Lessons from Legends in the Home Building Industry

Time for another installment in our series Lessons from Legends. In these periodic interviews we will talk with people who have not only survived, but thrived in this unpredictable, and at times quite turbulent, industry. This time we were fortunate to chat with Adrienne Albert, CEO of The Marketing Directors. 

Adrienne Albert: The Interview

For anyone involved in the residential real estate industry, Adrienne needs no introduction. As founder and CEO of The Marketing Directors, Ms. Albert has been personally responsible for the marketing and sales of over $30 billion in residential sales. She has won a plethora of awards from Woman of the Year from the ABO of Greater New York (two times), to Marketing Director of the year from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). And in 2009, Adrienne was inducted into the Hall of Fame of NAHB’s National Sales and Marketing Council and was named a Legend of Residential Marketing. She was the first woman ever to receive this accolade.

We are so pleased she agreed to chat with us and share some of the lessons she’s learned throughout her career.

The Backstory? 

LD & Co: If you had to say what you do in ten words or less what would you say? In other words, what is your own personal elevator speech?

AA: We market and sell or lease residential real estate. We act as development partners with our clients to affect the best possible outcome.

LD & Co: Very succinct, I like it. How did you get started in this industry? What is your backstory?

AA: Well, that’s a little less succinct. I went to graduate school for architecture and then three years later I married and moved to Canada. I tried to get a job as an architect without any success. I had to figure out something to do. So, I started working in advertising, with a firm that specialized in, among other things, residential real estate.

In short order, we became the largest real estate advertising firm in Toronto. With that success, others in the agency wanted to expand into areas such as retail and travel, and I was only interested in residential real estate. I wanted to put all components of marketing/advertising/sales for residential real estate under one roof, one firm. So, we parted ways and I started The Marketing Directors.

LD & Co: When was this? What year?

AA: I left the agency and started The Marketing Directors in 1979. I moved back to the US at this time. I have been full-time in New York City since 1982. Today we work nationally covering the east coast.

The Marketing Directors

LD & Co: What is the favorite part of what you do?

AA: Hmm…that’s a tough one. I like it all. The sales aspect, the marketing, business, design…I guess I would say working with clients. I love the collaborative approach. And truly, helping others be successful is so rewarding and is probably my favorite part.

 LD & Co: Do you ever miss being an architect?

 AA: No. Not even a little bit. Fortunately, working in residential real estate I do still get to be involved somewhat with the architecture of a building. But I’m not responsible for the drawings or the architectural details of a home. I get to still be involved in the design aspect of real estate, but more from a big picture perspective. My degree still comes in handy.

 LD & Co: You do kind of get the best of both worlds in your role. So, when you consider all that you’ve accomplished throughout your career, what keeps you motivated?

 AA: It’s the satisfaction I get from helping people be successful. When a client is grateful, and most of them are, with the work you do, it is incredibly rewarding. And truly when I look back at my career, the majority of my clients have been appreciative of the help we’ve given them. Most of our clients have been with us for more than 10 years, and some quite longer than that. Of course, there are always a few that don’t stay with us. And that’s ok. We can’t be everything to everyone every time.

LD & Co: How do you think being a woman, in a male-dominated field has impacted your career? Or has it?

AA: I never thought about my work as being gender related. I worked hard and did the best job I could. Gender never really mattered.

LD & Co: You have sort of already answered this, but I’ll throw it out there: To what do you attribute your long, successful career? Especially considering the recessions you’ve lived through and the economic downturn of 2008 that dramatically changed the industry.

AA: It’s true, I’ve been through several recessions in my career. When we first opened in NY in the 80s, the economy was terrible. However, I think it’s my underlying principal of looking out for the developer first and doing what it takes to help them be successful that has helped me be successful.

And when I say “do what it takes” I’m not talking about anything unsavory. Honesty and integrity are paramount to me and my business practices. Developing trust and always going above and beyond for my clients has been my trademark.

Best Advice?

LD & Co: Wow, that is some serious trust. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

AA: I’ve been fortunate to work with so many wonderful people who have given me terrific advice over the years. I’ll give you two pieces of advice:

Business advice – Concentrate on producing income. You can only cut costs so much before you end-up sacrificing quality.

Life advice – Be ethical and honest. The best way to live your life is to live without anything to hide.

LD & Co: Fantastic advice! Any additional parting words of wisdom?

AA: Be patient about what you do and always do the best you can.  Treat everyone with respect. Act so you have no regrets.

What’s Next?

LD & Co: What’s next for The Marketing Directors?

AA: Continuing to help our clients be successful and exploring new ways to do that in these unusual times.

LD & Co: I’m sure your existing (and future) clients are thrilled to hear that! Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us and impart your wisdom and lessons learned.

For more information on Adrienne Albert and The Marketing Directors please visit their website.