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Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEO Candace Adams: “Character and Effort Trumps Skill”

Character and Effort Trumps Skill: We are focused on hiring the right people based on who they are, and not what they know. We look to hire people who are aligned with our values, have character and experience in doing the right thing. We’ve made mistakes where we’ve hired people with great resumes but who […]


Character and Effort Trumps Skill: We are focused on hiring the right people based on who they are, and not what they know. We look to hire people who are aligned with our values, have character and experience in doing the right thing. We’ve made mistakes where we’ve hired people with great resumes but who we knew didn’t necessarily align with our values…and it never works. It’s easier to bring people on and help grow their skill set.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Candace Adams, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England, New York and Westchester Properties, who is responsible for overseeing the brand’s operations and 1,8000 agents across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. Over the course of her 20-year tenure at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Candace has managed tremendous success and expansion both within and beyond the company’s footprint, including the acquisition of ten existing brokerages and the launch of four new offices in three years. Chief among the brand’s growth activities under Candace’s watch is the launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ first New York City location.


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

There was a very specific experience that put me on the path of residential real estate. I was a young mom of a newborn baby and a 2-year-old, living in a house that had been on the market for a year. We were living in two bedrooms with two babies, and we couldn’t seem to move the house. We finally had a buyer interested, but because of the actions of our realtor the deal fell apart. It was a messy situation and I vowed that it would never happen to another person if I could control it.

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

In real estate, we tend to focus on sales numbers and money made as signs of success. Several years ago, we decided to start recognizing service in addition to dollar volume. We had an all company meeting and entered every agent with a strong service record into a raffle with a $10,000 prize. The person who ended up winning was not a high producer, but had a sterling reputation and gave excellent service to her clients. This small decision made a tremendous impact on our company, and inspired our team to put a bigger focus on service rather than just making money.

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?

Buying and/or selling a home is a very emotional experience. There are tons of mistakes that you can make when you’re dealing with families and people going through this transition. I can’t think of any funny mistakes I’ve made, but there were several situations that were difficult simply because you’re dealing with such an emotional time in people’s lives.

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

There is no doubt in my mind that our core values are what make us stand out. We live and breathe them. There have been people who have left our company for one reason or another and end up coming back a year or two later. When asked why, majority of them say it’s because of our values. They want to be in an environment where actions speak louder than words.

Recently, we had a client who was selling his mother’s home after she passed away. When our agent was walking through the home right before the sale, she noticed that there was a piece of molding where this woman had measured the height of her children through the years. Before she left, she removed the molding to give to the client. It’s these little actions that truly make us stand out.

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

We are working on a few technology initiatives that will move us to the forefront of real estate tech. I can’t give away any details, but they will be rolled out by the end of the year. They are going to help our team connect better with their clients — I can’t wait until our team is able to use them!

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

I would tell them to be themselves, be confident and to not be afraid to be vulnerable and show that to your team. Have high expectations for yourself and for your team, and set the example of meeting and surpassing those expectations.

Female leaders need to really embrace who they are. People will see through it when you’re trying to be something you’re not.

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

With over 1,800 agents throughout four states, I have a lot of experience managing a large team. Some of my top tips are:

  • Collaboration is important; make sure there is input from everyone all the time.
  • Communication is critical, and we’ve developed different processes to make it is streamlined as possible.
  • It’s also very important for people to be recognized for their efforts.
  • I have a zero tolerance for “I” rather than “team”. Everyone has to understand that they won’t succeed if they just worry about themselves.

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 wonderful mentor, Marion Streib, who was instrumental when I first began my career. She was a generation older than me and had significant impact on my growth and leadership development. She taught me about having a zero tolerance for “I” rather than “team.” She put her clients and her values before everything else and had an incredible reputation.

And then Peter Helie was the best business operator I have ever worked with. I learned how to run a company through his mentoring.

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

I’ve always lived my life by the idea that if you do the right thing then right things will happen. We allow our people to make decisions, not around money, but around doing the right thing. To truly succeed in real estate, you have to give people an experience that is memorable…in a good way! In this digital world people aren’t connecting the same way, so you really have to focus on making that personal connection.

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

  1. Living Core Values: We live and breathe our core values and try to incorporate reminders wherever we can. As I mentioned before we recognize our team for excellent service and survey all of our clients so we can learn from our experiences. It may seem repetitive, but it’s paid back so many times in a positive way.
  2. Extreme Ownership: This is something I discovered in the last year or so. I need to own everything that happens in this company and take responsibility for the direction it’s going in. I had my entire leadership team read the book; it’s all about the importance of a team and taking ownership for yourself and each person. Everyone needs to own the outcome of their actions and its impact on the greater good for all.
  3. Collaboration and Support: At every opportunity we can, we get input from those in the field. We do quarterly focus groups with agents and management, as well as strategic planning meetings. We also do anonymous company surveys annually, which allow us to look at ourselves through a clear lens.
  4. Mistakes are Opportunities: Everyone in our company knows that they are allowed to make mistakes and can be authentic about it. We don’t penalize people for making honest mistakes; we use them as a chance to learn and grow.
  5. Character and Effort Trumps Skill: We are focused on hiring the right people based on who they are, and not what they know. We look to hire people who are aligned with our values, have character and experience in doing the right thing. We’ve made mistakes where we’ve hired people with great resumes but who we knew didn’t necessarily align with our values…and it never works. It’s easier to bring people on and help grow their skill set.

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. 🙂

It’s pretty simple, but I really think that if every single person in the world did something nice or helpful for someone else every day it would really have a tremendous impact.

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

“Do the right thing and right things will happen.” It’s not always easy to make the right decision, even in real estate, but it’s so important.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Definitely Michelle Obama. She is one of the coolest people out there. She’s inspirational and inclusive and has given young women and diversity such a big stage in this world.

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