Women — be secure and confident in yourself. If you don’t know an answer to a question, don’t appear like you are trying to make an answer up. Be secure with what you’re saying. I think some men at times don’t want to show weakness and I think it’s a powerful tool that we women can when it’s appropriate. It can be powerful in building trusted relationships.
I had the pleasure to interview Abby Lee.
Abby oversees the planning and execution of RE/MAX’s U.S. national advertising campaigns and directs media strategy within Company-Owned Regions. She also leads the marketing, communications, PR and social media groups at RE/MAX World Headquarters.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Mybackstory originates at the very beginning! I grew up in the real estate industry. My grandmother owned a brokerage outside of New York City with two of her closest friends and she was in the business, which was unique at that time, for over 25 years. I grew up going to listing presentations with her and when my mom was out of the house or volunteering, I would go hang out at the real estate office with my grandmother. My mom eventually became a real estate agent and sold real estate for a couple years when we lived outside Philadelphia.
In college I studied advertising and marketing and also had internships in those fields as well as public relations and went straight to the agency world where I thought I’d be forever. When my husband and I decided to start a family, I started looking for another job and someone I knew let me know that RE/MAX was hiring a media buyer. I applied for it and it turned out to be a great marriage of my real estate background and experience in advertising and marketing. In 2001, my husband actually became licensed and I became licensed to sell real estate in 2005. I should add that while I’ve never been active with my license, it’s been incredibly beneficial to have to help understand what our agents do at a deeper level.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Inthe early ’90s at the advertising agency I was working at, oftentimes networks would come in to pitch programming. One day CBS came in and started talking about this program they were working on that was still a few years out from broadcasting in the U.S. where literally it sounded like a group of people were going to be sent to an island and well…killed off. It was called Survivor. We knew that simply couldn’t be the case, but we were wary to buy the programming with drama the show seemed to emanate. Survivor just entered into its 40th season so we know it turned out to be a hit, but because the premise wasn’t communicated to us clearly and effectively, we — and a lot of other potential advertisers –steered clear of it.
I was about 23 or 24 years old at the time but the lesson I took away from it was to ask questions. My boss and boss’s boss were both there and going along with the ‘group think’ and thinking someone else may ask your question is not the path to clarity. I also took away from it the importance of being transparent, having clear communication and the danger of overdramatizing.
I laugh now when I see commercials for Survivor still on today. It was a great lesson on clearly communicating an idea.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
RE/MAX is built on the backs of those who radiate the entrepreneurial spirit. I think RE/MAX is unique — both in and outside of the real estate industry — for creating a system where agents can go into business for themselves but not by themselves. We’ve got the best of the best in this network and I’m constantly motivated and inspired by the new heights these business owners continue to reach.
The ‘Above the Crowd’ tagline that’s often associated with the iconic RE/MAX balloon logo stands for the qualities that really make us stand apart. It all comes back to the entrepreneurial drive here. In fact, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a business card for a real estate agent that didn’t have his/her photo on it. That’s how it used to be, but RE/MAX really put the agent front and center. For the most part, the brand is secondary and should be secondary, it’s the agent first and their personal relationship with that client that is most important. We’ve been really intentional with our marketing tools we provide to the network to make sure the agent is included first and foremost with the brand supporting them every step of the way.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
You’ve got to have grit! I think there’s a misconception out there that real estate is an easy industry. It’s 100% commission based so even if you have 10 listings under contract, there’s zero guarantee that you’re going to close any of them. That takes resilience, determination, passion and faith. You’ve also got to be familiar with failure. I think you would find, even with our most successful agents, that at one point in time they have failed and need to try again before finding success.
It’s also crucial to be adaptable. There’s no really set process for a real estate transaction because it’s so dependent on the needs and wants of the consumer. For example, you might have a client that wants an update on every moving piece of the real estate transaction or one that only wishes to be communicated with when there’s an issue.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
- Be self-aware. Buying or selling a home is a huge milestone and not all people react the same way to change. Oftentimes a move is precipitated by another life change such as a birth, death of a relative, or change in occupation. The ability to recognize emotions — and their impact — in both yourself and others is huge. Leaving the consumer with the best possible experience should be the ultimate goal.
- Be transparent. The agent has nothing to gain from not being fully transparent with their clients. In an era where people can track their Lyft driver and food delivery every step of the way, people expect this level of transparency especially with a complex transaction like real estate.
- Don’t lose your identity. In 2017, my team managed the brand refresh of the iconic balloon. The challenge was to become more relevant and resonate with the consumer on a deeper level, while also not losing the identity the brand had worked to solidify over the period of four decades. That’s a delicate balance but was a great challenge for us to take on.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. Going back to that Survivor meeting, it’s incredibly important to ask good questions and not to assume someone else has the answer. It’s an important step in being thoughtful and intentional about the work you’re doing.
- Take chances! You can never hit a homerun if you don’t swing the bat. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have the support of mentors, managers and senior executives that were going to be okay with swinging the bat and having a miss every now and then. Don’t take failures as failures, take them as learnings.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Werecently launched Megaphone, a brand new proprietary RE/MAX tool that handles agents’ online advertising needs in one spot. It’s a singular environment for all your marketing needs and the network can effortlessly advertise on Facebook, Instagram, Waze and Google, as well as many other sites to drive traffic to their personalized RE/MAX website or downloads of their app and feature listings.
In February of this year, we launched a new custom listing tool for RE/MAX agents that helps both the real estate professionals and homesellers. In a survey we conduced with award-winning agency, Camp + King, ‘marketing my home’ was the stage of the home-selling process where sellers most needed the expertise of their agent. Agent can now customize the 2020 national advertising campaign spots with features for their specific listings, such as energy efficiency and an open floorplan, to better market the property.
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?
Iwant to credit my grandmother. She started her real estate career in the early ’50s which was highly irregular for that time period. Seeing that my grandmother could break through the obstacles in a very male dominated industry — and then start her own company with two other women, was really inspirational to me. She taught me about keeping relationships, even when she was 94, she was still getting Christmas cards from people that she sold houses to 40 years ago.
The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
Ithink this imbalance has a root cause in guilt. The split between professional and personal life can weigh heavy and I think skews unfairly towards women. And it’s not just the guilt about spending time with children and ensuring you’re meeting their needs as well as what needs to get done at this office. It’s also about the other familial responsibilities that tend to be on the backs of women such as taking care of elder parents and other family members. I think there’s just different societal and self-expectations we feel like we have to live up to.
Fortunately, one of the primary reasons behind RE/MAX’s success is that it was co-founded by a woman who trailblazed so that women to come who are affiliated with the brand could work their way to the top without these obstacles. Our C-Suite is half women and our executive team is about a 50/50 split.
What 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
- Women — be secure and confident in yourself. If you don’t know an answer to a question, don’t appear like you are trying to make an answer up. Be secure with what you’re saying. I think some men at times don’t want to show weakness and I think it’s a powerful tool that we women can when it’s appropriate. It can be powerful in building trusted relationships.
- Increased flexible work schedules. Providing greater flexibility may help mitigate some of the guilt we were talking about before. Perhaps it is possible to make your kid’s soccer game and take an evening conference call from time to time.
- Continue to hire women and diversify your workforce! While we have many female executives at RE/MAX HQ in Denver, our network is also comprised of many successful women business owners. The more we can highlight their success, the more likely it will become a profession of interest for the next wave coming into the workforce.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Ithink this goes back to the guilt we’ve touched on. I’ve heard many males count their attendance at familial events as a win even if they make them sporadically, and often when women miss one event, it can be perceived as the wrong order of priorities.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
- What you put into it, you get out of it. The ROI in this business for effort is real and tangible. We don’t get to control much in life, but this business is one example of how hard work and relationship building can really pay off. I think this holds true for when my grandmother was active in the business and will remain for generations of professionals to come.
- I think the new wave of people joining the workforce will be really exciting for this industry. Entrepreneurship is rooted in innovation and fresh perspectives are always welcomed. Excited to see what’s next!
- Real estate technology really excites me and it’s been incredible to be a part of the RE/MAX technological transformation that’s occurred over the past few years. We’ve built a custom solution for RE/MAX affiliates to streamline communication from agent to consumer in the real estate transaction and it’s amazing to see a revolutionary tool like the RE/MAX Real Estate App come to life so quickly.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- While I am hopeful that a new wave of job seekers will help alleviate this problem, I recommend that brokers continue to recruit and focus on retention as much as possible. The more experienced agents we have in the business, those that will serve as a trusted advisor to their clients, the less likely people will go into self-representation.
- I think the industry could greatly improve on transparency. It should be the norm, not the exception. Clients deserve to know their agent is putting their interests first and providing honest, complete information every step of the way.
- The new models that come out focusing on the lowest fee possible concern me as the focus has shifted to the speed of the transaction opposed to taking the sage advice of an experienced professional whose goal is to protect your interests.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Mygoal is to inspire real estate professionals to thoughtfully market themselves as the experienced advisors they are. Continuing to create tools that address the marketing needs of our network is my passion. Overall, it’s about making the lives of real estate agents, and their clients, better. Whether that means leveraging marketing to drive more business, or close bigger deals so you can spend more time at home, from a communications perspective, I think that’s where our impact really lies.
How can our readers follow you online?
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