5: Eden Elder
I believe that education is truly the foundation of everything in life. Human beings are never done, or at least should never be done, learning.
About This Episode
Born in the Netherlands, Eden Elder has been in the US for over twenty years. She used to work in corporate America, but got bored of the lack of humanity and turned to real estate to fulfill her. She balances her career with raising five kids, and makes giving back a key part of her business model.
This episode covers how to stay sane in a turbulent business climate, and why it's so important to write a well-crafted business plan. Eden emphasizes being yourself through every step of your career.
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JON: Hello and welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I'm Jon Forisha and today my guest is Eden Elder, licensed broker with Equity Colorado real estate working in the Denver Metro area.
JON: Eden, thanks for joining me.
EDEN: Hi Jon. Thank you for having me.
JON: Yeah, absolutely. So let's start with just talking about your background a little bit. How did you come into real estate?
EDEN: I am a retired chief executive from corporate America. I've been in IT and HR and strategy and I've definitely become more and more frustrated over the years with a lack of customer service and the lack of people care in general, you know, as well as with the inability to change this even at the highest level. And this frustration partly led to my decision to retire, as well as the ages of my children. My husband and I raised five of them and they need me home but I am not very good at sitting at home. And so I decided that a secondary career in real estate could provide me with the flexibility I needed while at the same time being able to do me, you know, offering the very highest levels of customer service and caring deeply and genuinely about people without worrying about the bottom line.
JON: And what was the draw of real estate for you?
EDEN: Well, it's a sales job, right? And I can sell, and it's also a relationship business. And I enjoy building relationships very much. So actually it can be challenging, which keeps me from being bored, but at the same time, it's not brain surgery. So to sum it up, it's easy, it's fun, it's different every day. It keeps me engaged and I like that.
JON: So you mentioned the lack of people care in the corporate world. What do you mean by that?
EDEN: So in the corporate world, in the end, Jon, it's all about the bottom line. And even when companies say right in their statements on their website that we care about people and it's all about people, it really still isn't done as far as the chief HR officer and have my last few jobs. It was heartbreaking to realize that even at that level I was not allowed to make the changes that were necessary to really care about our people and it just bothered me.
JON: And how do you bring that into your real estate business?
EDEN: Well I can be me? Right? And I am about people. It's not so much when I was younger, I think, you know, I'm approaching the big five-o and my priorities have changed all around. And so when I was younger, I was only interested in climbing the corporate ladder to see what I could do for myself. Now my priorities have changed altogether. And I'm thinking about that, you know, that second part of life and what legacy am I going to leave behind? And when you think about it, really the only thing that matters is relationships. It's connecting with people. So I hope that that shows in my real estate transactions.
JON: Yeah, that's great. So how did your personal history of investing in and buying real estate factor into your decision to enter the industry?
EDEN: Yeah, absolutely. I can truly say I've been there, I've done that. I've bought many houses, I've sold many houses, I've been a landlord and I hate to say it, but I've been a slum lord too. I've done it all. I think my personal experiences allow me to relate to my clients and mentor them through the process. I also think it makes it easier, right, to be that trusted resource for your clients. When I first started investing in real estate, I trusted all of my realtors, you know, they knew so much and I knew nothing. I really needed to trust them and rely on them to make sound financial decisions for myself. And as the years passed and the amount of real estate transactions increased, it started occurring to me that I could probably do this, you know, maybe myself. And so here I am.
JON: So do you think that your previous careers gave you any kind of advantage in real estate?
EDEN: Sure. I think we owe it to ourselves to learn valuable lessons from every experience we have in life and previous careers are obviously good examples for learning these lessons. Besides having learned technical skills and also important problem solving and decision making skills. And I've learned a lot about legally binding contracts by the way, when I was doing corporate mergers and acquisitions, I have really had the opportunity to deeply immerse myself in everything. My educational background is in industrial organizational psychology, so business psychology basically, and even business psychology is all about people, how they act and interact, how they create visible and invisible organizational structures that then impact and affect others. But in the end it all comes down to peoples' needs or belief in what their needs are and their wants and their wishes and it's about how they go about getting those needs and wants and wishes fulfilled. And I think that's essentially what makes people tick. And you see that very clearly in real estate transactions. When you consider, Jon, that the purchase of a house is likely one of the biggest financial investments people make in a lifetime, you will see that nervous energy and then the human behaviors that go along with that really come out in a very big way sometimes. So, to go back to your question. I think that having studied human behaviors my whole life and having honed those people skills, especially during the times that I was a chief people officer and the chief human resources officer, yeah, I think it's fair to say that I do feel I have an advantage in that area.
JON: In your previous careers, how did you know when it was time for a change?
EDEN: Well, I've never stayed or intended to stay in a job for more than five years. As a matter of fact, I would announce on day one of a new job, I would come in and say, Hey, my name is Eden Elder and I'm going to be here with you for the next five years.
JON: How would they react to that?
EDEN: Very, very surprised. But, I know myself very well and I get bored very, very easily and I've always needed constant challenges, but as I've gotten older, like I said before, my priorities have changed and I'm done climbing corporate ladders. I don't need to prove anything to anyone ever again as far as I'm concerned. And right now I simply want to be an outstanding mother to my children. And as cheesy as it sounds, I just want to be an outstanding citizen. The one thing that has always frustrated me in corporate is that no matter how you spin it, it's never about people and it's only about money and at this point in my life, I just don't relate to that. So to me now it's only about relationships. It's only about people and the way you treat them and help guide them in areas where you might be an expert and they might need your help. Simple as that. It's the easiest way for me to feel good about doing good in the world in my own small way.
JON: You mentioned it a little bit that you do have a few advanced degrees and then of course getting into real estate, there's all that education you had to go through. Why do you think education is important? You've obviously spent a lot of time learning things.
EDEN: Yes, yes, I have. I think education is truly the foundation of everything in life. I've always enjoyed learning and my degrees have many times been the stepping stone that I needed or wanted for my career. And again, now that I'm older, I'm not solely hung up on academics anymore like I used to. Now I more clearly see the holistic balance of education with both academics as well as street smarts and emotional intelligence. And I think they're equal parts of this great gift that is education, right? That is personal growth. I love educating others and I love being educated by others. Yeah, the education is definitely very important to me. And human beings are never done or at least should never be done learning. I think learning is what makes the world go round.
JON: So how do you carry that into your new career?
EDEN: So how do I carry the importance of education in my career as a realtor? Well I started by selecting The CE Shop to educate me about everything real estate and that was a great experience for me and I have since attended numerous continuous education programs and I will continue to do so. Real estate, as you know, is an ever changing dynamic and fluent occupation and if I don't keep up with it and all the changes in it, I won't be able to serve my clients properly. Right. So it would defeat the purpose of what I set out to do.
JON: What role do you think designations play in developing your business?
EDEN: Designations and certifications acknowledge the experience and the expertise in various real estate sectors. Right? So they also show your clients that you're very serious about your occupation, so they demonstrate your commitment to your own professional development and ultimately to your customer service. So I'm a big fan of designations. It focuses on my specialties which will attract the type of clients that need what I can give them. And in my case, that's luxury real estate. I will help anyone sell or buy a house, but my specialty is definitely the higher end properties.
JON: And how did you figure out that specialty for yourself?
EDEN: You know, it truly is a personal preference. I get a lot more excited by a nice modern, or traditional house, for that matter. But upgraded houses. Right. I enjoy that. I try to do that in my own house.
JON: It certainly makes your job easier to sell a house when it's already beautiful when you come into it as opposed to, we need to stage this, hide all your stuff.
EDEN: You know what it absolutely is. And from my own experience, I have a lot more experience with houses that are kind of move in ready and that have all the luxuries rather than trying to figure out, you know, what is hiding behind this door. When I may never have seen what's hiding behind that door before. And suddenly I can't relate.
JON: Yeah, exactly. So how do you think real estate helps to build a sense of community?
EDEN: While it literally builds community, right, and it figuratively builds community by connecting people to their needs and wants and wishes. You know, personally, real estate is a way for me to give back to the community. A percentage of my professional fees goes to a good cause or I let my clients choose a charity of their choice and I make a donation in their name and I do that with every single transaction as a realtor. You're known in many communities and we have ample opportunities to show our appreciation for working in these communities and I think you can do that by both giving back and by making meaningful connections for people and with people.
JON: So going back to something you said before about wanting to spend more time with your kids, more time raising your kids. How do you stay sane, maintaining a career while raising five kids?
EDEN: Well, I think working in real estate has made balancing that home life and work life a whole lot easier. For me. My last job as the chief human resources officer had me living on the east coast 75 percent of the time. I was hardly ever at home, but now I'm at home with my children every day or every evening and I can help them with homework. I can have a real meaningful conversation with my 11 year old at 3:00 in the afternoon if need be and I can tuck the kids in at night. And that's important to me. I am the type of person who goes insane by doing nothing. So it's really not that hard for me. And besides, I choose to believe that I'm setting a good example for my children, showing them the importance of balancing family and friends, doing volunteer work versus paid work. Like helping people make real estate decisions and also taking care of myself. I think it's really good for my to see that.
JON: Do you miss corporate life? Doesn't seem like it.
EDEN: Not at all.
JON: So what do your kids think about you working in real estate?
EDEN: Well, you know, my kids really only need two things from me or so it feels. The older ones need money and they come back for money and the younger ones just need my time. And my attention and my being in the presence with them, so being in real estate really allows me to do that and keep both those age groups happy. And so they're cool with it.
JON: If you could go back to the beginning of your career, uh, I know you haven't been in real estate very long, but maybe the beginning of are any of your careers, what is one thing you would have done differently?
EDEN: Well, and I can actually talk about the real estate career because I already made a big mistake and I wish I would've done that differently, but, um, you know, I've always preached about creating a solid strategic plan, you know, very corporate and then sticking to it. But I did make my corporate, my own business, a strategic plan. And I set out to stick to it. But I did make the mistake of falling into the trap of deviating from my marketing plan and that was based on the massive amount of calls and emails I receive from people trying to sell me leads or advertisements. So my marketing plan clearly describes my intent to focus on my sphere of influence. Right? And yet I ended up spending money and wasting time trying out other ways of getting leads. And I'm not saying that those other ways were better or worse, I'm just saying I didn't set out to take those ways. So I deviated from my script and you know what? I got distracted and I think I wasted quite a bit of time. So in the end it wasn't a huge deal, especially since I just allowed myself to dip my toes in the water and not get sucked all the way in. But I still believe that it has cost me a little bit of business.
JON: So your advice would be make a plan and actually stick to it.
EDEN: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And that goes back to the 30 years that I spent in the workforce. Just you know, you create a plan, you stick to it, you need to be agile enough to make changes based on, you know, the market conditions or whatever else may happen, but if you put a lot of effort into the beginning and to the creation of the plan, then life should be easy, right? Because then all you have to do is check your balances and kind of make it happen.
JON: How'd you go about making the business plan? Did you know from the beginning you wanted to focus on luxury real estate?
EDEN: No, that actually came naturally to me because when I look at my sphere of influence and all the people around me in the last 20 or 30 or so years of my life and my career, they've always been executives. And so I've been to their houses, I've seen what I liked. I strive to be there myself. I got there and so now it felt really natural for me to focus on the luxury real estate.
JON: That makes sense. So I know that English isn't your first language.
EDEN: Yeah. Can you hear the accent?
JON: Can you tell me a little bit about where you grew up?
EDEN: Yeah, absolutely. I was born and raised in the Netherlands or Holland as most people call it and I came to the United States for educational purposes. I had a master's degree in the Netherlands and I wanted to try out something else and so I did get a phD here in the United States and I never meant to actually stay here. I had always planned to go back, but I fell in love with this country and with the people and every year I decided I can stick around for another year. And then before you know it, you're settled and you have a husband and five kids and a couple of dogs and yeah, you'll never go back. But yeah, I grew up in Europe.
JON: So how did you end up in Denver? How did you come to Colorado?
EDEN: That's a good question. So I spent a fair amount of my US life on the east coast and then actually. So here's kind of a funny story. I was in consulting in the first part of my career and we worked on commission and I made a lot of money. I was a really good salesperson and so I was able to retire when I was close to 30, I think I was 29 years old. And I decided to move to Prescott, Arizona of all places in the world. Back then, it was truly a slice of heaven and I decided I was going to spend a few years just hanging out on my porch, and I'm looking at the pine trees and taking it all in and looking at hummingbirds everyday. I went through that phase where you want to find yourself and you want to find out, you know, what is life all about and why are we here and all that good stuff. So I did that for a few years and I can honestly say I did figure it out to the point where I feel good about the answers, right. And I fully accepted myself and my role in this world and this is before children. But then the boredom started hitting me really hard. So I decided to go back to work and I just couldn't find anything exciting in Arizona, but I did see some jobs that I really liked in Denver. And so I packed up and moved to Denver. And at that point I got into private education, which was great. Great for learning lessons about what you don't want in life. Right. So I quickly moved on from that, but yeah, it's definitely been a fun 25 or so years in the States.
JON: Denver's real estate market has been crazy the past few years, it's been one of the hottest in the country. How much did that factor into your decision to get into the industry?
EDEN: You know what, as weird as this sounds, it didn't factor in at all. Really not at all because I wasn't doing it for the money anymore. I'm not. I just wanted to find something that would allow me to have fun and be truly good to people and partner with them. My slogan is realtor Eden your partner in real estate. Right? In that partnering, that partnering is very important to me because that's where I can counter everything that bothered me so much in corporate and showcase what I find of value. Right? Which is to really listen to people to understand their needs and also to kind of gently and passionately, but very truthfully, set them straight when they have ideas that are just not going to work or that are not going to get them that dream house. Also given that I'm Dutch, I think my background and people notice about the Dutch, we are very, we're direct and we don't dance very well. We just give it to you straight. And I found that I've had to soften that up a little bit. That was slapped out of me very early on and I was told by a very wonderful mentor that if I wanted to make it in corporate America, I had to learn to dance a little bit. So I slowly learned to dance, but I realized that people really like and appreciate that honesty as brutal as sometimes it is, right? Because you may not like the answer, when you ask a question but I'll give it to you straight, but I do it because I care, I don't want you to buy a house with blindfolds on, I want to make sure you go in well prepared and that's where I come in. But some people can handle it and some can't. But I always do it with a smile on my face and hopefully with, you know, as genuine heart as you know, as you can recognize in me.
JON: So you mentioned a little bit about how you make it a core part of your business to give back. Why is it so important?
EDEN: You know, I have lived a very privileged life, right? And I had some point, again, I just recognized my friends, my sphere of influence, the people I surround myself with and even the little friends of my kids in school, they are still among the top one percent in the world and that's not real life. And so I have traveled very extensively. Very extensively all over the world. And it opens your eyes to what life is really about for most people. Right? And so it occurred to me that it's wrong. It's just so wrong to have all of what we have and live such an easy life, if you think about it without giving back to the people who just don't have chances in life, they don't have opportunities. And so I find it very important to help them. I do open my door to every person that knocks and I invite them in and I let them talk and I tell them it's not always been that easy for me. I've struggled to work, and that's not what life is all about. Life is about how you handle the struggles that are served to you. Right? And so that is what I try to teach others. But yeah, giving back is super important to me. And again, trying to set that example for my children, right? Because it irritates me sometimes when I look at my children or I hear them talk how self centered they are and how they go through life with this self entitlement, that entitlement. And it makes me angry because I don't believe in entitlement. I didn't get where I got today because I sat on my butt all day long. I mean, I worked for it really hard and I pushed myself, but I recognize that even when you have that mindset and even when that's what you want to do, some people still don't get the opportunities to go there. And that's a disconnect. So that's where I want to help.
JON: That's great. Okay, that's a great note to end on. So we'll stop there. Thank you for joining me.
EDEN: Thank you so much for having me. It was fun.