After more than 18 years in executive management of a worldwide manufacturing company, Steve started his second career in real estate in 2002. Now, in 2023, his company, ERA Doty Real Estate, won ERA Real Estate’s Gene Francis Memorial Award for Top All-Around Company. Here he speaks with Realty Biz News about how his career change was at its core about culture.
Tell me about how you got into real estate.
Before I got into real estate, I was an engineer. I worked for a family manufacturing company for nearly 17 years. After the company was bought by a large German corporation, I realized we didn’t see eye to eye. I didn't agree with some of their philosophies. I believed in supporting the families that we did business with, our vendors, and the people who worked in the plant. I believed that relationships were important within business.
It soon got to the point where I didn't enjoy my job. I didn't enjoy all the problems that went along with it. My blood pressure was high, I was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, and the stress was literally killing me. One day in 2003, I was flying back from a trip to Seattle and realized I was dreading going back to work. I thought to myself, “I'm done with this, I'm just done.”
I told my mom, who had worked in real estate all her life, that I hated my job and she said, “Quit. Go into real estate.”
So, I took the suit and tie off and started my second career. Today, I wear boots and blue jeans and I don't dress up. I may even come into the office in shorts. I absolutely love what I do now. It doesn’t feel like work to me. It feels like I play for a living. We laugh, we joke. We run around with a cowbell and ring the cowbell and cheer when people have big closings or put big deals together. It's a lot of fun.
What makes your approach to real estate different?
When I started in real estate, the brokerage model was broken. All of these large offices had locks on the doors and locked file cabinets. They poked each other in the eyes, pulled each other’s hair, and stole each other’s clients. There was a lot of drama.
I just felt like it was time for something different and the market was ready for someone to look at the business differently. I promoted the mentality that a rising tide raises all ships, and we all began to help each other, collaborate and learn from each other and do things together. We were a performance culture. We were small, agile, collaborative, quick thinkers who helped each other.
As my company grew, I was able to acquire my biggest competitor in 2016. But then we stopped growing. We hit a wall because the new people didn't share our ideology. I learned that this mindset doesn't work for everybody. In the first 18 months following the acquisition, we walked about $21 million in sales volume out the door.
I paced the floor every night. I felt like a failure. I couldn't figure it out and just when I was really struggling an agent walked in, sat down, shut the door, and said, “Be yourself and everybody will come. They want to be around you and your electricity. They want to be inspired. Stop trying to make people like it and let's grow with the people that do.”
That was a life-altering moment for me and we began to grow from there instantly. As soon as we did it, that's when we went from decreasing in sales to everybody being happy, going back to playing nice with each other, and growing a business again.
What is your guiding principle as a broker/owner?
That’s simple. My job is to be focused on growth but it’s not about growing the business – growing people is what I do. That just happens to benefit the business. The thing that may make me unique is that the terms “boss” “leader” and “mentor” make me a little bit uncomfortable.
We bring groups of people together to tell me what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong. I write those things on the wall and then within days of them doing that, I report back to them to tell them how we're going to improve or change. I'm a person who likes to involve everybody in the building, know what their strong suit is and then figure out how to meet their needs. We treat an agent like a customer.
How do you sustain or create a cohesive culture in your company?
I'm a believer that you can't create culture, you must embrace it and participate in it. We’re here to change people’s lives through homeownership. And we do that from a foundation of mutual respect for each other, our strengths and our weaknesses, and the absolute belief that we are better and stronger when we work as a team.
In addition to having a focus on helping each other out, being the best at our craft, and having fun, we also come together to help our community. Over the years, we have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for numerous community projects including, The Special Olympics, The Salvation Army, The Muscular Dystrophy Association Smoke Out, Cystic Fibrosis, Operation Christmas Child, Pulling for Vets, The Northeast Arkansas Humane Society and more.
How do you define success?
At the end of the day, I think success is all about balance. You are happy with what you do and have time to enjoy your family, your community, and your personal life and the things are important to you. I’ve been lucky that what I do in my business makes me happy and that we have been successful because of it.
About ERA Doty Real Estate
ERA Doty Real Estate is part of the ERA Real Estate network, a global leader in the residential real estate industry for nearly 50 years that features a powerful network of like-minded entrepreneurs supported by the brand’s game-changing technology, products and powerful lead generation. With offices in Jonesboro, Paragould, Flippin, Mountain Home, Conway and Hot Springs, ERA Doty Real Estate serves clients locally in Arkansas and Missouri and works with out-of-town clients looking for retirement or vacation homes. The firm’s 160 agents specialize in all areas of real estate including residential, commercial and relocation.