Renee Tulliani: “Being a good observer of others’ leadership”

I advocate reforming the family court system. While I know that it does essential work in facilitating adoptions and related services that benefit children and the greater community, the other end of the spectrum can be catastrophic for families experiencing divorce. Personal situations are hard enough without being exacerbated by outside competing interests and frequent delays. […]

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I advocate reforming the family court system. While I know that it does essential work in facilitating adoptions and related services that benefit children and the greater community, the other end of the spectrum can be catastrophic for families experiencing divorce. Personal situations are hard enough without being exacerbated by outside competing interests and frequent delays.

As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Renee Tulliani. Renee Tulliani was a businesswoman fresh out of high school, starting a biscotti cookie company with her mom. After years of familiarizing herself with the business world, Tulliani received her real estate license in 1999 and started working with first time home buyers, and soon moved to luxury listings and land. After the market crash in 2008, she reinvented herself again and handled literally thousands of REO’s for lenders and short sales for homeowners during the financial crisis.

Tulliani loves to help other agents, share ideas and resources. She also loves to show consumers how to get involved in real estate. The idea for Dealty started in 2018 because she wanted to build a platform that is transparent. Whether you are a seller, agent, new home builder, the team wanted to build a site where a buyer could find everything in one place and where choices could be put back into everyone’s hands.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My childhood shaped my drive to succeed. My parents were Italian immigrants with limited education; yet they came here, taught themselves English, and eventually owned their own businesses. I grew up with a lot of luxuries that they never had. But to cut a very long story short, they later lost everything in an economic downturn, life became difficult and they divorced. My father returned to Italy and my mother and I struggled to pay the bills, often unable to keep the lights on.

Now while I was blessed to have experienced my parents’ success, I am extremely fortunate to have had it all taken away. Why? Because I know you can lose it all and come right back again! My mom and I decided to try to sell her homemade biscotti to Costco, which agreed to carry it — on the condition we used a commercial bakery. So we made a deal with a local bakery to use the facility at night and got to work. At the time, (the early 90s), most people did not know what biscotti was, so initial sales were slow. But what we had going for us was a great product! You can make a lot of mistakes as long as you have a great product.

My dad suggested that I get a real estate license to help generate a bit more cash flow. That was the start of my real estate career. Since then, I have worked with high-end boutique firms, large do-it-yourself brokerages, and even founded my own brokerage. I have been through a lot in the last 20 years, including surviving the 2008 recession. A key takeaway I learned was no matter the condition of the market, there is money to be made in real estate.

We have come a long way since then and today, it is clear that just about everyone loves real estate and can make money in it. That is where Dealty comes in: it is an innovative digital platform transforming the way home buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and homebuilders list or find homes. Consumers can view exclusive, available properties or register their own homes to sell, all in one seamless, easy-to-use interface.

Plus, the platform directly promotes real estate agents’ and homebuilders’ listings as well. While other sites sell the listing agent’s potential buyers as leads, Dealty does not. Instead, Dealty gives the buyer direct access to the property lister. It gives everyone all the tools to conduct real-estate transactions more transparently. It is new, it is better, and it is the result of a tradition of entrepreneurial drive, hard work, and commitment to a great product!

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

Since founding Dealty, I have been amazed by the enthusiastic and positive response by all users! Right away, trust was established with numerous buyers and sellers signing up. I assumed we would need time to build a reputation, but clearly, the product speaks for itself and people are listening and responding. It has been a great validation of the Dealty platform!

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?

While I cannot say it is funny, like many other people, I lost all my personal assets in the crash of 2008. It was devastating. Despite the fact that real-estate sales were non-existent, I had to find a way out. I worked around the clock generating reports for banks about the glut of foreclosed properties in inventory — making 25 dollars per report. But perseverance pays off and I got a break: I got a call from someone at Fannie Mae who offered me the chance to list its properties.

That was all I needed! I adapted to selling what are known as REO (real estate owned) properties. Basically, I never slept and drove all over the Phoenix metro area to rep bank-owned properties. One day I woke up to find eight new properties in my inbox, the next day there were nine, and so on. Business boomed. In fact, I wrote a book, Success in Any Market, to share what I learned with other realtors. That period proved that if you work hard, you can reinvent yourself to meet any challenge.

Ok, thank you for that. Let us now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?

I am driven to innovate and lead when I believe in the product or solution. For me, that is real estate — I am passionate about bringing its opportunities to everyone in every way. Since most people plan their lives around their real-estate purchases, I wanted to really make a difference and open the doors for them. And that is what I do as CEO of Dealty.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

At the end of the day, it is all the CEO’s responsibility — success, failure, and everything in between. Where the team goes is up to the CEO, no one else. Other company leaders may have tasks for which they are responsible and by which they are measured, but the CEO not only has a bit more strategic chaos going on but also must meet all results head-on — good or bad.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

Fully backing the Dealty staff and giving the team endless opportunities to thrive. I get very excited when one of our team members experiments with something new outside of their core competency and develops a new solution. Seeing them enjoy their success is very rewarding.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

Stress is part of the job, especially when you are building a brand-new concept like Dealty. Every leader experiences it because ultimately, it is the CEO’s responsibility to see the process through to generate a successful result.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

Honestly, there is one main myth: the notion that all CEOs just walk into a cushy, high-paying position! Not so. It is a very different landscape when you are the CEO of a new company designed to disrupt the industry. Although you can look at other companies and compare what the market accepts and likes, you never really know how your ideas are going to be received. With Dealty being so new, we do not have any sales history to analyze for future decisions. It is being created now… and as the CEO, I live and breathe that every day, which is about as far from “cushy” as it gets!

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

I tend to think that female business leaders have to prove themselves a bit more; generally, male leaders’ resumes are accepted at face value and speak for themselves in terms of their accomplishments. My sense is that people want to know more about a woman executive — they want to understand the person behind the resume. But for either gender, it is important to be professional and prepared and, in that way, I do not see any difference.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I did not have rose-colored glasses ongoing into this, but thankfully, nothing has caught me off guard yet.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?

Good leadership demands flexibility, analytical thinking, and the ability to say no. If you can combine an open outlook without losing sight of the bottom line, you will succeed. A sense of humor is key; it builds a positive environment, loyalty, and camaraderie throughout an organization.

Personalities that might struggle in leadership roles are those who cannot balance what I just said…if there are too many highs and lows, instability can result. While someone might generate a lot of excitement and growth initially, over the long term, teams need stability and predictability from executives.

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

All leaders, be they women or men, must be empathetic about their teams’ needs and be open to new ideas. You never want to shut anyone down or make them feel intimidated about speaking up. Some of the best innovations can result from an open, respectful team environment in which the leader actively listens.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful for helping you get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had a life coach since my early 20’s, which has helped frame a lot my success. I knew starting Dealty was a massive undertaking; I could have easily talked myself out of it, had it not been for my coach’s honesty, encouragement, and excitement. That support helped convince me I was going in the right direction. It is a real asset to have a resource or mentor to help guide your path.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

It is vital to be a good steward in the community — business is better when we support each other. We plan on using the success of Dealty to allow users to donate to charities serving the homeless. At every closing, users can select a charity of their choice, and those proceeds will make a difference — costing them nothing. After all, we are in the home selling and buying a business, and everyone should have a safe place to live.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me before I started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Going into property technology, aka PropTech, I had no idea what was involved in the tech part! However, I would not change a thing. I do have one major piece of advice: I believe if you start a tech platform of any kind, you better have a strong background in the industry for which you are creating the solution. Specifically for online real estate environments, you are only as good as your IT support team, vendors, and contractors. The client has to have a fantastic experience. That is why at Dealty we not only promise that but actually deliver it each and every time. To get it right, the layers must be built right to ensure that a successful close can happen. Finding the right programmers with the right credentials from the beginning was essential.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I advocate reforming the family court system. While I know that it does essential work in facilitating adoptions and related services that benefit children and the greater community, the other end of the spectrum can be catastrophic for families experiencing divorce. Personal situations are hard enough without being exacerbated by outside competing interests and frequent delays.

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

Yes: learn from the mistakes of others because you can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. I am not sure who may have coined the phrase first, but these are words I live by. Learning what not to do is as critical to business success as learning what you should do.

Being a good observer of others’ leadership, management and decision-making is a great way to develop your own skills. I have worked with many executives and personalities, some great, some not. But all of those interactions provided an opportunity for me to assimilate the good, eliminate the bad, and ultimately develop a strong identity and business practice.

We are very blessed that some very prominent 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 whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Hands-down, real-estate queen Barbara Corcoran! Her life story, her entrepreneurship, and incredible business savvy inspire me, and I am struck by some parallels in my own life! She started with absolutely nothing and as she says on her website, “had 20 jobs by the time she was 23!” At that point, she quit waitressing, borrowed 1,000 dollars, and started her real estate company, The Corcoran Group. The fact that she sold it later for more than 65 million dollars and that it became one of the best-known brands in brokerage is amazing — it is a testament to her smarts, energy, and belief in herself. For me as a female executive in real estate, there is no better role model.

Plus, I love Barbara’s style on Shark Tank and that she makes deals with start-up businesses, helping them capture success. To have the chance to break bread with her would be amazing — Barbara if you are reading this, I will meet you anywhere, anytime!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


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