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The House That Raveis Built

William M. Raveis Real Estate Fortieth Anniversary

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Bill Raveis’ first business lesson came in the early 1970s while working as a systems analyst at Westinghouse. Little did corporate America know the impact it would have on the future of real estate in Connecticut and beyond.

For five years, Raveis had commuted from Fairfield to the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan. He was overseeing a team of programmers in building a technology system to link the company’s domestic and international divisions. When the project was completed, senior executives from around the world gathered at the old Biltmore Hotel to celebrate. “They said, ‘This is the greatest thing since sliced bread, we can ship product all over the place, it’s going to bring price-per-share earnings up,” he recalls. “The meeting went on for an hour and a half and not once was there any mention of me or the team that did it. I’m twenty-seven years old, I’ve gone to work almost every day for five years, including weekends, and I wasn’t even going to hear, ‘Thanks for the effort’?”    

At the time, he happened to be reading Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of the country’s 400 richest men and women and observed a common source of wealth: real estate. Around the same time, he remembered as a boy driving through Fairfield with his father, a mason and small contractor, and hearing him say, “I could have invested in this. I could have developed that.”

“Everything hit,” Raveis says. “The Forbes 400; the lack of recognition from Westinghouse; my father, who was my idol, saying, ‘I coulda, I shoulda.’ I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do it—I’m going to open my own company.” That the industry was real estate seemed secondary; primary were that the company would be his and that it would be founded on the principles of recognition and individual opportunity.

For the next six months, while continuing to commute, he would take the first train back to Fairfield—“I figured they owed me six months because of what I’d done for them”—and from a small office above Mecurio’s grocery store downtown began working listings in the local papers, offering to help owners sell their homes.

On his last day at Westinghouse, Raveis remembers his boss trying to talk him into staying by telling him he had the potential to make senior vice president by the time he was fifty. “I said, ‘I’m going to be president of my own company as of tomorrow,’ to which he replied, ‘Well, I can’t beat that,’ and I left.”

This March, William Raveis Real Estate marks its fortieth anniversary with a massive celebration at Mohegan Sun. There, some 1,800 of the firm’s 3,000 agents—from over ninety-five company-owned and affiliate offices in five states—will be recognized for jobs well done. Estimated sales for 2013: $7.6 billion.

Thanks in part to that early business lesson, recognition has been at the heart of the Fairfield native’s empire. And an empire it is: In 2012, William Raveis Real Estate was ranked the No. 1 family-owned real estate company in the Northeast and third in the country, and the eighth largest real estate company in the United States. Over the years, the Boston Business Journal and other media have ranked it “best place to work.”

But in growing the business from scratch, Bill Raveis had to forge a hard-learned lesson of his own: “Never let others determine your destiny.”

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