When Glenn “Chip” Gardner and Crystal Gardner got out of college, their father Glenn Gardner, president of GARDNER REALTORS®, a fourth-generation family real estate business, encouraged them to stretch their wings and fly. Crystal got a job in New York City with Gucci, then later represented a line of different designers to help market their clothing lines. Chip earned his MBA and went to work for Duff & Phelps for five years in Houston, appraising real estate holdings for Fortune 500 companies.
Founded by Gertrude Gardner, a “Grande Dame of Real Estate,” in 1943, GARDNER REALTORS® now serves Louisiana’s metro New Orleans and greater Baton Rouge areas, as well as southern Mississippi. Glenn joined the firm in 1979. Earlier, Glenn’s father was president of the company until his untimely death in 1963. Chip joined the family business in 2011, and Crystal the following year. Chip joined as the director of special initiatives, and later was promoted to vice president of special initiatives. Crystal began handling social media marketing for the firm, and later became the marketing director, and has revamped the company’s marketing strategies in the digital and social media space.
Jason Waugh was licensed and selling real estate in his father, Bert Waugh’s company, then Prudential Northwest Properties in Portland, Ore., while he was still in college. But he went on to law school and pursued a career in sports management before deciding the time was right to put his experience to work for the family firm in 2005. Today, as president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Properties, he is responsible for the company’s continued success.
“I respect my father enormously and I count on his wisdom and business savvy,” says Waugh. “But the hard decisions now rest with me, and one of my first acts as president was to sell the company to BHHS when Prudential was divesting its real estate interests.”
Christy Budnick, now executive vice president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty, began her career in the banking and mortgage industries, where she specialized in sales and leadership training.
“For most of my life, I’d watched my mother, Linda Sherrer, build Florida Network Realty into a premier Northeast Florida provider,” Budnick says. “But it wasn’t until she challenged me to use my experience to help turn around a low-producing office that I decided to come into the company. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Different Styles, Same Values
For Danny Joyner, the key to success for his family’s firm has been staying true to the company’s values. “You never want to change the culture. Our firm has a strong, family-oriented atmosphere, based on honesty, integrity, good faith and the golden rule.”
Drayton Saunders says that his tactics and his mother’s differ widely, but their end results almost always align. “Should we open a new office? Invest in a new technology platform? Deciding how we might proceed tactically is where we have our most vigorous debates,” he says.
Glenn Gardner notes that even as the new generation has come into the business, they’ve stayed true to his mother Gertrude’s success principles. “The main one was follow the golden rule. Treat other people with kindness and respect and courtesy and friendship the way you’d like to be treated.”
He notes that the way young people like to communicate is very different than his generation, which has taken some getting used to. “They like to send emails and text messages. I prefer face-to-face or to pick up the phone.”
James Weichert adds, “The younger generation brings a fresh perspective and helps the older generation see things in new ways. We are always mutually respectful of one another and mindful of how our actions can affect the other due to the personal nature of our relationship.”
The Ups and Downs of Togetherness
Crystal Gardner notes that the family-run business is both rewarding and challenging. “We all know that we care equally about the business,” she says. “But it’s not just a business. It’s part of us.”
Coach’s LP Finn concurs. “Since our desks are all within 15 feet of each other, we confer informally all the time, and to an extent, our roles can be somewhat interchangeable. If one of us can’t get to an office or a meeting, there’s always someone to cover. And there’s not much need for extensive follow-up because we know we’re all working with common goals and strategies.”
That common outlook is especially meaningful, agrees Linda Sherrer. “Christy and I make decisions together daily based on our own perspectives,” she says. “But there’s a special fulfillment in sharing your passion with someone you know and love—and special joy in realizing that your child has earned in her own right the respect and admiration of others.”
If there are downsides, they seem to center on the fact that family businesses often follow you home.
“It’s hard to find the on-off switch,” LP Finn admits. “Too often, even at the dinner table, business is the topic of conversation.”