CEO Sally Lapides talks about the real estate business today, her “marketing” team, laughing out loud and why she never eats alone.
Sally Lapides is president and CEO of Residential Properties Ltd., which she started in 1981 and is quickly becoming one of Rhode Island’s premier real estate companies.
With over 150 full-time sales associates, Residential Properties has offices in Providence, Barrington, Cumberland, East Greenwich, and Narragansett, as well as a relocation office, now located in Providence. Residential Properties is a founding member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, the country’s largest network of leading independent residential real estate firms.
Sally embraces her community and loves technology. She was one of the first in her state to understand the value of a good domain name, the power of good content, and the importance of technology expertise. Sally serves or has served as a Trustee on the boards of Roger Williams University, Trinity Repertory Company, the Newport International Film Festival, GAIA (Global Alliance to Immunize Against Aids) and Providence Country Day School. She is also chair of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Action Campaign Committee, a member of the Board of Governors for the RISD Museum and a committee member for the Women & Infants Hospital Celebrity Luncheon, and former Chair of the Board at The Gordon School.
As an expert in the real estate field, she is often quoted in the Providence Journal, Providence Business News, WJAR, Channel 12 News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In addition to her career as a real estate professional, Sally has also hosted Real Estate Insight for WHJJ Talk Radio 920 AM since January 2004.
“Real Estate is generally the most valuable asset in our financial portfolio,” Sally says. “Understanding the market, interpreting trends, knowing how to maximize your investment, and partnering with a professional who can guide you through the process are the chief differentials that set Residential Properties apart from the majority of other Realtors.” Seth Price of Placester caught up with Sally to get her take on life, real estate, and what it takes to be successful.
I am still doing one thing that has never and will never change over the years. I am always working on marketing.
Placester: What are you working on now?
Sally: We just marked our 30th anniversary, and I am still doing one thing that has never and will never change over the years. I am always working on marketing. Expanding our Internet marketing presence for the sale of properties, the capturing of buyers and the branding of the company are essential in retaining our position as the leading real estate company in the state.
P: What does your typical day look like?
SL: Rise early, check email, exercise and be at the office as early as I’m able. I’m blessed to surround myself with a management team who allow me to think broadly while they manage the daily activity. I check in with all of them over any given week. Many ideas come from the social interaction we share as colleagues. I am the “rainmaker” for the company. My philosophy has always been to never eat alone. These social engagements have grown the business over the last 30 years. I also have a weekly radio show called Real Estate Insight which is syndicated on iTunes. It is on Sundays at 10:00. I work each week with my assistant, Chris Whirlow, to make the show interesting and topical. I have a very understanding husband who shares the curse of being a workaholic, but we try to have as many quality nights as we are able.
Strange as this may sound, I have never had a job I didn’t like. The job I was least qualified for was a manicurist when i was in college. I drew more blood than I should have.
P: What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn?
SL: Strange as this may sound, I have never had a job I didn’t like. The job I was least qualified for was a manicurist when i was in college. I drew more blood than I should have. The job that has given me a lifetime of stories was working at Playboy for the literary editor, reading the jokes and choosing the funny ones. In both cases, I learned that all jobs have aspects of joy if you find good people, work hard, and maintain a positive attitude.
P: Three real estate trends that excite you?
- Mobile. Web sites have to be easy to use on all devices.
- The changes in the traditional bricks and mortar model. Cloud computing allows my agents to work from anywhere, which makes them happy and has reduced our tech infrastructure costs tremendously, which in turn makes me very happy.
- Video marketing. We have been doing property videos for a few years now and recently partnered with WellcomMat to host our videos. The WellcomMat platform makes it easy for people to watch our videos.
I have always invested a disproportionate amount of money back into the company each year.
P: How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
SL: I have always invested a disproportionate amount of money back into the company each year. We have built a meaningful brand. Our in-house marketing department, technology, video (understanding the unique role video plays in marketing) and our standards of excellence are differentiating factors. I am never satisfied with “good enough.” We are known for our full-time, motivated, smart real estate professionals. We are recognized nationally for our superb Relocation division headed by Liz Messier, our Technology Director Tom Flanagan, and our core values of giving back to the community.
P: How do you bring your ideas to life?
Constant communication with our management team. Several times a year, we gather for strategic sessions where I put a box in the middle of the table that says, “think outside the box.” I talk about my ideas, they talk about theirs. We dream out loud, get excited and take action together.
P: What inspires you?
SL: Relationships and giving back. I have a quote on my desk by Winston Churchill that says, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
Bigger is not necessarily better.
P: What is one mistake you have made and what did you learn from it?
SL: Bigger is not necessarily better. I don’t need many office locations around the state. What I need are the best colleagues with relationships around the state.
P: How do you measure success?
SL: Personally and professionally, success is measured by strong, meaningful relationships with family, friends and colleagues. If I can put my head down on my pillow every night thinking that we have done our best to value integrity, honesty, hard work, knowledge, experience, creativity and professionalism, then I know we are successful.
Read everything you can, be an expert in your field of interest. Don’t be a “secret agent” (let everyone you have ever met know what you are doing).
P: What advice would you give someone starting out in the business?
SL: Read everything you can. Be an expert in your field of interest. Don’t be a “secret agent”: let everyone you have ever met know what you are doing. Get comfortable with a computer if you aren’t already. Buy a smartphone, use social media to promote your business and build relationships, take all the phone time you can, rent apartments (they will be your future buyers), acknowledge everyone’s birthday, volunteer to do open houses, volunteer for something you are passionate about (you get from giving), and finally, treat everyone you meet as though they are future clients. You’ll be surprised to find that many of them turn out to be just that.
P: One business idea you are willing to give away?
SL: Talk real estate to everyone. If you pay bills the old fashioned way, and not electronically, send a business card with each bill. I once got a listing from a woman at the gas company. Business cards are cheap. Use them. Always use your work email address with your signature and your contact information. You are always advertising yourself.
P: What do you read every day and why?
SL: The New York Times, the Providence Journal, Inman News and CNN. These four sources keep me up to date on local, national, and international news. Inman keeps me up to date on technology.
P: What is one book that you would recommend to our community and why?
SL: “Living in a Foreign Language,” by Michael Tucker. It made me appreciate the simplicity of needs, the importance of each day, the value of family and the gift of friendship.
P: What is your favorite gadget or App?
SL: I absolutely love my iPhone and iPad. I don’t know how I lived without them. My favorite apps are Yelp, Pinterest and Ted.
P: Three people we should follow on Twitter?
SL: I personally don’t do much tweeting. However, we have had a company account for sometime now and we understand the value of Twitter. For industry news and information, you can’t go wrong following Inman News.
P: What real estate expert would you love to see us interview?
SL: Marc Davison, partner at 1000Watt Consulting, is always informative and engaging.
P: When was the last time you laughed out loud?
SL: My husband and I took a dance lesson last night. We both must have thought that watching Dancing with the Stars would teach us by osmosis. Apparently, we were wrong. We had four left feet, and I was laughing until I cried.
P: How can people connect with you?
SL: We just redesigned my radio show blog, RealEstateInsight.com. You can find all of my information there, and of course you can always visit ResidentialProperties.com.
P: Where are you located?
SL: While we have five offices strategically located across the State, our Corporate offices are located at 140 Wickenden Street, Providence, RI. 02903.