“One of the greatest experiences I have had is volunteering for Give Back Homes and Habitat for Humanity. I was lucky enough to be included in a project in Long Beach. It was one of my favorite days since I started working. Not only did I meet amazing people, but I spent the day painting homes for those less fortunate. I plan on doing multiple build days a year and getting involved on a deeper level. This is uniquely different than the routine volunteering that I have done in my own community. This felt incredible to give to total strangers. I encourage everyone to do this at lease once in their lives, if not more.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Umansky Benton. Sharon grew up in the Beverly Glen area and graduated from The University of Southern California with a B.A. in Finance and Management. After purchasing her own homes over the years and helping friends do the same, Sharon recognized her skill for real estate. Born in Mexico and fluent in Spanish, when Sharon’s not serving her clients in real estate, she spends most of her free time with her husband and three children and enjoys bike riding, hiking, skiing, painting, and relaxing at the beach. She is a longtime resident of Rolling Hills Estates and actively involved with the local schools.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was born in Mexico City and moved with my family to Los Angeles in 1976 when I was four years old. I spent my childhood living in West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. I studied Business with majors in Finance and Management at University of Southern California. After graduating from there, I joined a venture with my father Eduardo Umansky and brother Mauricio Umansky to buy into a clothing company. I worked in the garment industry for close to 12 years. During that time, I got married and moved to Redondo Beach and, then, Palos Verdes. I had the luxury of taking some time off to focus on raising my three children and do philanthropy through our local school district and community. I then decided I needed a new challenge in my life decided to get my Real Estate license. I now work as an agent at the luxury real estate firm, The Agency in the Palos Verdes and South Bay area. I’m the first satellite agent in Palos Verdes, adding to the growing group of agents working the South Bay and Beach Cities areas.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
In my industry, one of the ways we try to expand our connections is through door knocking. This allows us to meet the people in the community. This was especially challenging for me because I was very shy when I was younger. I have had to overcome the nervousness to talk to strangers. Besides the fear of getting attacked by some of the dogs that have run out at us, if the homeowners are in a good mood, the conversation can be quite interesting. One time we found ourselves helping a woman bring out the trash cans. Another time we almost ran from a man who started out sounding very creepy, but in the end was one of my favorite people I have met.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The Agency is different than all other real estate agencies. We consider ourselves a family. We collaborate with each and build each other up rather than constantly compete against each other. The collaboration fosters teamwork and increases exposure to our client homes and, ultimately success. We even have a few recurring mantras, such as the sum is greater than it’s parts and, my favorite, “No Assholes.” It is so important to have people who are willing to collaborate and not be assholes with each other — it allows for great things to happen. Networking happens. Deals happen. Success happens. That is one reason the company is growing so quickly. We like each other.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
This one is easy, my family!!! My brother, Mauricio Umansky, is a co-founder of The Agency. My father, Eduardo Umansky, is a partner in the company, as well. Both of them have helped me build a foundation for success and showed me how to be entrepreneurial. My mother, Dr. Estella Sneider, is not only extremely supportive, but has always inspired me to be a strong woman.
When I was initially entering the real estate world, I had a meeting with my brother to discuss my options. I didn’t know whether it would be better to start working for one of the well know companies in Palos Verdes or work with him at The Agency. He spent some time with me and ultimately helped me realize that even though The Agency isn’t as established in Palos Verdes as some others, the values, work ethic, collaborative environment and family atmosphere that exemplifies The Agency would be a better fit for me — and I couldn’t be happier.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Working at The Agency, there are always exciting projects. Our company is involved in development projects like the Metropolis buildings in downtown LA, which are largest mixed-use development in the Western United States. The Agency is also involved in selling vacation homes in the new development called The Mandarina in Riviera Nayarit (near Punta Mita, Mexico). That is particularly fun given that I am from Mexico — sort of a homecoming.
As a company, we sell these amazing properties which is very exciting. We have access to events at the most amazing luxurious homes in Los Angeles.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One of the greatest experiences I have had is volunteering for Give Back Homes and Habitat for Humanity. I was lucky enough, through The Agency, to be included in a project in Long Beach. It was one of my favorite days since I started working. Not only did I meet amazing people, but I spent the day painting homes for those less fortunate. I plan on doing multiple build days a year and getting involved on a deeper level. This is uniquely different than the routine volunteering that I have done in my own community. This felt incredible to give to total strangers. I encourage everyone to do this at lease once in their lives, if not more.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Honestly, the one that makes a daily impact on me is “All I Really Need to know, I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. I have always loved the simplicity of it and the general idea that the things that matter most in life are the early-learning, foundational ones, such as sharing, taking turns and treating your friends nicely. I tend to think about that when a car cuts me off or someone tries to skip a line. I have been known to say, “Didn’t you learn to take turns in Kindergarten?” I think my kids say it now, too. To me, these basic principals are what keep me sane in our crazy, hectic world.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I wish someone had told me how incessant the work would be. Real estate is one of those jobs that is non-stop. Not only do clients expect (as would I) that I should be available at all times, even at social events or parties, people will often start talking about homes and prices etc.
I wish someone had told me how different each deal would be. When you work in retail or you own a bakery for example, people come in and buy what they need by paying the price on the tag. It is, for lack of a better term, binary. Not so in real estate. Each deal is organic, often taking on a life of its own. Recognizing that and embracing that is what maximizes my clients success.
I wish I had been told that sometimes it would feel uncomfortable with friends. Not every friend wants to hire another friend to be their agent, or they have had one for 20 years and don’t want to switch. It’s awkward but I try my best to make it all ok. I will never lose a friendship over this job…Not if I can help it at least.
I wish someone had told me about the extras. As a realtor, I don’t just sell a home. I am there to help people with the process in every way that I can. I am willing to help declutter, pull out weeds…anything to make the house look the best possible and make the client happy.
Last, I wish I had known how fun this is… I would have started sooner. It really is an absolutely incredible career with an incredible company. I hope my clients see that through me and feel the same.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
If it was up to my eight-year-old daughter, it would be Clayton Kershaw. But for me, I have had the opportunity to be around a number of celebrities and successful people all of my life. I am lucky to learn from and be inspired by an incredibly successful real estate entrepreneur, my brother, on a daily basis. But, I am truly happiest when I get to have a meal with great conversation with my family. They are the ones that support me and keep me grounded.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!