Kirsten Jordan of Douglas Elliman: “You have to treat your business like your baby”

You have to treat your business like your baby. Just as no one will do for your children what you would do for them, you are the ultimate owner and caretaker of your business. As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing […]

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You have to treat your business like your baby. Just as no one will do for your children what you would do for them, you are the ultimate owner and caretaker of your business.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirsten Jordan, NY Power Broker and the first female to be cast on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing NY”.

Kirsten is a leading agent in the industry, having brokered more than half a billion dollars in sales over the last decade for Fortune 500 executives, Oscar-winning actors, and mega-influencers with millions of followers. Kirsten has sold out three new developments in the city, for a total of 100M dollars in new development sales and in 2020 alone, Kirsten closed over 52M dollars in sales and rentals. An avid real estate investor, Kirsten understands firsthand what it means to evaluate a property from all angles — and sell it!

Kirsten’s team brings the sophisticated human experience missing from the sensory overload of modern real estate searches. With expertise gained from more than 45 years of combined experience and over 3B dollars in real estate, they take care of their customers. A deep understanding of the nuances of the buyer and seller experience makes them the perfect advisors for any transaction.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

While living in Italy, I met a guy at a party who was looking for someone who could speak English and sell licenses for stock photos of things like Santa Claus and cats. It wasn’t teaching English or making espresso, so I was in. Though I wasn’t making much, I realized that I loved talking to people and building relationships, and hence I loved sales.

I knew I had the personality to bring those skills back to the states and sell something larger like real estate. It’s an industry with no ceiling, and since Italians love New York, I still get to practice my adopted language.

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?

One time I was showing a listing, and an older agent came up behind me incognito and whispered, “They’re never going to buy anything. You’re wasting your time with them.” Yes, of course we get paid when a transaction occurs, but to me, it’s all about relationships. I have some clients who I’ve been working with for a long time, and have yet to make a purchase, but I would never consider my time with them a waste. You don’t have to be so transactional with people. Good things come out of those connections anyway. Plus, I’ve learned you never know who will buy, so you need to be open. I met a kid (couldn’t have been more than 30) with a t-shirt and ripped jeans. It didn’t look promising, but because I don’t listen to the whispers of, “They’ll never buy anyway,” I enjoyed my time showing him some properties. He bought. Two places. One for 3M dollars and the other for 5M dollars.

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

I’m writing a book about how to stay in the real estate industry during life’s ups and downs and how to grow a business that is profitable! It’s part of what I wish someone had told me when I was starting out and trying to stay sane in between pregnancies. I hope to help others succeed in this business by arming them with information and mindset shifts they need to excel. And of course, people will get to read about all the cringe-worthy ways I had to learn those lessons the hard way.

Women need to see that they can plan for their career even while their children are young — when it feels like every paycheck goes directly to childcare. It doesn’t seem to make sense unless you have a roadmap. I want to serve as a guide for people to envision and create big things for themselves. We ALL must push ourselves to see the forest for the trees and to break out from our small thinking EVERY DAY.

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

I love Douglas Elliman because it’s an intimate boutique that knows how to think big. They strive for forward-thinking innovation, creating an environment that pushes me to do the same. It’s like working with the 1,000 lb. gorilla at a time where having those resources behind you really matters.

When I came back to Douglas Elliman after being away for 4 years, it felt like coming home. I reconnected with managers who remembered me when I was a baby in the industry and when I was carrying around the babies that are now my elementary-school children. It made me realize how important relationships are in this industry, how they truly take years to cultivate, and how precious they are once you have them.

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?

During my first five years in the industry, I worked as an assistant to a major real estate agent. It was an incredibly formative experience, and I am eternally grateful to being in her presence during those years. We worked together for a total of 8 years, giving me a doctorate in how to operate as a true class act. She continues to be my role model to this day.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. 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?

The professional setbacks women deal with during the childrearing years make it harder for us to climb the ladder in the more traditional “corporate” real estate positions. It’s easier to find more flexibility as an agent, which is why so many top real estate agents are women. I try to remind myself every day that I can do (or delegate) it all and we can have it all, but not every single day. I juggle priorities daily, but at the end of the month, I feel I’ve had it all.

What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?

Women need to support each other and start being more forgiving with each other. The mom shaming must stop. And everyone needs to figure out how to give the mothers in the industry more flexibility.

Childcare should be tax deductible. Just sayin’. It’s the cost of doing business, and we all should have access to quality help for our children so we can focus on our jobs when we are at work and be parents when we are at home. Period.

Give mothers more flexible schedules. Many mothers work a split shift (I know I do) and have no problem getting in early, leaving early and then going back to work (online) when the kids go to bed or watch their nightly TV show. The hours are longer and different so they should be rewarded with the flexibility to see their kids when they are awake.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Childrearing, finding childcare, being a good mother and wife or partner, and the mental load of being a mother (logistics, house admin/management, who’s planning the birthday party, etc.)

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?

  • The potential to grow and expand is limitless.
  • No two days are the same! This business is ever-changing and dynamic, constantly inspiring me to grow and change. I’m never bored.
  • I love watching a relationship develop from the moment I meet a fascinating new person, to developing a connection, to the day we celebrate a deal that excites them as much as it does me.

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?

From my experience, the industry has a way of self-regulating. Over the last 13 years, I have seen it become gradually more competitive, more professional, and closer to small companies being run by CEOs rather than single operators, like they were 20 years ago.

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

  • Hire slow and fire fast: When you think someone is the perfect fit the first time you meet them, you should still have them interview with other people on your team and get them to take a personality profile assessment (if you are into that kind of thing). As much as I love to hire for personality profiles, sometimes people who fit the job because of who they are can be a better way to hire for long-term positions.
  • Give people direct, clear, and thorough requests. I am still trying to find a team member who can read my mind, but that position has yet to be filled. The best way to make sure someone can help you is to tell them exactly what you want and when.
  • Surround yourself with smart people whose strengths are different from yours and be patient with the ways those differences play out. They might not do things the way you would have done them, but always remember that’s exactly why they’re here.
  • Remember that sometimes you need to grow your business quickly and bring in more than you can handle because the training wheels must come off to find opportunities for growth.

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?

  • You never know who is going to bring you some massive lead, so you need to treat everyone like they are a big deal. I sold 8M dollars of real estate to someone in a t-shirt and jeans.
  • You cannot fully trust what people say they want because they don’t actually know. I have buyers consistently tell me that they know what they want, but then when you show them what they REALLY want, they often buy something different, for more, etc.
  • Real estate is essentially personal branding. If you take care of yourself and your brand, your business will thrive.
  • You can have it all, but you can’t do it all. Whether it’s organizing your house, doing the admin involved with your business, or keeping up with social media, you will need help at some point. There’s no shame in that. It’s an investment.
  • You have to treat your business like your baby. Just as no one will do for your children what you would do for them, you are the ultimate owner and caretaker of your business.

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. 🙂

I would inspire a movement where working mothers and non-working mothers come together and figure out how they can understand each other, support each other, and be closer across all platforms of life. We have so much to learn from each other and often the mom-shaming can get in the way. And that goes both ways, with both working moms and non-working moms shaming the other lifestyle.

How can our readers follow you online?

I am super active on Instagram at @kirsten.jordan and I share special content in my newsletter you can sign up for at www.kirstenjordan.com.

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!


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