Patrick: Hi everyone, I’m Pat V., and you’re listening to the Rise Above Your Best podcast, where I’m not only obsessed with searching out and interviewing individuals who have achieved great success to uncover their habits, but also when uncovering and presenting the research that proves that great success is available to anyone. It all starts when you believe in the power of rising above your best. My guest today is Dava Davin, who is the owner of Portside Real Estate Group. She started out in pharmaceutical sales, as a representative working for companies such as Eli Lilly. She moved to Maine and realized that she wanted to make a professional change, and entered real estate where she successfully learned the business, started her own agency, and has grown this into what today is a multi-office powerhouse with over 60 agents.
Patrick: If that’s not impressive enough, she is a four-time triathlon finisher, she’s a philanthropic presence in the local community, and most recently she was recognized by Mainebiz as one of their women to watch in 2018. I hope you enjoy listening to her discuss her recipe for success, both personally and professionally, because it is pretty impressive. She is totally a rock star. Let’s get started.
Patrick: I’m here today with Dava Davin, and what an honor to be here. I’ve had an opportunity to know you for a number of years now, and watch your meteoric rise to the top in terms of what you’ve been doing. I thought it’d be a great opportunity for you to come in and just really talk about how you’ve been successful. Starting off, what did you do before you got into real estate.
Dava: Thank you so much Patrick, it’s really an honor to have this conversation with you. Before I got into real estate, I sold pharmaceuticals, I did that for about 10 years. Then my husband and I moved to Maine, and that’s really when I had a life change. I wanted to make a career change morally and ethically, I felt a need to make a change, I felt changing doctor’s prescribing habits so I got a bonus was just weighing on me, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. We moved to Maine, and I wanted to get a job at a nonprofit, but since I wasn’t particularly skilled in anything other than sales, I was unsuccessful in finding a job. Just really didn’t have a skillset, couldn’t find a job that would really make sense financially. So I switched careers and got my real estate license.
Patrick: Did you know anybody that was in real estate before? How’d you make the decision for real estate?
Dava: On a wing and a prayer. I had done some flipping, I’m doing air quotes, in younger years, and had some success with that, and I just took a stab at it to be honest. I told my husband, “Let’s give it a year, let’s see if we can make this work.” It was 2008, so the real estate market was hitting its bottom, I didn’t know a soul in Maine other than my husband and some connections that he had. I didn’t even really know where I was going. So I think it has really helped to get to where I am now, because I did have to be very scrappy and probably work harder than my competitors to gain the business, and really, truly just a lot of grit and determination.
Dava: We had built a house that year, while the economy was failing, and we literally didn’t have a dining room set, we had all of our resources tied up, so I had to make it.
Patrick: Sounds like a pretty strong [why 00:03:25], on your end, if this is gonna happen.
Dava: Yeah, I left a career where you have a pension and a company car, a salary, so I had to-
Patrick: I was gonna say, being a former pharmaceutical rep myself, I know how cushy that can be in terms of, you went from basically having everything supplied for you to, you’re on your own, eat what you kill in terms of real estate.
Patrick: In 2008, you certainly picked a great time to come into that, really make a risk of it. My understanding is that you started your own company in 2012?
Patrick: What was that decision for you?
Dava: I had at that point been in real estate for about four years, and at that point I had learned the lay of the land, and had been able to make some good connections, and grow referral-based business. I had worked for a large franchise, and the same way I felt around the pharmaceutical industry, I just wanted to have something that was a little smaller, that could be a bit more nimble, that didn’t have a lot of layers, had a bit of personality. So I decided to start my own.
Patrick: What was that like?
Dava: So exciting, definitely a really fun time. Of course, it comes with overcoming some fears of going out there and doing it, but just being able to be true to myself and do things the way that I really saw in my head, and to watch it grow over the years, it’s been awesome.
Patrick: Certainly talking about successful people, most will tell a story of challenges that they’ve gone through and how that’s shaped them. Just curious, in terms of your own experience, are there any moments that you can look back on, that you say, “These were the biggest challenges”? And at the moment they seem really difficult, but now you look, and those are probably your biggest leverages?
Dava: That’s a great question. Obviously in real estate, every day is a challenge. We have a lot of challenges, I think overcoming that fear of, the first fear is switching careers and going into the unknown, are you gonna be able to replace your salary in a year? And then I think going from a large franchise and opening your own company, are people gonna come, are people gonna get what you’re doing, is the consumer gonna relate to it, or does the consumer want something that appears to be safer, because it’s backed by a national company?
Dava: So starting out that first year, signing a lease, doing a build-out, and crossing my fingers and hoping that agents will come, definitely was challenging. But just having that inner gut, knowing what I was doing was right, and simple. I tried to break everything down to as simple as I can, I think working hard, treating people right, and doing the same thing every day, day after day, it just grows. I’ve been very fortunate in that way, even when you feel like, “Oh my gosh, how long is this gonna take, are people really gonna come? They say they’re gonna join, then they don’t.” Just showing up every day and pushing forward.
Patrick: When did you maybe get to that point where you were like, “I’ve made it, this is what I wanted”?
Dava: I think you never make it, I would tell someone, don’t expect to ever get there, again I’m doing air quotes. Because once you’re there, then there’s another there. So if you’re not enjoying every day of what you’re doing, it’s not worth it, because you can have a gazillion goals and meet them all, but there’s always gonna be more. So for me, I’m not there, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten there, or that I’ll ever get there. I frankly don’t care, because I feel that I’m doing good work, I just want to be better than I was yesterday, and give to this world more than I’m taking. If I can do that every day, I think I’m there every day.
Patrick: You mentioned going off on your own in terms of wanting to keep a certain culture, and you certainly have just continued to grow. How many agents are you up to?
Dava: There’s about 60.
Patrick: And how many different locations?
Dava: We have three locations.
Patrick: How has that been in terms of trying to keep that culture, as you continue to grow, how do you manage that?
Dava: Great question. I believe in growing by the law of attraction, so for all you business people out there, you might be rolling your eyes, but I have never recruited, and I never will. I will never call an agent that works for another company. I think people are watching what I’m doing, and they’re reaching out to me, so we’ve been growing by the law of attraction for two of the offices. The third office, I did acquire an existing business, and what happened there was one of the agents called me and said, “Hey I’m thinking of making a change, I’d like to come to Portside.” And I said, “Oh I don’t know, your current owner is a dear friend, this is really awkward, I honestly don’t know.” And he said, “What if we all came?” Then the next day, the previous owner called me, we went for a mile swim, and we started the conversation.
Patrick: I’d say that’s a serious law of attraction right there, you take it all. You mentioned that it was on a swim, let’s go on a different direction for a minute, I know that you’re pretty much a beast when it comes to doing triathlons.
Dava: Very kind, Patrick.
Patrick: When did that whole thing start, how do you fit that in with being an owner of a growing agency, with a family and all the other responsibilities you have?
Dava: I think they go hand-in-hand, I think exercise is a great stress reliever. I have done four full Ironman triathlons, and several marathons around the same time. I did my first Ironman in 2013, but I think that discipline helped me to grow my business, because getting up at 4:15 is a non-negotiable, I can’t get everything done unless I do it. In a way, it makes it easier, because it makes the schedule set, and I certainly have had my very best ideas as a result of a long run or a long bike. I can’t get home quick enough to get a piece of paper and write everything down, so I definitely think they go hand-in-hand.
Patrick: Along those lines, you mentioned 4:15 you get up, any rituals that you keep for your business as well that are things that you tend to consistently do?
Dava: I do, it’s boring, but I do. I get up at the same time every morning, and I go to bed at the same time, sleep is very important. Even though my day is very busy, I run a company, I also have my own personal sales business, my family, my hobbies and endurance races, but I never, I pride myself, I shouldn’t say never, but I never miss a meeting, I’m very regimented. My schedule is booked by the 15 minutes, Patrick and I went back and forth to try to schedule this, and I wanted to make sure that I had enough time, so I booked two hours. I think I’m really disciplined in planning my schedule, and time-blocking for doing the things that I need to do to keep my business going over the long haul.
Patrick: Great. You’d mentioned you also had a coach at one point, how has that played into where you are? Do you have a coach for sports as well?
Patrick: Of course, you do.
Dava: I’m very coachable, I love having a coach. Yeah, I’ve worked with several business coaches, I believe everyone should have a coach or a mentor, and I’ve also had a coach for endurance races ongoing as well.
Patrick: Nice. What do you think is the difference for you, in terms of that you’ve gotten out of a coach that maybe you’d say, “If I was on my own, I wouldn’t have gotten this out of it”? Anything in particular?
Dava: I think, that’s a loaded question, I have a ton to say about that. Let me break it down, for an athletic coach, based on my busy schedule, it’s just awesome to be able to go in my app and know what I need to do that day to reach that goal, that’s scientific and I think fairly straightforward. As far as a business coach, you get so many benefits from that, and really helping you to think in different ways, to continue to challenge yourself, we all need someone to bring us different ideas or ask us the right questions that will bring out something that we already know.
Patrick: What I love, obviously we’re in the same community, so I get to see a lot of stuff that goes on, on social media as well, in terms of what you’re doing. There’s always that phrase that if you want something done, you ask a busy person to do it, and I think of you philanthropically, all the different things that you’re involved with. How does that feed into your philosophy, your business? Because you really have done a great deal for the community, in that regard.
Dava: Thank you. It is definitely a big part of our culture here at Portside, I believe every member of our team here is involved in some kind of charity or volunteering. When I had mentioned, when I had my life enlightening, I really wanted to find a way where I could serve people, and I was so fortunate, now being a business owner, to bring that into our company. It gives us a way to be involved in our community, because we sponsor or host events that bring people together. I think right now, technology has taken over that human connection in a lot of ways, so it’s multipurpose. It brings us together, but we also are making a difference directly to nonprofits that are right here in our community.
Patrick: Any agencies or groups that are closer to your heart, how do you decide who to support?
Dava: That’s a great question, because there are so many causes. We have an event coming up in a couple weeks that’s going to support Girls on the Run-Maine, it’s gonna be I believe the only rooftop bootcamp in Portland. That’s obviously an organization that speaks to me, we’re empowering our daughters to become strong women, and to boost their self-confidence, so that’s a no-brainer in line with my love for running, so it all comes together.
Patrick: Any mentors, I know you have a coach, but is there anybody in terms of mentoring that you’ve latched onto or look to them for direction?
Dava: I do, I have a mentor right now that is from another region, but has a similar business to me, so I’m so fortunate to be able to contact him with questions, have him look at my business and help me to keep pushing it forward. In the same respect, I’m blessed to be a mentor to some other agents in the area as well.
Patrick: If you were to look back in terms of starting your business, is there anything you’d tell yourself now that you didn’t know then?
Dava: I think that’s a great question. I think we talked about this before, just knowing that you’re never gonna get there, that it’s such a journey, there’s not one milestone that’s gonna make you feel like, “I’ve made it.” There’s always gonna be another one there, and just to truly try to take the time to step back and be grateful every day, for this awesome life that we have, and the opportunity that we have. When you own a business, to be able to surround yourself with people that you love and you care about, and truly just to recognize that, and just be grateful and enjoy it.
Patrick: How about this one, what’s the best job you’ve ever had, aside from now?
Dava: Aside from now? I would say, I have always worked, I worked since the day I turned 14, and looking back, I’m gonna say being a restaurant server. Being a waitress I think has such transferrable skills, you’ve got to multitask, you’ve got to do a little sales, you’ve got to negotiate with the chef, you’ve got to use all these skills, certainly transferrable to real estate sales. I think that’s a job that everyone should have, it’s profitable, we have to be humble, I think that’s probably the best job I ever had.
Patrick: Let me ask you a question on that then, were you one of those that you could take somebody’s order without writing it down?
Patrick: Oh my god.
Dava: People used to ask for my section.
Patrick: I would want to move around where I sat to see if you could still get them right, that’s why I never served, because I knew that I would just screw up everybody’s food, I could never get it right. Not something that I had the ability to do. When we look in terms of what motivates us, in terms of quotes often can be motivational for people, is there any quote or saying or inspiration that you look to, a mantra or something that you would say, “This speaks to who I am”?
Dava: This might be perceived as a little cheesy, but Oprah Winfrey said, “Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate of what you don’t have, you will never, never have enough.” This is such a simple thing, but it just goes back to gratitude and truly being thankful for every day, every experience that you have. Right now, I’m so grateful to see Patrick, someone that I’ve known for a long time and I really care about. It’s just an awesome moment, and I think we just can so easily go onto the next thing and the next thing, and not really capture it.
Patrick: I don’t know if you’re familiar, Shawn Achor, who’s a Harvard researcher, he did a study, 21 day challenge, and it was only five things that people had to do, and one of those things that somebody had to do every day was write down three things that they were grateful for. Every morning, just three things that they were grateful for. And you’re right on that it does, it sparks us to think outside of … Try to be sad and grateful at the same time, it’s difficult to do.
Dava: I think it’s a great stress reliever for my agents, they’re running around, they’re getting beat up, different times of the day, and I always tell them, “Take a minute, think of something else that you’re grateful for.” And it just re-centers you and lets you go on, all healing, it’s super therapeutic.
Patrick: I totally agree with you. We’ll shift a bit, I’m just curious in regards to, we live in a social media world now, in terms of real estate, how has your business pivoted or moved based on social media, what things are you tapping into to continue to grow your business?
Dava: A great question, and it’s changing all the time. We use social media daily, not only to promote our listings, but also to try to connect with our client. For some agents, I’ll set goals, try to connect with five people a day for a certain amount of time on social media to grow your sphere, so there’re different ways you can do that. We, some secrets, can get to know a lot of people through Facebook, if we’re about to meet a client, so we can get to know what their interests are, so we can make sure we bring those up to develop a relationship that way. It’s a great way to connect with people that are past clients, because they can follow what we’re doing on social media, and still stay front of mind. So all kinds of different angles as far as, in a business sense we can target sponsored ads for certain properties to outside of Boston, if we think that’s where our target market will be, so it’s definitely a daily part of our life.
Patrick: In regards to social media, we’ve talked about podcasts and the rise in those, we’re talking on one right now, is there a particular podcast or two that you’re dialed into now, that you really enjoy?
Dava: I love NPR’s How I Built This.
Patrick: Nice. What do you like about that one?
Dava: I love hearing entrepreneur’s stories, and like Patrick had mentioned earlier, I don’t know if we were live then, but they always start with a challenge. I just love hearing the whole story, from their childhood until the conclusion of what they develop.
Patrick: Somebody wants to get into real estate, what would you tell them?
Dava: I would ask them why.
Patrick: What’s the right answer, do you think? What are you looking for as you hire somebody, that comes to you? Because it’s law of attraction, how do you decide who fits and who doesn’t?
Dava: Oh, that’s easy. I am looking for someone that is looking to do this for a long time, that’s looking to do it full-time, and who sees it as a form of service. I really don’t see being a real estate agent as a sales job, the sales part is in the first few minutes that you meet someone, and they learn to like and trust you, but the rest of it is servicing that client throughout the process. I’m really looking for people that want to offer that to someone, and that they get fulfilled by providing that level of service.
Patrick: I’m gonna take a step back to the triathlon stuff, because I know how difficult, I’m just a runner, I can only imagine the swimming and the biking combined all at the same time. What’s your best story in regards to triathlons?
Dava: I was doing the Lake Placid 2014 Ironman triathlon, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and then a marathon, 26.2 miles, and lightning struck the lake during the swim. Sirens went off, we were pulled out of the lake, I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, because I didn’t complete the swim, I was just about done, so I ran to my bike, it was pouring rain, thunder and lightning. I got on my bike, rode for 112 miles, didn’t even know if I was still qualified for this race or not. People were dropping out left and right, got to the run, the sun came out, it ended up being a beautiful day, and they did count it as a full triathlon, even though I missed a bit of the swim. But it was scary.
Patrick: Along those lines, how many times along the way are you like, “I don’t think I can do this”?
Dava: Many times, “I should just get off right now, this is ridiculous, why am I even doing this?” But somehow, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Patrick: Last question, if you were to part, what would be a book that you’d recommend to somebody that you’ve just read?
Dava: I’ve read this several times, A Slight Edge.
Patrick: A Slight Edge.
Dava: Have you read that?
Patrick: Who’s the author? No.
Dava: Oh Patrick, you’re gonna love it. Jeff Olson, a great book, the premise is doing, making small changes in your life in any aspect, but doing them repeatedly over time can make a huge change. So for a sales person, if you made that one extra call every day for six months, what would that look like to your business? If you gave your kiddo one extra hug and kiss every day, how much more love would they feel? Just doing small little changes over time to grow, great book.
Patrick: So obviously the title of this podcast is, as we talked about, Rise Above Your Best, it’s that idea of, you can do one more thing, what’s one more thing you can do to rise above your best wherever you are? A perfect segue and way to end this, so thank you so much, I really appreciate the time that you’ve spent. It’s great to watch all the success you have, and looking forward to continuing to watch it and share with it.
Dava: Thank you so much Patrick, this was so fun, I appreciate it.
Patrick: What a great conversation with Dava, I hope you were able to find inspiration and ideas in terms of how you can look at your own personal and professional career, and find ways to rise above your best.
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Special thanks to Dava Davin for joining me this week.