Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan is the president of Stribling & Associates.
Describe what you do in one sentence: I oversee the daily brokerage of Stribling & Associates, whether that be helping to negotiate, hiring a new agent or mediate a potential issue.
Degree, school: College of the Holy Cross, B.A. in theology – comparative world religions
Location: New York
Social media: Twitter
What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why?
It’s a tie between fishing and cooking! I find both extremely cathartic. They allow me to be in a peaceful zone and block out the stresses of daily personal and work life. I try to tie every vacation into fishing, whether I am in Idaho fly-fishing for trout or Indonesia on a deep-sea boat.
And cooking has always been a part of my life. My mother is classically trained, and she had me chopping onions and flambéing at a young age. I love making elaborate meals that take all day. I make a mean Grand Marnier soufflé, and on the simpler side, I think my mashed potatoes are some of the best in the world.
What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why?
This is a hard question to answer. At times, the answer would have been “Absalom, Absalom” by William Faulkner, but now I am partial to Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” These books play to a youthful and intriguing way of viewing the world and the objects around us. I have always been partial to books and art that challenge the reader or viewer to decipher what is reality and what is fiction and how that differs depending on the person. Alice always reminded me of myself as a child. I was a precious blond child who was always curious and wanting to know why or when or what. In reality, I am still quite like Alice … but the blond has long since faded and the curiosity has not.
Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?
Not at all! My mother, Elizabeth F. Stribling, founded our company, Stribling & Associates, when I was 10 months old. I grew up watching my mother grow a company of eight agents into what is now 305-plus. This experience showed me that with hard work, trust and determination and honesty, one can create a business with a stellar reputation and great successes. I couldn’t be more proud of what she accomplished, yet she never missed one school play or lacrosse game. I inherited her work ethic and that drives me each and every day.
Why’d you decide to join your company?
After a brief stint in culinary school in San Francisco at the age of 22, I was left with a conundrum of what to do while my lease ran out. After two decades of insisting I would never work in real estate, I was put in touch with a friend of my mother’s, Anita Head, in hopes of getting a part-time job. I was placed with one of the top agents in San Francisco, Mary Lou Castellanos, as her assistant. One hour into the job, I knew I had been fooling myself all those years, and I knew real estate was for me. So 18 months later, I returned to New York with some experience under my belt and joined Stribling as a sales agent. It’s funny how all those years the answer was right in front of me and I just didn’t want to see it.
Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company. How did you bounce back?
Right before the announcement that I would be assuming the role of president of the company and my mother would be chairman. I had spent the last 32 years watching my mother run the company impeccably with extraordinary confidence and knowledge. I was afraid that I would not be up for the job and not able to fill her shoes. What allowed me to feel comfortable was the support and confidence my agents showed me and the collaborative style of management at Stribling.
What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since you joined it?
For me personally, it was the complete rebranding of the company image and logo, which maintained our 30-year heritage yet propelled us into modernity. This was coupled with the complete Web design that was nominated for a Webby award. We were the first residential real estate company to be nominated, and I am proud of this fact every day.
What’s been the biggest obstacle your business has encountered, and how have you dealt with it?
That technology can fully replace the agent. I am the first person to embrace technology and its uses in real estate, but it’s imperative to remember that real estate is an emotional commodity. The human element has the ability to think outside the box, have tailored negotiation styles, and understand the psychology of buying and selling
What puzzles you most about the industry?
That it’s a misunderstood profession and most people don’t understand it is a profession, not a hobby. Like most commodity-based professions, diligence, hard work and determination are necessary. There are high standards of licensing and education that continue throughout one’s careers.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business?
The phrase “I don’t know, but I will find out.” Far too many people are quick to provide an answer that they think people want to hear. It is better to take the time to correctly answer the first time in order to not make promises you can’t keep or stray people in the wrong direction.
What’s the most overrated real estate technology?
Real estate apps and apps in general. I think mobile technology is much more important. I would rather get the full experience on a full site than experience one in a lesser and condensed arena. I look forward to the day when every website works on every mobile device and platform.
How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years?
The fundamentals of real estate will stay the same: hard work and honesty. I think as the world continues, instant communication is paramount and will only grow stronger. One must have the ability to turn on a dime and get the deal done. One lapsed email or text message could be the difference between keeping or severing a relationship.
What motivates you more: power or money?
I don’t love this question. What motivates me the most is to be the best in the business. If I had to pick one, it would be power: the power to continually grow Stribling to be best in class.
What is your biggest professional fear?
Being irrelevant. Yet this motivates me every day to have the best agents and staff in New York and continue the long-standing recognition and value in the company name.
What is your biggest personal fear?
Losing my fiancé.
Who do you respect most in the industry?
My mother. If I could be one-tenth the woman she is, I’ll be A-OK.
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