Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Diversity

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me spending time with close family and friends in Calgary, Alberta, Canada then Lake Louise in Alberta, Banff National Park and, lastly Vancouver. (I write this now while traveling on the Rocky Mountaineer, a train that runs from Banff to Vancouver.) It’s been an incredible few days spent among the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Canadian Rockies, and strangely, being outside of the country has made me think about the beauty and uniqueness of our own. What makes America so very special? My blog posts for the rest of the entire year could focus on this one question and not adequately provide an answer. Still, there is something that undoubtedly and singularly characterizes the United States, and it’s a quality not often seen with such pervasiveness in any other land: Diversity.

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, this word has become more than just a hot-button topic for us; diversity is a value we’ve woven into our core, foundational mission and vision. In the past few weeks, I’m proud to say we’ve made two serious steps in the arena of diversity: First, by naming an affiliate to our brokerage network, which must be one of the most diverse companies in California and second, by hiring Teresa Palacios Smith, our newly appointed vice president of Diversity & Inclusion.

The brokerage I allude to—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Real Estate in Sacramento, CA—is a stand-out, previously independent operation we’re proud to add to our network and I was honored to attend the brokerage launch last week. Elite Real Estate, led by Robert Do, brokerage president and CEO, and CFO Teresa Do, is an agent-centric company and poised for growth. “I believe that understanding where someone comes from is an important stage in creating a long-term, enduring relationship,” Robert Do said. “You have to do more than just give me a key to their house; you have to turn your clients into your friends and even family members.”

With Robert Do, Teresa Do and the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Real Estate in Sacramento, CA.

Do recounts one story of an agent who, upon request, visited a client in the hospital at midnight just because the client knew the agent spoke English and could help out in the process of communication with doctors. “That’s just how we’ve done business all these years,” he explained.

Himself an immigrant of Vietnam, Do traveled to America with his aunt in 1975, mere days after Saigon fell. He founded his brokerage in the late-1990s and ever since, has been sharply focused on fostering diversity and creating client connections that last. “Life changed when I had my first kid, just like life changed when I recruited my very first agent,” he said.

Speaking of change, our senior executive team just added a new VP in Teresa Palacios Smith, who came to her position from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties where she spent 22 dedicated years of service. Most recently, she was VP of Business Development & Cultural Initiatives for Georgia Properties and in 2015, was also the president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

“This new position is so natural for me,” she said. “Growing up as a Latina in Mississippi, I experienced the many challenges that immigrant families face and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when my husband and I bought our first home. I can’t wait to be able to play a role in expanding our network of agents, brokers and consumers to reflect the multicultural fabric that is the USA.”

So, what’s the message? As I sit here writing this post from the Canadian wilderness, I think the message for today is purely American. Robert Do said it best when he explained, “Diversity is the fabric that made America, so believe it or not, the more diverse we become the more of an all-American company we’ll be.”

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

3 responses to Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Diversity

  1. Thank you for being so focused on Diversity.
    Coming from a Latina background I can appreciate these efforts.

    Congratulations to Teresa Palacios Smith she has such a great energy & will be amazing in her new role.

    Also congrats to the Do’s – such a wonderful success story.

    Diversity is the backbone of America that I embrace.


  2. […] I started out at the Housing Renaissance, held at the Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego. The mission of the event is to gather top housing industry thought leaders, high-level executives, policy makers and leading entrepreneurs in order to discuss how best to create sustainable homeownership in the housing industry and how we can better serve a diverse housing market. (Read my thoughts on the importance of diversity here.) […]


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