 7,000 real estate professionals and 675 employees working in more than 110 offices and the third largest real estate company in the United States of America. This still feels like a dream, given where my career started and the challenges I’ve overcome to grow the business to where it is now. Hard work and dedication goes a long way.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The most successful entrepreneurs will tell you they’ve had more failures than successes. They don’t get stuck talking about them. In real estate, the most successful agents have gone on more listing presentations than anybody else, which means they have also lost more listings. Someone who goes on 2 or 3 listing appointments a month can only lose 2 or 3 a month. Someone who goes on 20 a month can lost 15. It’s about not giving up, pushing a little harder and getting yourself to the next level in whatever you do. Never quit. I began my professional career at Merrill Lynch a company that, at the time, had a national real estate business they were slowly integrating with its other financial services. I loved working for them and was like a sponge for knowledge . I took advantage of all their leadership and business programs as I grew along the way. I worked my way up the ladder, became a manager, a regional manager, and then I ran the whole company for them on Long Island. They sent me around the country to learn, so I was able to gain a global perspective on business.

Real estate became my passion. So when Merrill Lynch decided to sell its real estate offices, I decided to write a letter offering to buy them. There was one problem though. I had no money. I was too young to know that was a roadblock. Prudential bought that business, and I worked for them for several years — until they decided to sell those offices. They believed real estate was local and were going to use a franchise model. My job was to keep the 36 offices on long island open until they found a buyer. Then I would be out of a job. However, I loved running the Long Island company — so much that I wanted to buy it. So, I wrote another letter, and this time I didn’t give up. This time I said I had funds and wanted to negotiate to buy the Long Island company. The truth is, I didn’t have the money and I had no idea where I would get it. I called several banks to secure financing, but they laughed in my face because I had nothing to secure the loan. I tried to get investors to go in with me but wasn’t able to lock in anything definite

Undeterred, I am not the type of person who stops when I hear no. It was through my sheer unwavering passion that I convinced Prudential I was the best person to run the company and they needed to lend me the money. While they were hesitant at first, I kept at it for 6 months until they finally agreed to lend me 8 million dollars plus working capital. I put no money down and offered no personal guarantees mostly because I didn’t have any. When I knew we had a deal, I stood in front of the 1600 agents who worked for the Long Island Division and asked them to stay — and they did.

While I had been a business woman for several years, that was the day I truly became an entrepreneur. In business and in life, you can’t be afraid to go for what you really want. I’ve never been afraid of failing or going after something that other’s might see as impossible. If you can think it, you can become it. To this day, I keep reminding myself, the worst someone can say is “no.”

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are passionate about delivering exceptional consumer experiences. By offering a complete suite of real estate services, we ensure that we meet our consumers’ every need. From sales and rentals, to mortgage, new developments and title insurance, we have experts in every field to guide you skillfully from beginning to the end of your real estate journey.

Douglas Elliman’s outstanding track record, unique brand promise, and exceptional agent support system attract top talent, ensuring that our team of experts represents the very best in the industry.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My passion is to inspire others to grow, whether its in business or in life. I’ve always been the kind of CEO who got to know the people in our company. I know their children’s names, their significant others and when they are struggling whether professionally or personally. I made myself approachable by design. They way I looked at it was simple. If you grow your people, your business will grow. Striking a personal connection is the best way to do that. Now, I want to take my years of experiences and share them with others, especially people outside Douglas Elliman, so I am in the process of writing my first book. I am genuinely excited about this endeavor and look forward to expanding my message through speaking opportunities where I can inspire, motivate and lead others toward their goals.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

We all have moments when we feel unequal to the challenges of life. I’ve had plenty of tests that threatened to engulf my very existence if I had allowed it.

They didn’t stand a chance against my will to survive and thrive.

I have always met the world on equal terms if not more.

From a young age, my father taught me the value of hard work and what was required to achieve success. As a teenager, I always had a job during the summer and after school to ensure my independence. I never felt like I was slugging it out in a mans world. For me, I never focused on the fact that I was a woman. I never looked at the real estate business as either male or female, though most CEO’s in our industry are men. Instead, I focused on being the best I could be — the best leader, the best mentor and best example of what a woman rising to the top exemplifies. Being a woman had nothing to do with how I conducted myself. Sure, I love getting dressed up: picking out something glamorous to wear to a meeting, donning beautiful jewelry, having my hair and make-up done and adding just a spritz of my favorite perfume before heading out to a business event in Manhattan or a fundraiser in the Hamptons. And no matter what I am wearing, nothing makes me feel sexier, younger or more attractive than knowing I’m truly happy on the inside and then showing my confidence to the world. When the inside matches the outside, it’s an unstoppable combination. It’s a Wonder Woman moment, where we get to go from our everyday selves to a more powerful, potent, sexier version. A woman doesn’t have to stop being feminine to be powerful or make it in a man’s world. When I started selling real estate, my first boss told me, “I don’t care if you don’t have any money. Buy yourself three nice blazers. People are going to judge you on first impressions, long before you say your first words. Your appearance matters Dottie.” I never forgot that advice. I adhered to it then as much then as I do now. I have gone out of my way to look the best I can, even when I didn’t have the resources that I do today. How a woman pulls herself together, the way she holds her head up, how she walks with confidence and poise will always make a statement.

As my career bloomed, my focus was never being the best woman in the room so much as being dedicated and determined to be the best in the business.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Most businesses are relational, but especially real estate. It’s all about your relationships. I truly believe it getting to know people, which helps generate authentic relationships. That’s why I made it a point to get to know all of our agents and employees who work for my company. This personalization helped create a positive rapport, especially with new agents. But I didn’t limit myself to our real estate agents. I created strong connections with everyone within the organization regardless of what capacity he or she worked in. As a hands on CEO, I wanted to hear all perspectives, which helped our company thrive. When we opened new offices in another market, I got to know the local press and a merchants. Talking with the locals helped me understand the needs and wants of our perspective customers.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I had a boss at Merrill Lynch named George Rathman. He always said “I was a diamond in the rough.” He saw potential in me I was too young and inexperienced to recognize in myself. I also had a few wonderful mentors, including Diane Nash who like George, saw something in me that no one else did at the time. . She always inspired me to be the best I could be. And finally, my partner at Douglas Elliman, Howard Lorber, believed in me so much, he invested in my business.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

There’s a certain responsibility that comes with success, especially the notion of giving back, adding value into the world and helping others whenever you have the opportunity. I’ve made philanthropy a part of my life since I was a little girl, collecting money for UNICEF during Halloween and donating clothes that no longer fit me to the Salvation Army. And when I didn’t have money at my disposal, which was often when I was younger and just starting out, I always had time. They say time is the most valuable commodity we have and its certainly the only one we can’t control. What we can do however, is choose how to spend our time. That’s why I still make time to mentor others, lend a sympathetic ear, show up for friends and colleagues and help in any way I can. I am being honored at the 2018 Angel Ball in New York, an event hosted by the Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research. Since its inception, the Foundation has nurtured and supported some of the nations best and brightest researchers in the hematologic malignancies. Bringing awareness to this great cause, and so many others is an example of how I’ve used my platform to add value.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Know your value-your value isn’t based on who you work for or your position at a job. It’s based on what you’re able to bring to the table. What do you do others can’t? Be specific. Your value must convey what you do and who you are and how you help others through your work. This is your what, who and value.

Share your expertise on several platforms, this is especially important for digital outlets, including social media and other digital content channels such as Medium.com. Create a powerful and purpose driven personal website where you can share your viewpoint, values and message. Don’t be afraid to promote your accomplishments, services and credentials. This is how you build momentum.

Own Your Space-if you do something, do it well and become the best. You are striving to be the “go to” expert in your field.

Build a loyal network of brand ambassadors– this is how you get people to refer you. Ask them to share their experiences working with you through testimonials. This simple but effective technique adds extreme credibility and value to your brand.

Never stop learning-Showing that you have a desire to stay up-to-date in your industry shows a level of commitment that simply cannot go unnoticed. Read, take continuing education classes and seek guidance from others who have done what you want to do and learn from their actions, mistakes and advice.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to start a think tank of women leaders comprised of women from all age ranges who work in a variety of fields. Together, we could create a greater camaraderie amongst women in the workplace, eliminate ageism and what I refer to as “the invisible woman.” It’s a Wonder Woman movement, where we grow from our everyday selves to a more powerful, potent and prevailing version. It’s not that the rest of the time we are none of these things, it’s more that sometimes we might feel like it all might stop working — like we are no longer the smart attractive women in the room.. I have seen this a lot among my peers. And yet, we have experience, wisdom, disposable income, financial freedom, independence — nothing holding us back. Age surely doesn’t mean we want to be invisible. In fact, age makes us the ideal customer, partner, business associate, go to friend, advocate and mentor full of sage advice because I’ve been there, done that. Education doesn’t end when school ends. Life is an education and I know my calling is to bring my message to others and bring others together to build a stronger, safer and more secure world for our daughters, granddaughters and generations to come.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I keep a framed image on the wall in my office that reads, “Success is failure turned inside out.” Seeing that every day is a constant reminder not to fear failure, but rather embrace it. I never met a successful person, whether an athlete, a singer, artist, scientist or a businessperson who hasn’t failed along the way. In fact, the most successful people I know have failed a number of times. We learn so much more from the experiences we have that challenge us. And if we are smart, we learn to turn those obstacles into opportunities. I believe that most people are plain afraid to fail, and therefore, they never extend themselves beyond their comfort zone let alone try. But failure is important because it says you put forth the effort to do something worthwhile. You tried in the best way you knew how. If things didn’t work out — so what? Brush yourself off and move on. Some people get so stuck in their mistakes, their failures, that they get stuck in it, won’t talk about it with anyone to avoid being judged and therefore, rarely learn from it. Failure is a tremendous teacher. It educates you in ways success simply can’t. It encourages better thinking, forces you to look back and ask, why didn’t that work? What went wrong? It also shapes you as a person. Makes you resilient. If we can cultivate a stronger relationship with failure, we can make success that much closer. The reality is, failure is part of success. It is an extremely powerful tool for understanding and being even more successful. We don’t know what we’re capable of until we try and if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying hard enough.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am on Facebook, Twitter (@DottieHerman) Instagram (Dottie Herman) and LinkedIn. You can also tune in to my weekly radio show, Eye On Real Estate every Saturday from 10am-Noon on AM970 or download on iTunes. My personal website is www.dottieherman.com where I have a live forum to answer questions about everything from real estate, workplace dilemmas, fashion and art.

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