Updated: Apr 18, 2019
While all entrepreneurs face challenges, it can be even more challenging for female entrepreneurs in male-dominated industries, such as real estate. Fortunately, while it was virtually impossible for female entrepreneurs to succeed in said professions in past generations, the impossible is now possible with persistence, perseverance, and innovative strategies. In real estate, success often comes down to a matter of trust. The biggest pressure point is getting to know the parties and building teams that can work together. This means building relationships and making sure each players’ ethics and standards are similar to your own. It also means considering and acknowledging the contribution each party brings to the table.
Understanding personal dynamics is intuitively more natural for most women. We understand that every woman and man wants to be acknowledged and respected. However, men do think, plan and act differently. Identifying what inspires and motivates each party to enter into a business relationship is critical to drafting a contract—the primary goal of any real estate endeavor.
Optimistically, contracts are written as a guideline, but relationships don’t always go smoothly. I have found that a contract not only lays out the specific deliverables each party brings to a transaction, but also builds a foundation to the relationship that has been created. By the time the parties complete a thoughtfully negotiated contract with identifiable, mutually acceptable terms, a relationship should have been created that will eventually lead to success throughout the duration of the contract. At the very least, you will have increased the odds of success.
While this may sound easy on paper, it is one of the biggest challenges of my business. Most people want to succeed and do a good job, but as people, we are all spectacularly different, filter information and expectations through our own experiences, and have different understandings of how work should be performed. As a female entrepreneur, I must work diligently in this process, in particular when drafting contracts with potential serious consequences.
And I have good news to report! While in the past there have been very few women in the real estate industry, this is changing rapidly. When I was looking for contractors and sub-contractors at the Colorado Home Show in February, I was told that 30% of the business owners at the show were women. I was surprised, but very excited. And many of the men I met at the booths told me that they were representing women-owned businesses.
So how do we increase this momentum of entering fields that were not previously open to welcoming women entrepreneurs? In my opinion, fostering successful relationships is the platform to building success. Clearly, every business owner or entrepreneur must be skilled in all aspects of their profession (e.g., product and services, finances, operations, marketing, etc.). Choosing who we work with and contract with to support those services is the most vulnerable aspect of any business.
We cannot go back to handshakes, ever. Mistakes will be made, but managing them together can easily resolve them. When a contract and relationship go bad, it is typically because one party takes a hard position and is not willing to work towards resolution.
And finally, if a business relationship does not work out, it is absolutely essential not to take it personally. If it is taken personally, animosity and resentment will surface in the next deal. As complicated as we are, it is a sure bet that some negotiations and contracts will last and some will not. Wearing a positive attitude like a new hat will accommodate better terms and flexibility in the next deal. The next deal can always be the next best deal.
While looking for a residential broker, I ran across a website with a video in which the person talks about his principles, including a statement about “earning trust.” My hope is that women find their way to create daily and ongoing trustworthy relationships, support one another, and produce positive relationships that will take success to new immeasurable heights!
Lin Merage is CEO of SSRE, LLC. She is a real estate entrepreneur focusing on residential and small-scale sustainable building, with an emphasis on "Well Building" and "Healthy Indoor Air Quality." Her second passion is sustainable retail, with a goal to provide consumers the ability to surround themselves with healthier, higher quality options.