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Ten Minutes with William M. Raveis

A Real-Estate Mogul



Photo by Peter Friedman

William M. Raveis founded and runs William Raveis Real Estate, which he built from a one-room office over a grocery store to 110 offices and 3,500 agents in seven states. Raveis today heads the largest, family-owned, real-estate company in Connecticut, with sales last year topping $9 billion. Speaking recently with us, he discussed his career and business memoir, The Way of the Entrepreneur, published in September.

One doesn’t usually associate real estate with entrepreneurism. 
Real estate, believe it or not, is very entrepreneurial. You’re off on your own and you need to figure things out. No one tells you how to succeed in real estate. You need to learn how to market, how to sell, and how to properly use technology. You may receive some training on this stuff, but nobody is executing it for you. It’s all dependent on your own effort and ingenuity.

In the book, you honor your parents and speak honestly about being dyslexic. What role has each played in your success?
My parents gave me the emotional stability to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. As for the dyslexia, it removed failure from my head. In college, the words jumped around the pages of the books, so I memorized every page. The disadvantage became an advantage because it built other traits that helped me throughout my life. If I could choose to have been born without dyslexia, I would not do it. That’s how much it taught me.

You write that you envisioned this 40-year-old, family-run company at 27. How was that possible?
I worked in corporate America until, at 27, I realized it’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to create something that I would get personal recognition for and the independence to succeed or fail on my own. Having two children at 27 also made me realize I wanted to build something to pass on to them someday. 

Your book ends with a chapter on “The Ten Noble Rules of Business.” Which do you consider the most important?
Passion is the first rule. What corporate America taught me was that I didn’t have passion to do something that somebody didn’t care about. I wanted something that could have impact. Real estate had everything I wanted. 

Running a company of this size carries with it a lot of stress. How do you manage that?
You cannot do it yourself. It’s a team effort. You need to pick good people, and so I see myself as a talent scout—I look for the best talent to manage the company. As for stress, I used to black out at my desk and during presentations. My doctor told me, “You’re a pressure cooker. Release the pressure.” So I began jogging but I also began delegating to my managers.

Last year you opened an office in midtown Manhattan. What is next for you to conquer? 
In the past year, we hired 35 new agents in Manhattan. Our next step is to go to Florida, where the economy is growing rapidly. We’re opening 30 offices in Florida within the next five years. The company is my canvas, and I’ll continue painting it for as long as I can.

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