Larry Rideout of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty

We Spoke to Larry Rideout of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty on How to Rebuild in the Post COVID Economy

As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Rideout.

Larry Rideout, Chairman and Co-Owner of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, has more than three decades of experience in building and growing real estate franchises throughout New England.

Rideout began his career as a real estate agent in 1984. Having emerged as a respected leader, he was selected to manage four Century21 offices. His success locally led to a consulting position and eventually to his post as Regional Director of New England, where he supervised 400 Century 21 offices.

In 1999, Rideout joined the Cendant Corporation (now Realogy), the parent company of ERA, Coldwell Banker, Century21 and Sotheby’s International Realty, as Regional Vice President of Franchise Business Development. There, he sought new franchise opportunities for the Century21 and Coldwell Banker brands. In 2003, he was promoted to Senior Vice President of Franchise Business Development for the North East and North Central regions. He and his 28-person team were responsible for growing the brand presence for ERA, Coldwell Banker and Century21.

In 2006, Rideout purchased Gibson Domain, what today is known as Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. Under the determination and leadership of Rideout and his longtime friend and business partner, Paul McGann, the firm overcame the hardships of The Great Recession and came back stronger than ever, growing from 80 agents and 3 offices to approximately 300 agents and 22 offices across Eastern Massachusetts, Today, the company is the #1 ranked Boston-based real estate company in the state of Massachusetts, serving markets across Boston, Greater Boston, the MetroWest, North Shore, South Shore, and Cape Cod.

Rideout is a Director at the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, President of the Woburn Public Library Foundation, a Director of the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS®, the Commissioner of the Woburn Housing Authority, and is a member of the Woburn Host Lions International Club. Rideout is continuously involved in an array of local charities both independently and for company-wide initiatives. He and his wife of more than 30 years have four daughters and reside in the town of Woburn, Massachusetts.

To learn more about Larry, watch his brief biography film here.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I came into real estate from a different direction than most. Prior to real estate, I worked in the trucking industry, and the work ethic for me was grown there. I then started out as a real estate agent for several years and later joined the management team of a multi-office franchise. In 1999, I joined the Cendant Corporation now Realogy, the parent company of ERA, Coldwell Banker, Century21 and Sotheby’s International Realty, as Regional Vice President of Franchise Business Development. I worked in that role for 11 years until ultimately becoming a Senior Vice President of Franchise Business Development. In 2006, my business partner Paul McGann and I purchased Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, which was established in Boston’s South End neighborhood in 1962.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Three team members and I once initiated a conference call with a particularly tough client. We got his voicemail and each of us thought the other had disconnected the call. We began to joke about how tough he was, and after a few minutes, there was a beep and a voice asked us if we approved this message. Luckily, we didn’t hang up and were able to delete the message and start over. I still get a shiver when I think of that story. Hopefully reading this helps others avoid similar blunders!

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?

I have read many books about leadership over the years, but the one that had the most impact on me when I was starting out was Marketing Warfare by Al Ries and Jack Trout. It still resonates with me today.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?

Our vision was to bring the concept of “White Glove Service” to Eastern Massachusetts by providing a level of support and service to who we see as our clients: our Sales Associates. If we take the bulk of what slows them down from doing what they do best — list and sell — they can serve their clients that much better. From our senior leadership to every member of every department in our company, the employees we staff are experts in their professions, all devoted to supporting our agents and clients with the most exceptional level of service. We also wanted an image that represented the best in the industry. That is why we chose the Sotheby’s International Realty brand for our banner. We built our Marketing and Leadership teams around the prestige of that brand. Agents should have the tools they need to succeed to the next level, and we have the support, marketing and global network to prepare our sales associates for just that.

Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?

We must always have a long-term vision and not be swayed by short-term circumstances. Our industry will always have business models that are innovative. If your plan is working, there is no need to change course, but to make the necessary adjustments. I have learned that when sailing, the quickest route is not necessarily a straight line.

Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

This pandemic has tested the fabric of everyday Americans and those around the world. We have needed to make adjustments unheard of in our everyday lives. The dark side is that we have lost a family member to this virus and had another battle it through to good health. In every crisis though, there are silver linings. We need to make an effort to find them, particularly in times like these. Personally, I believe my family has become closer. Not being able to hug my daughters and grandchildren was tough, but we have found new, creative ways to communicate and visit that fill that need. The self-isolation has caused us all to realize the connection we’ve been missing. Sitting in my backyard, I wonder why I had never done this before. We will definitely come out of this different and hopefully stronger than we were before.

Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

What is clear above all is that business leaders are facing new and unanticipated challenges daily. We all were caught off-guard by the speed of change that occurred. With a professional crisis management plan in place — one that addresses employee well-being, brand reputation, finance management and unforeseen legal issues that the crisis might trigger — my leadership team and I went into overdrive to continue to support our associates. We now have incredible virtual tools and resources in play that we hope give our associates and clients what they need to succeed — everything from virtual listing presentations and open houses to digital marketing and electronic closings. None of this would have been possible if our associates didn’t embrace these changes.

Unfortunately, I’m not new to financial crises. When the recession hit in 2008, our associates helped us come out stronger on the other side. I am always proud of my team, but never more so than now. They have all been adaptable and eager to perform optimally while the odds are stacked against them. We truly are all in this together.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I have begun walking every day. I find people more ready to say hello than ever before. I also see people who are consumed by what is happening. It would be great if we all could appreciate where we are mentally and accept that not everyone processes stress in the same way. The news cycle features the negative of our world. Mentally it’s been quite overwhelming, and I am not sure that is going to change. We need the information on our state and local levels, but beyond that we should take a pass.

Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?

In our industry, people will always need to move, relocate, and downsize. I believe our growth toward virtual and digital platforms will make the home buying and selling experience even better for our clients. The pandemic is going to cause a cultural shift from urban to suburban real estate markets demographically. However, there will continue to be lots of people who are drawn to the cultural amenities offered by our cities. Local vacation homes may become more solid alternatives to traveling abroad. Mortgages will still be at attractive rates. There are many positive factors moving forward. This is the time to encourage innovation within our teams. The only variable is how quickly we can reach our new normal. Time will give us that answer.

How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?

I believe that social distancing will become our new normal. I also believe that seasonally, masks will be a part of our attire. We all have come to realize that good health is not guaranteed and needs to be consistently monitored and appreciated. That will be foremost in our minds whenever we gather together. This slowing down has also caused communities to come together to help those in need. That is another silver lining and something I’ll work to help continue even after the impacts of the virus dissipate.

Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?

In the wake of the pandemic, I think the smart way to reboot a business is by thinking and acting in steps: virtualization marketing and sales strategies, using scientific information to determine when people can return to offices, and grounding it all in emotional, rational and inspirational leadership communication. Doubling down on empathy is key as we deal with these challenges. I also believe there will be some growth opportunities for the companies that have shown supportive leadership. Companies are living through a challenging time, economically and financially. Many will be considering whether or not to continue or if it might be time to be acquired. It is a moment for all of us to grow or consolidate. Strategically, offices may not be as necessary given the new virtual and digital environment. It will be an interesting time.

Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?

Embrace the silver linings. Make decisions based on where you presently are and where you want to be. Remember this forced slow down and allow yourself to enjoy more of what is around you. And wash your hands!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The best is yet to be.”

I first heard it when I was still trying to figure out my direction in life and I have always held that as my mantra when times get challenging. You are in control of your destiny.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I am an old war horse, but I’m very active on social media. I’m never afraid to show off our team’s accomplishments. We consider our team our family and we treat them that way. I also am not afraid to show my love for my own Rideout family: my wife, daughters and sons-in-law, grandchildren, and Gibson, our golden retriever. You would get to know me very well if you followed me on Instagram (@larryrideout).