Don’t be afraid to tell a client “I don’t know but will find out for you”. Once you tell a client that, DO IT…and promptly. This will not only keep you ethical and honest but will send a message to the client that you are working diligently in their best interest.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Danny Taylor. Danny is the CEO of DT & CO, a real estate and interior design firm in Raleigh NC. Danny is a North Carolina native who was educated in NYC at FIT and lived in the city during the 1980’s. Upon moving back to his home state, he left the fashion industry and hung his shingle initially as an interior designer, which now includes a full service real estate and design firm for both residential and commercial clients from NY to Florida.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town in eastern North Carolina, the oldest of three boys. My best and earliest memories from my childhood were of the many shopping trips made with my dear Mother. This was long before the days when a child had to be strapped into a child seat. I sat in the front seat of her Cadillac and we listened to Diana Ross and the Supremes while drinking a Pepsi Cola! She would drive all over the state to discover the latest and greatest shoes, hats, and outfits! One very vivid recollection was helping her choose a purse for a new summer outfit. I chose a red, white, and blue straw bag. The saleslady remarked to mother, “for a little boy he has a great eye.” For the rest of her life she would ask me almost everyday what I thought about a certain ensemble, what jewelry to wear, and especially what shoes! My relationship with my brothers and my father was always strained at best, but my mother and grandmothers were a HUGE influence on me growing up and to this day.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a child, teen, and adult I have always been obsessed with houses and their decoration. I watched the decorators we had while growing up and always thought I could do better…so I did! In addition, I was always waiting for the Sunday paper to pour over the Real Estate section! As an interior designer, my greatest skill has been the ability to sum up a client’s “inner style” and interpret it into a home environment that reflects what they really want, but don’t know how to achieve on their own. As a Realtor, I took a real estate course on a dare and obtained my license one summer in between projects. About 5 years later, I decided to activate my license and used the same listening skills I learned as designer to match my clients to the perfect home. Both jobs require asking pointed questions and listening, reading “between the lines”, being prompt and responsive, ethical business practices, and hard work. Whether working on a hotel, office, salon/spa, or a personal home we always have to keep the clients needs in mind and be fiscally responsible. The same is true for any real estate transaction. I believe this is why our clients keep coming back and all our business is due to referrals.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story (and I love my stories) happened well over a decade ago. I was invited along with another designer and great friend to work on an apartment in Manhattan. The clients flew their private jet into our local airport and off we went for the weekend. Neither of us had any idea where the apartment was or what to expect! We landed at Teterboro and a limo drove us into the city. Still no idea what to expect. We arrived at the residential entrance to Trump Tower and were ushered onto the private elevator which took us up to the top floors. There were two doors, our clients and the Trumps. The project took almost a year and the install was a terror due to nothing being finished on time. My team arrived with drapery and furniture to an apartment full of dust and debris. We had no choice but to turn into “contractors” and “cleaning crew” in order to be ready for the client’s arrival at the end of the week. I was putting away the vacuum while she was coming up the elevator! That was one for the books!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first launched DT&Co? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Never agree to take a design job or list a house that you have never seen! I could go on but it would require another interview.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
This year we have been working on mostly residential projects in the design room. One of the most exciting and rewarding projects we are working on is the complete interior and exterior redesign of a country home for a delightful couple, a second marriage for both. They came to us with very strong opinions of what they like and want in a home, and not always similar. We have succeeded in creating a fabulous newly imagined home set on 10 acres of fabulous gardens. This project included totally rearranging the floorplan to create a library, stunning master suite with a dressing room, billiards room, and two new guest suites for visiting adult children. We brought in an architect, contractors, custom millworkers, custom doors and windows, furnishings, art, antiques…you name it. The amount of crews (not to mention the hours of work) has paid off. We are now in what I like to call the “layering” stage of the job. I often remind design clients that a great home is an evolution, not a revolution.
In regards to real estate we have been doing quite a bit of work with investors in both the residential and commercial area. Homes here are selling in days! One very special project that incorporated all our skills was taking a 1980’s era cottage that I found for a favorite investor and turning it into a really charming home incorporating modern touches while keeping all the charm. I brought in my crews from both sides of my business and had the home ready to relist in 5 weeks! Purchased for 270k, 35k in improvements, listed at 360k, and closed at 372k with multiple offers the second day. Nice work if you can find it!
What do you think makes your firm unique?
Mixing old and new is our stock in trade! It’s what we preach and what we do best. The successful blending of keeping the best of what is old, or in many cases with new construction bringing in the old, combined with modern conveniences makes a house feel like it has roots. I especially love it when a client tells me that a renovation or new construction feels like it has been there forever. I almost always have vintage or antique lighting rewired, use old mantels and millwork, add a few antiques, combine this with fresh new upholstery and modern art…this is an environment that almost everyone feels comfortable with. The best compliment I can receive is…comfortable and beautiful…and a bit unexpected! It is the DT way!
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community or society can do to help address some of the most common issues you find in the real estate business?
1…Don’t be greedy! So many people today have been led to believe their homes are worth more than they really are. This is in large part due to search engines that generate a value based on abstract algorithms. Real estate is LOCAL. Value is determined in many ways…location and condition being the primary factors.
2…Win the “beauty contest!” Due to the proliferation of TV shows about fantasy renovations and “theme” decorating or staging, every buyer thinks they should be getting a new house and not all sellers “get it.” I have found in the last several years that buyers in the market are not interested in renovations. They want everything move in ready. Once sellers accept this as fact and price accordingly it’s a win-win.
3…Get pre qualified with a local lender that understands the market you are buying into. This will make the process so much simpler when it comes to the appraisal process and the closing process. Relationships are very important in the home buying process. Ask your Realtor for suggestions and do your homework.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1…Learn to listen more than you speak. If you let a client talk long enough you will learn all you need to know in order to close the sale and do a great job.
2…Don’t be afraid to tell a client “I don’t know but will find out for you”. Once you tell a client that, DO IT…and promptly. This will not only keep you ethical and honest but will send a message to the client that you are working diligently in their best interest.
3…When you have a disgruntled client, and you will, let them vent. Reply simply by saying, “I understand your frustrations”. This simple reply keeps you all on the same team. NEVER start making excuses.
4…Find your niche and work it. This takes patience and some clever marketing. Remember this, if you don’t blow your own horn no one else will do it for you. Once you do a great job for a few clients the referrals will start rolling in. And please…answer your phone and return calls promptly! I have personally gotten many clients because their Realtor or decorator would not return a phone call.
5…Maintain a work/life balance. I used to think this was kind of crazy until I hit the wall. You have to take some time to recharge. Just let all your current clients know upfront. Believe me, they will have more respect for you!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I can best answer this through one of my blog posts that I repost about every six months. This really sums up what I am all about and what I believe in as a human being. I guess I would call my movement “The Basics”!
These are my basics….you may have seen them before. I am re-posting them more for myself than anyone. Hopefully you will find a tidbit or two for yourself.
– You are going to be betrayed and hurt in life by people you trust. Don’t let it make you bitter…only better. Move on.
-If you give more than you take from any situation you will always have more than enough. Yes, this is about the money thing!
-Be kind to those less fortunate than you. Arrogance only makes you look like a fool.
-Believe in something other than yourself. You can call it God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, or Jesse Jones. It really does not matter as long as it is not a dollar bill.
-None of us are perfect. If we were we would be called one of the above, except maybe Jesse Jones.
-Things get better with age. Enjoy the journey and the ride…it’s a short one.
-Life is too short to do something everyday (work) that you do not enjoy. You will never find success in life that way.
-Always put the $$$ sign at the end of any transaction…this is where is belongs.
-You are never too old to re-invent yourself. Start today.
-Don’t be afraid. Fear is what holds most people back from having the life they want and deserve.
-It is OK to be alone. Time alone lets you get to know yourself. Find the time.
-Listen more than you speak. You will amazed by what you will learn.
-If it sounds too good to be true it is…go the other way.
-There will be no U-haul behind your hearse…be charitable while you are here. Otherwise someone else will really enjoy spending your cash!
-Always buy the best of anything that you can afford. Quality always stands the test of time.
-Respect the old and embrace the new. This will keep you rooted as well as relevant.
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?
There are so many. I would have to say first my Mother (for all the obvious reasons), then my mentor in real estate Mr. Chris Yetter who taught me the importance of keeping good records, being ethical, and staying diligent with my fiduciary responsibility to the client at all times.
The one person who has supported me in this journey and kept me on the right path has been my husband and partner of 20 years, David Black.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Once you stop fretting over money and concentrate on doing a great job for every client, you will always have more than enough money for yourself and some to share with those less fortunate.” DT
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have breakfast with Barbara Corcoran and lunch with Furlow Gatewood. I am so in awe of Barbara’s phenomenal success in business and her joy! Mr. Gatewood’s creative talent I find simply amazing in its simplicity and elegance. Two great talents I greatly admire!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!