The idea for a campaign honoring the immense group of influential women at William Raveis came about during a marketing meeting in which we discussed Bill Raveis. His decision to award Lifetime Achievement awards to four women who have shaped what our company is today sparked a curiosity in myself and Steve Csejka, our vice president of marketing. We wanted to dig deeper and discover more success stories at our company, especially with women. Women who have so many titles in life, not just ones that they hold in their day jobs. They are friends, mothers, sisters, and wives. They are self-starters, managers, motivators, sales associates, directors and bosses… and no, not girl bosses. The whole world is celebrating women this Women’s History month, and especially on today, International Women’s Day. I feel lucky to have interviewed these women, because in hearing their success stories and advice, I was educated.
We have all learned something from a woman, whether it be a family member or friend. I was curious about the relationships that women had within our workplace, a family business where hard work is championed, no “child” is favored, and decisions can come from around the dinner table. From my own experience growing up, I was the youngest of four children, one being a brother. With my sisters, example was everywhere. She was a role model when I borrowed her shirt, she was a teacher when she showed me how to drive a manual car and she was a hero when she didn’t tell if I was late for curfew. Heroes, role models, mentors and teachers; what if these relationships existed inside our workplace? They do, and I strove to discover the relationships within Raveis from woman to woman that were motivating and encouraging to show us all that lifting each other up was just as rewarding as succeeding ourselves.
I sat down with Steve and made a list of women he and I know to be inspiring at our company, although we both agreed we were just at the tip of the iceberg and there were so many more than I could ever interview. I asked them for time to ask some questions, and they readily gave it to me and responded to my queries with enthusiasm, confidence and initiative. To be completely honest? One of these answers, a common thread through many of these stories, didn’t surprise me and won’t if you know Bill. Was there a woman in your career that mentored you to be the success you are today? Not a woman, some of them said, it was Bill, and he was my mentor at William Raveis before anyone else.
Bill Raveis, the founder and CEO of William Raveis, was born of two card-carrying members of the Greatest Generation, ones that persevered, endured struggle through wartime, and valued practicality and hard work. Bill became a titan of the real estate industry by his forties through the same principles that his parents taught him. He also never discounted women as his complete and equal peers. Appointing Maryann Evick, and later, Carolyn Deal as William Raveis’ first female presidents were smart moves, but also strategic ones, whether he saw it or not, as 63% of real estate brokers nationwide are women. (Maryann and Carolyn are two of the recipients of his Lifetime Achievement award this year.)
It’s maybe not the point that I’m trying to express that women like working for other women or being mentored by other women, although I did start there. Women like working for people with the same motivations that get you up in the morning to say, “Control your own destiny, or someone else will.”
The women we chose to interview are natural multi-taskers and self-starters in their own lives. I am partial as a New Yorker to start with a woman who mentored me and pushed me to apply for my current job, Kathy Braddock. Kathy is a natural leader, a born New Yorker and half of the managing team at our NYC office, which she started from scratch with her business partner, Paul Purcell and with the guidance from Bill. “I had known Bill for years and jumped at the opportunity to work for him, as he is the consummate entrepreneur. I consider myself one as well, but his success, fearlessness and positivity are unmatched in this business,” Kathy explained from her office overlooking 56th Street. “He’s shown through example to see situations as opportunities and to use potentially negative scenarios in business as learning experiences. When you deal with obstacles, you become a better person and that makes you better at your job.” When asked about her favorite women mentors throughout her career, Kathy said, “It never dawned on me that a woman was not equal to a man or that a president was not a woman for that reason. I worked hard, I created and sold a couple businesses and started in this industry atypically. I felt myself and Paul (Purcell) were a great match with Bill, the uber entrepreneur.”
Kathy was the one to suggest that I apply for my current job. I appreciate it immensely, because I know I wouldn’t have gone for a job like this without support from someone who knew I could do it. I was searching for relationships between women supporting women at our company and mine was right there. When I dug deeper, I encountered other examples. Deb Lucci, a powerhouse mega agent in Massachusetts with a dynamite team of (mostly) women took advice through example from her manager, Maureen Heinze, even though she had more experience in the industry. “I’m a true salesperson, but I watched Maureen and saw how she dealt with situations in our office and it helped me be a better manager to my team. She is extremely accessible and helps me walk through any problem. It makes me happy to be a part of Raveis, because as a single agent, I know I would have hit a wall where I couldn’t sell more than 57 houses (in 2014) alone. Having a team and the support of Maureen made it possible to sell 142 homes this past year.”
This article would be amiss if I didn’t take the time to mention all the recipients of Bill’s Lifetime Achievement Award. MaryAnn Evick, former president of William Raveis, Joanne Paone, former vice president of marketing, Terry Russo, former manager in Bill’s home office of Fairfield/Southport, Connecticut and Carolyn Deal, another former president who also became the head of relocation services. Each of these women were beacons of inspiration for the younger generation at William Raveis.
Jamie Zdru, executive director of our Luxury Properties division partly owes her relationship building skills to Carolyn. “Here was a woman that wasn’t afraid to share her opinion or challenge the CEO of our company. When I got my current job, I felt more than ever that I had to prove myself to my peers, partly because of my young age. Luckily, with the guidance and mentorship of Carolyn and with Bill, I was able to form relationships quickly and gain their trust. Much of it had to do with the training Raveis has afforded to me.” Jamie has enjoyed a 22-year tenure at Raveis and has worked up the ranks to become the youngest executive in company history when she was chosen to run Luxury Properties in 2004, a vital source of our business.
Kim Givens also moved around William Raveis over the 31 years she’s worked here, having stints at headquarters administration, accounting, compensation and ending up in relocation. She came to Raveis as a hire of Carolyn Deal, who became like a mentor to Kim. Kim, now the director of Relocation, told me over coffee in her office, “Carolyn could look at any situation and handle it with grace and style.” Kim explained to me that over the years here, she’s truly come to love her job, and fully adopts one of our company motto’s, “The Agent is our Customer,” as something she looks to every day to keep herself in check. “I ask myself, if this isn’t value add for the agent, why are we doing it? We have the utmost respect for our agents, and it makes me proud to work here. I love being an ambassador of William Raveis to our corporate relocation clients and our broker network. I grow and maintain relationships. It’s truly my dream job.”
Joanne Paone, the former vice president of Marketing was another role model that both Lauren Perregaux, Creative Director and Liz Martinez, Marketing Coordinator cite as their first mentor at Raveis. “She was extremely creative and energetic,” Lauren explains. “She helped me open up to being more comfortable with doing one on one branding appointments with agents. I came out of my shell around her. As a result, my job became rewarding to me. When a branding appointment goes well, it makes you feel good and the agents’ appreciation means a lot to us. We truly do care, and we want to help you grow your business.” Liz was also forced out of her comfort zone with Joanne in terms of the constant change of a fast-paced job like marketing for real estate. “In the marketing team, it’s always changing,” she told me over our meeting in the current marketing vice president, Steve Csejka’s, office. “New technology, new agents to assist, and for that reason, we grow consistently. It carries over into your personal life positively, making you a better, more adaptable person. I learned that if you don’t change, you will not grow.”
Maryann Evick, former president of William Raveis, was a driving force that convinced Kate Johnson, a 30-year Raveis veteran and manager at our Norwalk office to join the company. “I met Maryann while I was at a different company and she, after developing a friendship with me, invited me to lunch. She talked so highly of Bill Raveis and how she felt I would be a great fit for the company. Lo and behold, we finish lunch and there’s Bill, walking towards us. I was so impressed with him. He specifically wanted me for his company and carved out time for that, albeit rather sneaky!” She explained to me that through the guidance from Maryann and Bill, she was able to become a better manager. “I learned patience. If I say something to ten people, all ten will take it differently,” Kate said. “I take people for what they are and have learned that staying active, staying productive and flexibility are the keys for success this business. And now, I’m proud to say as a working mom that I sent all four of my kids to college and graduate school without student loans.”
From an outsider’s perspective, especially one with experience at a real estate company of our size, it’s truly unique to have a CEO who is supportive and finds opportunities for you, even at the sales associate level. For Beverly Walsh, and many others at William Raveis, Bill is simply a phone call away. Beverly, a 28-year Raveis veteran, started as a sales associate in Westport and after years of selling real estate, was convinced by Bill to run the office. “In my first year or two of managing, I was everyone’s peer having been an agent myself and then being promoted. At that time, we had around 40 agents in Westport and I felt I had to gain their respect,” said Beverly. “My goals were to provide a safe haven for my agents, provide each agent with an opportunity to grow, and encourage a collaborative environment where agents’ thoughts and ideas are appreciated.” For her, the reasons that kept her at William Raveis were far beyond a paycheck. “It boils down to respect, freedom and support. Respect from Bill. Freedom and flexibility to work freely without constant interference, and to create a work-life balance. Support from Bill, Chris & Ryan knowing that I have a voice here. If I have a concern, someone will listen and implement. Not all companies have that. I haven’t been mentored by another woman, but Bill, over my 20 years has been my most consistent mentor. It really stems from his great respect for his team, including all the women that work here.”
Wendy Beaulieu, senior vice president of Boston, Cape Cod and Nantucket had a similar experience with the Raveis family when she was tasked with growing the Cape Cod region over 13 years ago. “I started as an area manager for two small offices with 17 agents. If I saw an opportunity, Chris Raveis always told me to go for it. Working together with Chris, Bill and Ryan was and still is a wonderful way to be able to hone my entrepreneurial skills. I think it’s extremely valuable to have management that trusts their team implicitly and always is collaborative. Together, this allowed me to grow the region to have nine offices and 180 agents.”
It’s a common thread that many of these great leadership skills from the Raveis family affect their agents and employee’s personal lives in a positive way. “During those early years,” Wendy continues, “I was a single mother to three sons and I always felt part of their family. Whether we were invited to the Candy Raveis’ annual apple picking day at their home orchard or sharing stories about our children, the culture was a very supportive and encouraging one for me to be a mother and a vice president. Regardless of what it was, they trusted me to get it done.”
“When I first started my real estate career, I knew from day one this was going to be my full-time passion,” says Jackie Davis, a mega agent with a team of six women behind her in Fairfield, Connecticut. “I was mentored early on by Edie Baum, a Raveis agent who made her entire real estate business selling on one single street, Fairfield Beach Road. Edie taught me how to make this business an intelligent, elegant, and high-scale operation. I woke up on day one and said goodbye to my four daughters, the youngest at that time being 8, with my briefcase in hand and dressed in my new suit and pounded the pavement all day, every day of the week to make it.” Jackie explained to me on the phone that she treated her newfound career in real estate like the most important thing in her life next to family. She continues, “My first close was a summer rental with a young client and his three roommates on Fairfield Beach Road, a referral that Edie had given me, and I took very seriously. What I didn’t know at that time was these four renters years later each ended up purchasing homes with me as they grew up and had families. How great is that! Every deal no matter how large or small is a gift for which I am grateful. I thank Bill Raveis for always believing in me.”
Sometimes being busy can be the best recipe for success. My grandmother used to say, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and the same was true for Lauren Mahoney, a senior sales associate in Hingham, Massachusetts. “I had my second baby in the middle of spring market. She was born April 11th, and I still had the best sales volume of my career! She didn’t slow me down at all. When I first started, a woman in our office said to me, “If you’re not going to treat it like a full-time job, it will just be a hobby.” So, I learned to overbook childcare. I was lucky to have a group of women in the Hingham office surrounding me that took me seriously, supported me through those newborn stages and as a result, I still enjoyed real success.” Lauren notes Joanne Conway, a very successful agent in Hingham, was one of these mentors. “She always has time for you. Here she is, so busy, with many things going on and she sat down with us the other day and taught us business planning. She literally handed me her notebook with every deal she’s done over the past 30 years and said, “This is how I reached my goals. Let me help you get there.” She’s unendingly supportive.”
Linda Dorsey, executive vice president of William Raveis Mortgage also sees a focused attitude at the workplace as the best medicine. Being diagnosed with breast cancer last summer, she continually worked through her daily radiation appointments and had the complete support of the Raveis family. “Ryan and Bill were just a phone call away. I look to Candy Raveis for motivation and I seriously admire her for her perpetual positivity.” (Candy Raveis, Bill’s wife, was diagnosed with incurable acute myeloid leukemia, her doctor gave her a prognosis of four months to live. Now, four years later, after two bone marrow transplants and multiple treatments, Candy is recovering.) Linda is currently in remission. She continues, “During that time, I didn’t allow work to fall to the wayside or for people to look at me and say, “She’s got enough on her plate.” I didn’t want that. Work kept me going and it made me stronger.”
“I had many successful women in my life as role models,” says Melissa McNamara, a mother of six children, sales associate and director of business development in Norwell, Massachusetts. “My great grandparents started a family jewelry store in 1921 that now, my mother, Nana and aunt still own and operate which has been successfully run for nearly 100 years! I’m very in tune with the family business concept and ultimately, that is what drew me to William Raveis.” She explained to me over the phone that her relationship with the woman she nannied for in college is the sole reason for her becoming a real estate agent at a young age. “I was always intrigued by real estate and watching her manage to be a great mom while running her own real estate business inspired me.” Kathy Townsend, an agent with an undisclosed firm in Maine and Melissa still speak often and give each other advice. Melissa, a Certified Real Estate Coach and Mentor with William Raveis stated, “I’m so proud of how things have unfolded. It’s truly come full circle for me. Fast forward many years later, and I now have my former nanny working for me as a full-time assistant.” She also found an equal amount of support at the Norwell office with Chris Head, her manager. “Our office just has a great vibe. We have a lot of wonderful agents that I truly enjoy working with. I learned at Raveis that agents can and should be supportive of each other, rather than the industry norm of constant competition. I’m honored to be a part of this team and look forward to continuing to learn and grow with this company.”
Hillary Clinton said, “Don’t confuse having a career with having a life,” and in listening to these women’s stories of being hands-on mothers while still being able to put their careers first, I can tell it wasn’t easy. So many of the women I interviewed are mothers, like Lauren Perregaux, with two little ones under 4 at home. She immediately wanted to tell me how great it’s been having a supportive team at Raveis where she can be afforded flexibility to be with her kids. “Once I had Mya and Connor,” Lauren explains, “I started working from home one day a week. It really made the transition back to work so much easier. I am so lucky to have that balance.”
Finding balance is something Michelle Genovesi, Luxury Properties Specialist, says she struggles with continually. “I try to stop looking at balance as a time management choice but more a boundary management choice. This is one, we as women, are all in together.” Michelle is one of the original trailblazers at William Raveis. Having started 34 years ago as a single agent, she was the first to form a team and to brand herself with an innovative marketing approach, making her a company-wide top producer throughout her career. This she says couldn’t have been done without the guidance and mentorship of Bill and by taking a “can do” attitude. “I’ve built a business that I’m proud of with great name recognition and respect based on innovative marketing and exceptional service. I’ve blazed my own path by being true to myself, being caring, thoughtful and having integrity. I agree with what Michelle Obama said, “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own to-do list.” We as women tend to put others first. Try to be true to your own convictions and don’t take no for an answer.”
Molly Lane, SVP & General Manager of our Naples, Florida office, is an example of someone who controlled their own destiny and didn’t accept a “no,” when she reached out to Bill Raveis with a potential new venture. “I found an opportunity I wanted to explore and scheduled a meeting with Bill. He took the meeting. The owner of this huge company agreed to meet with me! Instead of laughing at me, or telling me my idea was terrible, he said “Great idea, but the timing isn’t right. Let’s talk again in a year.” A year later, we spoke again about expanding the company into the state of Florida. He said yes! That was my shining moment. Many people are paralyzed with the fear of rejection, so they never investigate possibilities. Even if Bill had said no, at least I would have known that I tried.” Molly persuaded Bill to make a move and took control her own future, choosing her path instead of letting success happen to her.
Forging their own paths and staying true to their goals while still finding balance is a work of art, and I am so grateful to have spoken with the women at my company. Women are natural multi-taskers in every way, juggling kids and jobs, yet all these women found ways to either help themselves or help other people succeed. I feel honored that they chose to share their stories with me and help us as a company celebrate their hard work and success, this month and every month. It’s unique and comforting to know that the family business model at William Raveis is designed to and intent on nurturing and growing their team for the benefit of families everywhere. I’m Kim Myers, the director of social media and I’m proud to be a woman at William Raveis.