Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing editor with REALTOR® Magazine. In addition to writing print and online articles, Erica oversees the magazine's Broker to Broker content, co-manages the 30 Under 30 program, and manages the YPN Lounge. Connect with her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Natural-Born Leader
Learn how Susan Yannaccone’s path took her from commercial real estate sales to COO of ERA Real Estate.
August 4, 2015
Susan Yannaccone lived in five different states before the fifth grade. Her father worked in a corporate retail role that had Yannaccone’s family bouncing between the East Coast and Midwest. Moving so frequently exposed Yannaccone, the new chief operating officer of ERA Real Estate, to the bittersweet home search at an early age and helped her form a deep fascination and understanding of the experience of buying and selling.
Fast forward to 1998: Yannaccone was 21 and fresh out of college with a finance degree from Clemson University in South Carolina when she landed her first job in commercial real estate sales. Four years later, she took a job as a senior risk analyst at GMAC and quickly started climbing the ranks. After two years, she was manager of contract administration and then was named vice president of operations in 2010 after the company merged with Real Living.
But Yannaccone really honed her leadership skills as senior vice president of network services for HSF Affiliates after Berkshire Hathaway purchased Prudential and Real Living. She had the massive responsibility of transitioning Prudential affiliates that joined the newly formed Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. Her main focus was on franchisee engagement, retention, and growth.
“A transition of this size and magnitude has not been done before in real estate and Sue was right there in the middle of it all,” says Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates.
Charlie Young, president and CEO of ERA Real Estate, says Yannaccone’s experience leading the changeover for HSF was one of the main reasons she was selected to help lead ERA. “Her experience leading organizations through transformational change, coupled with her innovative strategic insights, will play a significant role as she continues to articulate and advance ERA’s value proposition to our existing and future customers,” says Young in a statement.
Not only did Yannaccone build a team at the now two-and-a-half-year-old HSF Affiliates headquarters in Irvine, Calif., but she also oversaw the physical transition of building signage and other online and offline materials during the Prudential Real Estate network conversation to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.
“Sue is so dedicated to her craft and that passion was always evident in her guidance and insight,” Blefari says. “She understands the opportunities and challenges faced by real estate brokerages and applies her insight to every business decision.”
ERA underwent its own rebranding last year, which included updates to a dated image and logo.
“I really want to bring to bear my knowledge and experience to help leverage the success and momentum [ERA] is already having with its reimaging and growth over the last several years,” Yannaccone says.
Working with the Prudential and Real Living mergers taught Yannaccone how to bring different workplace cultures together. She knows how to reach out to work with brokers and form new relationships, which she plans to continue as COO of ERA.
“Culture is such a crucial part of any organization,” Yannaccone says. “It’s about living and breathing that at the leadership level every day; it can’t just be a slogan on the wall. The better we are as leaders at walking the walk, the better we are at infusing that in our organization down to the agents.”
Collaborative and supportive is how Yannaccone describes her leadership style. “I learn by listening,” she says.
Blefari observes that Yannaccone traveled extensively for HSF as she interacted with broker affiliates. “Like Johnny Cash says, ‘She’s been everywhere, man!’ Sue’s new calling allows her to spend more time with her family, and that’s the greatest news for all involved,” Blefari says.
Yannaccone is the kind of person who goes to bed in anticipation of breakfast with her 4-year-old (and her morning coffee). She believes she’s never done learning and is most inspired by her father, whose strong moral compass never served him wrong. “He was unwavering on his ethics and beliefs,” says Yannaccone, adding that it had a profound impact on her own career.
She has also learned how to position herself as a leader and go after what she wants. Yannaccone says it’s important for women to recognize that they can be successful, influential forces in the real estate industry. Her advice to women seeking out leadership positions: “Don’t apologize for who you are — ever. And don’t be afraid to ask for something. Whether you think you’re too young or that being a woman [is a barrier], most of the time that’s in your head. Find a good mentor, have a voice, and be heard.”