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Michael Saunders
Vitals: Michael Saunders & Company

Years in business: 44
Size: 24 offices, 700 agents
Regions served: In Florida: Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte Counties, including all barrier islands from Anna Maria to Boca Grande

Early in her career, Michael Saunders was a teacher who counseled troubled children, and her mission was always to help people get in touch with their strengths and talents, to set goals and be all that they could be.

She discovered that real estate afforded her that opportunity.

For the past four decades, she has had a great deal of success upon founding and leading her namesake firm, Michael Saunders & Company, servicing Florida’s Gulf Coast with a network of 700 agents in 24 offices. Headquartered in Sarasota, Fla., the firm provides a comprehensive range of real estate services in the Southwest Florida marketplace, and Saunders relies on her years of experience to ensure clients get a first-class experience every step of the way.

How important is it to support women and women leaders throughout the industry?
Michael Saunders: “Leaders” is the important word for me. I have found that over the years, the marks of a good leader are to be resilient, to have passion for what you do and to have vision—and through it all, have humility and self-confidence. Those are all things that I had to develop at the beginning, as there were not a lot of women mentors in my early days. I think mentorship is very important, and I try in any way I can to support leaders. I’ve watched women become amazing leaders over my 45 years in this industry, which is very heartwarming.

What steps have you taken to bring more women into the field?
I’ve done more to bring men into the field because when I first started, there were more female salespeople than there were men. But what I did was support women who wanted to look at it as a full-time profession.

Why is real estate a good career choice for women?
MS: I think it’s one of the few industries where women can be independent contractors, running their own business under the umbrella of a great brand. It’s teaching women entrepreneurial skills as well as being proud of the career they have chosen.

Let’s discuss how the firm fared through 2020 and the pandemic. 
MS: We have gotten through falling off a cliff, but I am looking toward the future. There was no roadmap for what happened with COVID; we just shut down. Fortunately, I have an incredible team, and we had to create our own roadmap to endure. It was a difficult time to get through, but with a strong team of leaders, we came up with a way to support our agents.

What are you seeing in the Gulf Coast market? 
MS: From late May on, our market has been unbelievably strong. The only thing keeping us back is a lack of inventory. We’re planning for a very strong 2021.

How does that impact your strategy for the year ahead? 
MS: Our growth strategy going into a tight inventory market centers around agents becoming the best knowledge brokers they can be. Not only does the company support this, but we’re also looking at strengthening our suite of offerings to agents in the form of good, solid technology solutions. We are also focusing on agent development. We are staying open for opportunity, and we are ready to grow.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? 
MS: Never give up. And also, always be a curious learner.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.