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Dava Davin of Portside Real Estate Group: “Getting themselves centered”

Getting themselves centered — Goodness trickles down from the top. I notice on the days I am “off” it can affect the entire organization. It is our responsibility as leaders to take care of ourselves so we can care for those depending on us. As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic […]

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Getting themselves centered — Goodness trickles down from the top. I notice on the days I am “off” it can affect the entire organization. It is our responsibility as leaders to take care of ourselves so we can care for those depending on us.


As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dava Davin.

Dava Davin is the founder and CEO of Portside Real Estate Group, one of the top five real estate companies in Maine, and the only large real estate group in Maine to be woman owned and run. In 2018, she was named one of MaineBiz’s Women to Watch and in 2020, one of HousingWire’s Women of Influence.


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

I had been working in the corporate world for a decade, but was beginning to feel like something was missing from my professional life. I decided to leave my job and focus my energy in the nonprofit sector, but my switch came right during the 2008 economic recession. Not only was I unable to land a job, but I couldn’t even land an interview! I ended up getting my real estate license by default, and have never looked back.

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

The best way for me to describe my journey into leadership is that it has felt like I went from a caterpillar to a butterfly. By taking that intimidating step of founding my own company and leading a team, I was able to find my own voice and confidence. When I finally let go of my limiting beliefs I was able to not only grow in my business, but also in my personal life. Since founding Portside, I’ve competed in 4 full Ironmans, something that I never would have thought I’d be able to say.

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

At Portside, one of our leading values is a commitment to supporting and making a positive impact in the communities that we serve. Recently, we have committed to give 1% of gross commission to local non-profits through our new program 1% for Maine™.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

Our world is speeding up and Americans are moving quickly but without intention. We’re being bombarded constantly with information, but are not taking the time to think and access what we’re doing and why. As a society we’ve become reactive not proactive. For me, my morning routine is the way that I overcome the overwhelm. I’m an early riser and follow a simple morning routine that includes a practice of gratitude and prayer, exercise, evaluating my intentions for the day and a green smoothie! Setting this time to gain clarity on your goals and intentions will help workers (and the leaders) make better choices and either choose to be happy at their current job or make a switch!

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

A happy workforce = a successful workforce 100%. If employees are unhappy, they’ll be going through the motions and producing mediocre results. The brilliant ideas, and the extraordinary effort comes from employees that are cared for and feel safe to share their ideas!

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

1. Getting themselves centered — Goodness trickles down from the top. I notice on the days I am “off” it can affect the entire organization. It is our responsibility as leaders to take care of ourselves so we can care for those depending on us.

2. Creating a safe environment — People flourish in a space that feels safe for them to try and fail, to share an idea that is out of the box, to say they need a break, etc.

3. Listening more than speaking — I’m still working on this, I have a lot of energy and tend to blurt things out. I have found the more I listen, the more productive we are, as the better ideas come from collaboration!

4. Being clear — I am also working on this, there are some things that leaders need to be clear on to make the whole machine work. I have learned that as much as I want team members to have autonomy, there is a need for clear direction and expectations.

5. Win some, learn some — sometimes there are mistakes, deadlines missed, and setbacks — no worries! In these cases, we need to write down what we learned and grow from it together!

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

You will never fail by giving and serving. Society needs to shift the focus on better serving our customers, employees, and community.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

As a leader I always look to enhance our members in ways that unlock potential, creativity and sense of purpose. I always try to empower and uplift my employees and this can sometimes mean pushing them out of their comfort zones to reach their full potential, while ensuring that they still feel safe, supported and loved.

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?

My dad — With my father’s love I grew up knowing that I was special, smart and beautiful. He has taught me how to never stop moving, never stop learning, to work hard and see the beauty around me. My dad has supported all of my crazy ideas and shown me how to follow my dreams and to take risks. Through my father’s example, I have learned to treat my spouse like gold and to never underestimate the beauty of children. He has also taught me the importance of traveling the world and that exercising every day will keep you young. I will never be as kind and thoughtful as my dad, but I will spend the rest of my life trying to.

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

This is something that I strive to do every day. I have so much gratitude for my success and want to share this with others. I want others to look at me and see that if I can do it, they can do it! That I’m nothing special, but that behaviors can change the trajectory of your life, like it has mine!

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

“Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life.” — Rumi

Some days are challenging and I find myself in the bathroom at the office, looking in the mirror and saying 10 things I am grateful for so I can go back to the day doing my best to exude kindness and grace to others. Gratitude is powerful and can help you overcome anxiety, frustration, and a bad day.

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. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier in regards to the Forbes article, Americans are so busy, sometimes too busy to take vacation time or to even reflect on if they are happy or not. I believe that to bring the most amount of good, we need to turn to the next generation to ensure they are learning that happiness is a choice; that’s why our 1% for Maine™ initiative focuses on the next generation, Maine’s youth. 1% for Maine™ focuses on supporting and addressing systemic Maine problems including generational poverty, substance abuse, and limited access to medical care, education, and food to ensure that Maine’s youth reach their full potential. Imagine if all companies contributed 1% — think 1% for New York, 1% for California, etc we can make a difference for America’s youth — 1% at a time!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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