How did Dottie Herman become the richest self-made woman in real estate?

As CEO of Douglas Elliman, Herman sits at the helm of one of the nation’s oldest and largest real estate brokerage firms with approximately $27.4 billion in annual sales volume and 7,000 real estate agents. From her roots as a real estate broker on Long Island in New York to buying Douglas Elliman with her partner, Howard Lorber, Herman is a self-made entrepreneur who is the go-to name for all things real estate.

Auhtor: Real estate is a relationship business. How have stronger relationships helped foster your career?

Dottie Herman: Most businesses are relational, but especially real estate. It’s all about your relationships. I truly believe in getting to know people, which generates authentic relationships. That’s why I make it a point to get to know all of the agents and employees who work for my company. This personalization creates a positive rapport, especially with new agents. But I don’t limit myself to our real estate agents.

Author: Who believed in you before you made it big, and what did you learn in the process?

Dottie Herman: I had a boss at Merrill Lynch named George Rathmann. He always said, “I was a diamond in the rough.” He saw the potential in me that I was too young and inexperienced to recognize in myself. I also had a few wonderful mentors, including Diane Nash, who like George saw something in me that no one else did at the time – she always inspired me to be the best I could be. And finally, my partner at Douglas Elliman, Howard Lorber, believed in me so much, he invested in my business.

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Author: What’s your best advice to your 20-year-old self?

Dottie Herman: To do what I did, you must reach for the stars.

I’d tell my 20 year old self, “do not let any obstacles stop you. Where there are obstacles there are also great opportunities.” And most important, I’d drive home how important it is to get to know the people that truly make the decisions within the company you work for.

Author: What are your three best pieces of career advice?

Dottie Herman:

  1. Never let obstacles stop you; figure out a way around it.
  2. Be real and authentic.
  3. Be passionate about what you are doing.

Author: What is your best advice to a startup entrepreneur?

Dottie Herman: Have a business plan and decide how you are capitalizing it. Most businesses that do not make it fail because they are under-capitalized. Be willing to eat, sleep and breathe the business. Success doesn’t sleep and it doesn’t wait for anyone. You earn it through hard work and being the best you can be.


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