They said she’d never make it in real estate, and yet, nearly 35 years later, she’s still proving them wrong. See how the right mindset has made all the difference for Jean Crosby.
A successful career can be established, measured and evaluated in many ways. Sometimes an experience at work, whether positive or negative, can launch the direction of your career and establish a mindset that will last a lifetime.
That’s what happened to Jean Crosby, a partner, owner and managing broker of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Crosby Starck Real Estate at 551 N. Mulford Road, Rockford.
The office is an independently owned and operated member of a nationwide real estate network. It provides real estate services in residential and commercial sales, land development, property management and farm sales.
At the beginning of her career in 1983, Crosby landed a job working as a receptionist for a local real estate firm.
“Unbeknownst to the two partners who owned the company, I registered for the real estate pre-license class to learn my job,” she says. “But before the class was finished, one partner fired me and the other told me I had no ability to grasp the business.”
Crosby was not deterred. She stayed the course, passed the Illinois state real estate exam, went to work for the competition, and the rest is history. Since that time, Crosby has steadily built a solid real estate career by going the extra mile. She values customer service and has devoted hundreds of volunteer hours in the real estate industry. Crosby was recently honored for business leadership and excellence as the 2017 Woman Business Owner of the Year by the Rockford Chamber of Commerce. She calls the honor “humbling” and “very gratifying.”
When first connecting with sellers or buyers, Crosby finds there are usual and important questions that arise.
“If you are selling your property, it would be ‘how much is my property worth,’ and if you’re buying a property, it’s ‘what do you think I can buy it for,’” she says.
“Clients want a Realtor in a transaction who genuinely cares about their best interests,” Crosby adds. “They want someone who will be loyal and accountable to them – someone who will follow their lawful direction and make appropriate and timely disclosures when needed.”
Crosby keeps track of the small details, which are critical to ensure a smooth transaction. She finds that every transaction is different, presenting its own unique problems to solve.
“Selling real estate can be stressful for our clients,” Crosby says. She notes the many layers of involvement with pricing assistance, negotiating expertise, interfacing with home inspectors, negotiating repairs, plus dealing with lending issues and other agents. “We are advisors and partners with our clients in the transaction; that is our extra-mile service.”
The owner of the home controls four primary components of the home sale.
“They control the listing price, the sale price, the condition of the property and when showings occur,” Crosby says.
The real estate practitioner controls the process.
“We assist in pricing, negotiations and problem solving,” Crosby says. “My advice would be to use an agent who you trust and who you believe will give you the facts, good or bad, to assist you in the sale of the property or home search.”
The real estate business itself has undergone a number of changes over the years. The regulatory side has changed and improved in consumer protection, Crosby says. Technology and the internet have made it easier for consumers to find information, start the home selection process and educate themselves.
“Today, the first showings of a home are online,” Crosby says. “Online photos are critical to the owner of the property, and their success in securing an in-home showing is tied directly to that online tour.”
Crosby’s extensive knowledge and confidence in her work stems from her deep involvement with the real estate industry itself. She has served as president of the Rockford Area Association of Realtors, state president of Illinois Realtors, and national president of the Real Estate Business Institute.
“I had the good fortune to serve as director of real estate for the State of Illinois,” Crosby adds. “At the time, I had the responsibility and oversight of 90,000 real estate licenses. All the investigations and prosecutions for license law violation came to my desk.”
Crosby regards this experience as an incredible opportunity to expand her knowledge base.
In 2015, Crosby was named the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Realtors. This recognition is awarded to only two volunteers per year, selected from 1.3 million national members who have shown exceptional meritorious service for at least 25 years.
“The real estate industry has been very kind to me over the years,” Crosby says. “And, my volunteer experience has been priceless.”
Crosby is upbeat about the future and surviving as a business.
“You can’t be afraid of change,” she says. “This industry is consistently changing as new business models enter the market. A new generation of real estate professionals is entering the business with different goals and expectations.”
She adds that one has to adapt to the peaks and valleys of the economy, too.
“I started my career when interest rates were at an all-time high at 21 percent,” she says. “My attitude has been that if you can survive that, you can survive any market.”
Leading her own business now, Crosby has learned from mistakes but has always stood by her lifetime commitment to excellence.
“It’s what I tell the professionals who work for me,” she says. “I don’t expect perfect, but I do expect excellence. I am a firm believer in the fact that you are never really a failure until you blame someone else.”
Every successful business owner has had their own “aha” moment. Crosby learned not to get attached to the result, but rather focus on being the best she could be.
“It enables you to not compromise good judgment or ethics,” she says. “It gives you the power to say ‘No’ to an overpriced listing or an impossible client.”
These decisions have made an impact on Crosby’s life and community involvement. She is a first-term elected member of the Winnebago County Board, a member of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and a board member of Annie’s Locker, a nonprofit agency that reaches out to disadvantaged and at-risk individuals.
“As a stakeholder in our community, I want to see our county prosper and thrive,” Crosby says. “You can complain about the problem or become part of the solution. I choose the latter.”
With Crosby’s experience and her well-earned respect within the community, she is often asked for advice from business owners looking to grow. Her answers come from decades of trial and error.
She notes that you can plan, organize and control your own destiny if you are willing to take risks and not be afraid of failure.
“Just think if I had not been fired in 1983. I may still be pushing keys on a keyboard,” Crosby says. “Did I fail as a receptionist? Yes. But it led to a highly successful real estate career. Silver linings do exist, if you are willing to seek them out.”