Ruth Darby: A Multirole Leader with Extensive Work Experience
Real estate has always been considered a male dominated sector, and is making progress towards acknowledging women participation, and moving towards that change. Over the years, the real estate sector has grown considerably. With the sector getting more organized, there has been increased global penetration into the local markets and increased service offerings. In this scenario, limiting the sector to only one section of the population, also curbs the available resources and talent base that is required to take the sector forward. The extension of companies and the need for talent, inspired the inclusion of more women into the segment. One such woman leader is Ruth Darby, Member at Keyser, who plays multiple roles at the company. As a broker, she represents both single location tenants and large global corporate accounts.
Ruth has over 21 years of comprehensive commercial real estate experience working with, national corporate clients, and single- and multi-location tenants and also oversees the sales side of the business as well as mentor of younger brokers and staff. “There are some days when all I do is read legal documents. Other days, when not completely booked with client or internal meetings, I’m reviewing client portfolios or touring sites in Phoenix or elsewhere. There’s never a dull moment,” says Ruth.
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between Insights Success and Ruth Darby:
What makes your organization a preferred choice of your clients over the competition?
Keyser is a commercial real estate firm who only represents tenants and occupiers of space, including leasing, purchasing, constructing, and disposing of facilities. Being a tenant-only firm frees our advisors from any conflicts of interest, which are unfortunately all too common in the commercial real estate industry. When a broker represents both sides of a deal, tenants often get the short end of the stick because the multi-deal relationship with the landlord/developer is too valuable for the broker to risk on a tenant’s one-off transaction. In other words, keeping landlord/developer clients happy, and agreeing to the terms they set, often means a steady stream of income to the broker representing them. This often causes tenants to receive poor lease terms and landlord-friendly agreements that do not serve their business’ best interests. With Keyser, a true tenant-only firm, there’s no question whose side your broker is on.
What is your idea of impactful leadership? What style of leadership do you personally prefer and have you implemented at your company?
Impactful leadership leans on the collective strengths of an organization’s people, empowering everyone to lean into and take ownership of the success of the company. Leadership is a collaborative process that isn’t given to you, it is something that you must earn. Personally, I believe that there isn’t enough importance put on listening, and as simple as that sounds, truly listening allows you to more clearly understand what is happening throughout your organization. It opens up the lines of communication within your organization and allows you to take the real pulse of how things are going. Most questions can be answered by simply allowing your team to communicate to you uninterrupted, thereby giving you all of the information needed to effectively solve the issue at hand. This also fosters a more collaborative working environment and typically, when someone feels heard they are happier and more productive because they feel they have a voice.
Taking into consideration the current pandemic and its impact on global economies, how are you driving Keyser to sustain operations accordingly?
The pandemic has certainly put business leaders in a tough situation, but it has also presented Keyser the opportunity to better serve our clients in their time of need. Because so many companies currently need money saving solutions, especially with regard to long-term commitments like commercial real estate, our client communications, negotiations, and streams of opportunity have not faltered, allowing us to thrive in these economic conditions.
According to you, what essential traits should an entrepreneur possess to thrive in the present-day cutthroat business ecosystem?
An entrepreneur should possess patience, perseverance, and a true desire to help people — it doesn’t need to be cutthroat to win.
What were the challenges you came across in your career as a business leader?
Finding balance where its hard-to-find balance. The commercial real estate industry is extremely competitive, and clients have very high expectations. Finding the balance between, personal life, family and work is a constant challenge, and you have to work at it daily.
The elephant in the room, being a woman in a male dominated industry. I used to think this was working against me but as the world evolves, I feel this actually works in my favor. Women tend to bring a different viewpoint and way of working to the table that clients appreciate.
Finding your hustle, no safety net. This is a fast moving, hard driving industry and it’s commission only, getting creative about how you enter this industry so that you can survive while building your business is imperative. Whether that means you have a weekend and evenings job or you start out in the Research department like I did, the struggle is totally worth it and this job while hard work, offers so much flexibility and opportunity.
What would be your advice to the upcoming entrepreneurs aspiring to enter the domain?
Expect to roll up your sleeves and work hard if you plan to work in commercial real estate. While technology has eased some of the ways that we do business, it still takes hustle and market knowledge and those two go hand in hand. There is no formula for figuring out what to do next, you have to get your hands dirty. Learn the markets, understand what your clients want, and listen to what they’re asking and saying. So many people miss that last step and it’s probably the most important.
What have you envisioned for your company’s future, in terms of expansion, introduction of new services, and talent acquisition?
Keyser is a rapidly growing company, and we are frequently adding new lines of business to better serve our clients. Through lease administration, project management, negotiating new space, or selling a business, we make sure that our clients are cared for. Although we have recently been adding talent like crazy, we don’t hire everyone who wants to work here. While we’re always looking to add the best and the brightest to our Keyser family, I would argue that the most important part of our hiring process is making sure that they’re a good fit into our culture of selfless service.