As CEO of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, Deirdre O’Connell has played a key role in its success and the development of strategic initiatives and goals for the future as the company approaches its 100th year in business. O’Connell oversees the sales management of a $3.3 billion organization that has 950 sales associates in 26 offices spanning Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, with another location opening soon. She has also been instrumental in the company’s growth and expansion over the past decade. We recently caught up with O’Connell to get her take on what makes her company and the Long Island market so unique, and how her family and growing up here have helped her achieve success. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
What is your company’s mission? Our sales associates are trained, experienced and committed to diligence, discretion and luxury service. All are well versed in our philosophy of caring service and strictly adhering to the company’s code of ethics, with genuine knowledge of the local communities, as well as unequaled skills in the arts of marketing and negotiation.
What do you like most about your job? While our traditions of service, integrity, professionalism and always doing the right thing will forever be at the heart of our organization, with our 100th birthday approaching, it’s critical to our success to demonstrate to today’s market that we are 100 years young and reflective of today’s sellers and homebuyers.
How did you get started in realty? I got my first taste of real estate doing public relations for the real estate department of a large insurance company (MetLife.) I had two children at the time and wanted to be in more control of my career, so I went to work at Thomas O’Connell and Sons, a real estate company in Manhasset owned by my husband’s uncle.
How significant is the Long Island market for your company? While we are a Sotheby’s International realty affiliate with sister offices around the world, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International is owned and operated right here on Long Island. We opened our first office in 1922 in Huntington. Long Island has the best of the world right here.
What specific challenges are present in the Long Island market? One of the largest problems in the Long Island real estate market today is [that] buyers, regardless of generation, are looking for homes that are completely done, smaller in size with smaller yards, and convenient to town and transportation. Our agents are, therefore, working very hard with sellers of larger homes on multiple acres to price the properties appropriately, stage them to attract today’s buyers and market them with professional photos and video on digital and social media platforms.
How much of an impact did growing up on Long Island have on your worldview? I grew up on the North Fork of Long Island in the small town of New Suffolk. My mother taught me entrepreneurship, hard work, love of family. Born in Ireland, my mother came to the states at 18. She married, had five children and began a pie-baking business, in peak season selling over 100 pies at a farm stand. We all helped — peeling, chopping, mixing, labeling and other tasks. Later, both my parents opened a specialty market and deli in Cutchogue and that is where I learned from my father the significance of quality versus quantity and concierge customer service. Our store provided only the highest-quality meats, cheeses and specialty items and we were all trained to engage with all customers in a professional, warm manner, which included carrying bags to cars, delivery to homes and always smiling.
What philanthropic effort have you been most proud of? Every October, each of our offices becomes a coat drive drop-off, collecting hundreds of coats to be donated to the local charity with the greatest need in each market. Then, in the spring, we sponsor a Dress for Success month and collect professional clothes for men and women. Our company, agents and employees love Long Island and want to help our fellow Long Islanders.
Do you have any sayings? Kent Gale had a saying, “Do the right thing,” and Pat Petersen, our chairman and president, continued to build the company around that saying. At our company meeting in February, when I was announced as CEO, we unveiled our new company campaign, “Your Way Forward.” I believe in our deep, strong roots of luxury, professionalism and doing the right thing and I will always bring those values forward as this very special Long Island company continues to grow.