This next installment of The Female Founders series on Union Street Media’s YouTube channel features Helen Hanna Casey, CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the third largest real estate company in the United States, and the largest that is privately owned. Howard Hanna Real Estate Services was established in 1957 and now has over 12,000 agents, due in large part to Helen Hanna Casey’s trailblazing leadership. Click the video above to view the full interview.  

Helen Hanna Casey decided to join her parent’s company, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, after graduating from college. Noting the significance of joining the company as a woman, Hanna Casey says that’s what made the company stand out in the industry at the time. “My dad hired women in the 50s when most people didn’t and that made a big difference,” she reflects, adding, “I think it made a big difference to us seeing what the future was going to be for the business.” In fact, she wouldn’t know it then, but the first company Howard Hanna Real Estate Services would purchase would be woman-owned. “A lot of women have chosen to be partnered with us throughout the years,” says Hanna Casey, including most recently, Marsha Rand of Rand Realty.

With the help of their parents, Helen Hanna Casey and her siblings grew Howard Hanna Real Estate Services on the philosophy that if they can’t sell an idea, they shouldn’t do it. She and her siblings lean on each other to make informed decisions for the business, but only if everyone is on the same page. “We’ve never had outside investors, we’ve never had outside partners,” notes Hanna Casey, and they never vote on anything. “We’ve always considered ourselves to be great salespeople,” she says, “so if we can’t sell people on our idea, then we shouldn’t do it.” Hanna Casey also attributes their success to who they are as a company; valuing progressiveness, innovation, and “that human touch that keeps the relationships with people.” 

When asked about what makes a great leader, Hanna Casey says that it’s “confidence in themselves first.” She continues on to say “if you can’t get up every day and believe you’re the best there is, nobody else is going to believe it.” She also believes that a great leader has to constantly be thinking of what’s next for the company and how the past, present, and future impacts them. 

“Compassion and empathy also are incredibly important for leaders, especially in our business.”

– Helen Hanna Casey

Expanding upon what makes a great leader, Hanna Casey says, “I’m a big believer in accountability.” She studies data for agents and offices, comparing statistics from up to three years ago to identify trends and how they match up with her key accountability metrics. Hanna Casey also finds value in continuously reading and looking for mentors in the business world. “I don’t think mentors are just people in our business,” she explains, adding, “I think at my age you still have to look at mentors.” She goes on to note the importance of getting information from multiple sources and seeking other perspectives. “It’s not reading that same story five times, it’s reading five different stories on different sides,” says Hanna Casey.   

Touching on adopting new business models, Hanna Casey notes that they’re like “having new agents.” While new models can greatly enhance a company, she says that “you don’t have to throw everything out because there’s a new model there.” Seeing where different components can fit is “no different than innovation.” 

“Innovation doesn’t mean you have to invent it. It just means you have to be innovative enough to say ‘this is something that we need.’”

– Helen Hanna Casey

Helen Hanna Casey would know. She’s been recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Real Estate by INMAN News and the Most Powerful Woman in Real Estate by the Swanepoel Power 200 report, among other accolades. She’s modest though, and talks about the importance of surrounding yourself with talented people. “Today we all have to have other people with us who bring skills that we hadn’t necessarily ever developed who are brighter than we are,” Hanna Casey says. Whether it’s your IT department, marketing, or outside partners, “you have to rely on them being able to bring things to you” and focus on what you’re best at.

Hanna Casey has always loved learning and trying new things, which she credits to her father. “We have always been incredibly innovative. We’ve always been looking at the next big thing,” she says. “We joke that we got our technology idea from my father who had a polaroid camera in 1957 and took pictures of these houses,” Hanna Casey adds. “But [he] also was innovative in how he treated his agents, how he paid his agents –  all of those programs that he built the beginning part of the company on, we were able to grow on that.”

Looking back on the start of her career, Hanna Casey says the advice she would give herself is “you have to believe that you’re the best that there is.” She also admits that she wasted time “not really focusing on the business that was around me.” Hanna Casey goes on to explain that you’ll get better business from a friend or neighbor than a stranger, and she spends a lot of time now strengthening the relationships she already has. “We need to work for that, we need to work for our own family and our own clients. That’s what our business is about.” 

You can learn more about Helen Hanna Casey and Howard Hanna Real Estate Services on their website:

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