The credibility gained over the years of one’s career is especially the hallmark of innovative business leaders. For them, this credibility is the real currency of their businesses.
Jay Conrad Levinson, author of Guerrilla Marketing, puts it in very appropriate words: “The road to profitability is paved with credibility. Credibility is something you earn by how you market, where you market, how you treat people, how you act, and your overall level of professionalism. Away from the business arena, the term is street-cred, and it’s the road to respect.”
Charikleia Stouka has gained a lot of such credibility over the span of her 20-year career in real estate. She is a perpetual learner. She is the Founder of ALMA Real Estate Hellas, which is known for immediate and direct real estate services in Greece. In an interview with us, she shares her remarkable journey.
Below are the highlights of the interview with Charikleia Stouka. Brief our audience on your professional journey, up to your current leadership position.
My journey into real estate started around 2000. I already had a degree in civil engineering from the University of West Attica in Athens, so I was already in the broader real estate environment, and I was also managing a handful of smaller family properties. I found that this line of work resonated with me and I decided to pursue it professionally. I soon had the opportunity to join a small local real estate office, and it became clear to me that I truly loved the work. Within a few months, I started my own business, initially running it out of my parents’ living room, where they kindly let me set up a corner as my office. Over the years, that developed into a successful career, and thanks to my commitment to never stop studying and learning more about my field, I am now one of just 20 Realtors® working in Athens.
I think it’s essential to be actively engaged with my field of work, so alongside working with clients, since 2013 I have also written a number of articles on various real estate topics (which have been published in traditional print media, such as Business Partners magazine, as well as online). ALMA Real Estate Hellas also participates, with our own booth, in trade exhibitions, including Athens Real Estate Expo (AREXPO) 2019, the first real estate exhibition in Athens (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rjorGwUtYA). And I’m happy to say that over the years, our commitment to client satisfaction and first-class results has gained us not only a loyal clientele but also industry recognition, in the form of interviews and distinctions.
ALMA Real Estate Hellas has been highly active and visible in the Greek real estate market for over 20 years. Throughout the years, our immediate response and quick action, the support and solutions we provide at every single step of the process of any transaction, our stress-free methods for selling/renting/buying our clients’ properties, our up-to-date negotiating methods, and my own Realtor® certification have consistently set us apart from the competition.
Our clients know that we are always here for them, using our knowledge and experience to support them and protect their interests, to listen carefully and understand their needs and desires beyond just the words they use to describe them, and to act swiftly, professionally and effectively to make their property dreams come true. They know we go the extra mile and do the impossible to fulfill their desires about buying/selling/renting a property. They know we actively promote their properties everywhere possible in the world. They know they are not alone, that we stand by them at every step of the process and undertake the responsibility for the fulfillment of the contract. And they know we do everything to their benefit, to make sure they are happy and satisfied.
We aim at building long-lasting relationships with our clients, and we do that by providing an individually focused customer-oriented approach that covers all real estate transactions. Customer service is of utmost importance to us, and constant communication is vital. Quick adaptation to changes is rewarded. Our portfolio includes Greek Golden Visa properties, dream homes and villas, fantastic plots of land for residential/commercial purposes, semi-finished properties, and hotels for sale throughout Greece, as well as exceptional residential and commercial properties for rent, investment proposals and enterprises for sale.
What are some of the challenges you have come across in your career as a leader?
As fulfilling as leadership may be, it can also be quite tough. The greatest challenge I had to overcome was my own self—my thoughts, my feelings, and my fears. But there were external challenges too, notably Greece’s decade-long financial crisis and the pandemic that followed on its heels.
I successfully overcame all of it by building my confidence, through both success and challenges, by not taking everything personally, by focusing on the goal, by taking risks and making quick—yet sometimes hard—decisions, by being transparent and always honest, by always going the extra mile, by always starting another round, and by using the LLL and RRR rules: Live – Love – Laugh and Rest – Recover – Reflect. It is important not to give up, to always be positive, try one more time, and replace every challenge with triumph.
Taking into consideration, the current pandemic, and its impact on global economies, how are you driving your company to sustain operations and ensuring the safety of your associates and employees at the same time?
We are using technology to maximize the work we can do digitally and remotely. The current situation has brought unprecedented upheaval, so now more than ever it is time to go digital. The new trend of the future will be the home office. The current situation facilitates remote work.
To reduce the number of live interactions during this pandemic, we initially share information on our properties digitally—on our website and through additional photos, videos and virtual tours—and only proceed with a live viewing after the clients have confirmed their interest.
In case the property is currently occupied, we ask the occupants to adequately air the property by opening all doors and windows prior to (and following) the showing and to wear facemasks and maintain the minimum safety distance at all times. We likewise ask the viewing party to wear masks, refrain from touching any surface, and maintain the relevant distance of two meters.
If the property is unoccupied, we arrive some time before the showing to open all doors, windows, cupboards and wardrobes, and we use antiseptic to disinfect doorknobs, keys and surfaces such as elevator buttons. Everyone is required to wear a facemask and maintain the safety distance during the showing, and we also air and disinfect the property again after the viewing party leaves.
Hand sanitizer is always available—and used—before and after showings. We also try to minimize the exchange of printed documents and keep most interactions online. Lastly, we keep detailed records of property visits, including dates, locations and the names of people in volved.
If given a chance, what change would you bring about in the ecosystem of your respective industry?
I would like to see the real estate ecosystem realize that we’re part of the global ecosystem. In a world that’s increasingly concerned about addressing environmental challenges, our industry must realize that there’s plenty we can do to contribute, starting with small changes in our day-to-day operations. Although digital transformation has been discussed for many years, it had to be suddenly and rapidly implemented. And it is an excellent start; it offers numerous benefits to real estate professionals and our clients while also having a positive impact on the environmental footprint of our industry—from minimizing the use of paper to drastically reducing our carbon footprint by allowing us to offer quality virtual tours and limit the number of live property viewings. And of course, we should all think about adopting greener practices outside the office: limiting unnecessary transport, using fuel-efficient vehicles and promoting environmentally friendly technologies throughout the properties we work with.
There’s a lot of focus in our industry on being customer-driven, and there’s no doubt that’s paramount. But it’s about time that we understand that being environmentally friendly is an integral part of that too. There’s a real necessity to go green. At the end of the da y, if we do not save our planet, nobody else will.
What have you envisioned for yourself and your company to sustain its market position in the future?
We would like to maintain and increase our market share. Furthermore, we must invest in maintaining and developing the credibility we have built through my 20- year career and which is really the currency of our business. Our immediate plan is to increase the amount of work we do online. And of course, we will keep on learning, listening to our clients and improving our services.