Real Estate

‘True Bosses’ Tami Bonnell And Bess Freedman On Leading Through A Comeback

The Exit Realty Corp. International co-chair and Brown Harris Stevens CEO add value, foster a great culture and take time for yourself in order to be a good leader.

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“These ladies are true bosses,” moderator Katie Kossev told attendees at Inman Connect New York on Wednesday of Exit Realty Corp. International Co-Chair Tami Bonnell and Brown Harris Stevens CEO Bess Freedman.

The two speakers got together to discuss the topic “Leading Through a Comeback,” and were eager to bring valuable insights to the audience to apply to their own businesses.

Tami Bonnell | Exit Realty

“I think value equals income,” Bonnell said. “The more I add value to [clients and agents], the more income I’m going to make.”

She added that consistently helping others in one’s company achieve their own goals by giving them personal attention can help foster agent retention.

“Personalization is so important, and I think that’s how you get people to come out of the woodwork and be loyal,” Bonnell said.

Freedman said that human connection, trust and hustle are core components of building a business in real estate. She added that tech tools are great, but they can’t replace trust.

“I think what’s portrayed on television is completely inaccurate — it doesn’t really show what we do every day,” Freedman said. “I think if you’re in the business, you’re going to want to work with people who can help you … and add value to whoever you’re working with.

“The reality is, most agents that I know are doing it because they love it,” she added. “They want to help people achieve their dreams.”

Kossev pointed out that the word “culture” is sometimes a bit over-used in the industry, but the reality is, it’s still an important component of any business. Bonnell and Freedman agreed.

“It is an overused word, but people stay [in a company] because of the culture,” Bonnell said. “Everyone wants to be in an environment that they feel the safest … It’s so important to really be true to yourself because you want to attract your tribe.”

Bess Freedman | Brown Harris Stevens

She added that a great book for managers called The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly can be helpful in finding out what one’s employees’ dreams are and helping them to achieve them.

“But culture is not static,” Freedman added. “It’s constantly moving every day. It’s a living thing and it can shrink, it can grow, it can be bad.

“How are you showing up in life? That’s culture.”

Freedman noted that because of the great personal sacrifice that comes with being in real estate, a profession that’s often 24/7, agents want to be “at a place that’s relational.” Brokers need to allow their cultures to evolve, but they also need to be aware that if one person isn’t a good fit with a company’s culture, they could create a bad environment for everyone.

“It’s like Judge Judy said, one bad blueberry ruins the whole carton,” Freedman said.

The two female leaders also pointed out, that even amid the hustle of running their businesses, they make time for themselves, which is important.

Bonnell is on track to become a master black belt in martial arts.

“My whole family does it, and I can tell you as families go … find a common ground. Something that you all enjoy together … We’ve been training in martial arts for more than 30 years. When my husband and I say we’re going to take it outside, we actually do.”

She noted that the mind and body connection she focuses on in her martial arts practice helps her be more present in other aspects of her life.

Freedman, meanwhile, has played mahjong for 15 years with the same group of women.

“[I] agree with the same vein that you have to have something for yourself,” she said. “So, I work out, I go to the gym, but I also play mahjong. I’ve been doing it for 15 years … and it’s just about an agenda-less environment with people that I care about.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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