Valerie Huffman knows exactly what it takes to be a powerful leader. The vice president and sales manager of Weichert, REALTORS®, at the Aspen Hill/Leisure World Plaza office puts humility at the top of the list. “Listen, there’s nothing special about me. I get my energy from the people that surround me,” she says frankly, adding, “I am extremely blessed to be working with a wonderful company and a wonderful group of agents. My strength comes from watching those around me become successful.”
Others’ success is her fuel! And when it comes to real estate, Valerie seems to have a one-track mind. She said she is a firm believer that knowledge is power. Therefore, she is constantly listening to real estate-related podcasts and keeping up with the latest and best practices in the industry. “What is working to get the best successes? I personally love to get the best information that is available, and I like to share that.” For her, that’s crucial: sharing information. With 118 agents on her roster, that can be a tall order.
Another key in her leadership toolkit is being accessible. Connection is what it’s all about, so it seems to come naturally. As a certified Brian Buffini coach, she insists it’s difficult to coach someone without knowing anything about them, so she makes it a point to go deep. With so many agents, how does she manage? “I work a lot,” she laughs, continuing, “I just do it! I block time. I make calls during the week to touch base. Some people need more coaching than others. Some I get with monthly and they’re fine and I know they’ll call me if they need me.” Others are on a biweekly or monthly schedule.
The COVID-19 crisis has sharpened her focus even further. Daily, she hosts 9:30 am Zoom calls with agents, spending 15 to 20 minutes giving them a pep talk, keeping them on track for their day, and offering up some motivation. She swears these meetings have been received so well they may never go away. “I tell you, it’s between 30 and 50 people every day. We talk about real-life situations and the contracts they’re doing. Then we also talk about the fun things they’re doing.” One thing she noticed about these meetings is that agents log on early and end up chatting one another up while they wait. “They miss the connection, too.”
In Her DNA
Growing up, real estate was always on the menu in Valerie’s home. Her father, Bill Harloff, was the Maryland real estate commissioner for 20 years. “Our conversations at the dinner table were all about laws in the state and ethics and fair housing cases — that’s how I grew up.”
Still, she didn’t always know she’d lean that way. She was determined to make a difference in the world. So with her sociology and advanced psychology degree in hand, she signed up for the Peace Corps. She says her father urged her, “’Just try real estate for a couple of weeks,’ which was a total lie…but he told me, ‘You can help people and make more money.’ Here I am, 42 years later!”
Initially, the satisfaction came from helping clients realize their dreams. Having crossed over into management for some time now, the adrenaline rush comes when agents break through and reach their potential. That is her passion: coaching and teaching. She coaches that consistency, working a routine, and client outreach are the primary ingredients to winning the day, every day. “I believe you need to stick to a routine. You have to stay consistent,” especially with a global pandemic. “It doesn’t matter how high-level you are; you still have to learn and get into routines and push forward. I think we are all big, little kids — and kids thrive on routine. Even the most creative folks need a routine to keep success moving forward.”
Valerie joined Weichert 30 years ago, partly because she bought into the owner’s motto: People buy people before they buy products or services. “That’s really how I run my office and how I teach my agents. Building relationships is the most important thing you can do in this business.” Clearly, she is practicing what she preaches. Although Weichert is a large company, she also appreciates the intimate, family feel. She is currently learning a lot of amazing new technology with the new MyWeichert platform.
Valerie’s family is entrenched in real estate, both past and present. “We are very lucky to have this rich family history and I’m very excited about that,” she says. Her son Steve is a top producer in the Baltimore/Washington markets. Incidentally, her daughter Jamie never had a passion for real estate and, instead, went into financial management. Today, however, as a financial advisor, Jamie is working with over 3,000 agents helping with financial retirement planning, a fact that tickles Valerie’s heart.
Indeed, 2020 has been a challenging year, in general, but in particular for Valerie, as, in February, she lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. “He was ill for three and half years and we were very lucky that in the last year and half, he was doing really well and we did quite a bit of traveling. It was quite a blessing.” Fortunately, this was prior to the shelter-in-place order so Valerie was able to have a funeral and a celebration of life to honor him. With 450 people in attendance, including the Weichert family, it was a tremendous tribute. Valerie said she is grateful for her support system of family and friends and credits them for always being there for her.
When it comes to fun, this Howard County resident likes to socialize with friends and travel, although it’s been hard to get into that as of late. She’s also a big fan of movies. She and her sister have been doing movie nights once a week for over 20 years now. Valerie also loves walking and gets it in five days a week, three to four miles at a time. In September, she welcomed her first grandbaby to the family.