“I Wish Someone Had Told Me About The Extras” Words of Wisdom With Sharon Benton Umansky and Marco Derhy
“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 leaset once in their lives, if not more.
As part of my series about “Inspiring successful stories,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Umansky Benton. Sharon grew up in the Beverly Glen area and graduated from Southern California University 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 is actively involved with the local schools.
MD: Thank you for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was born in Mexico City and moved along 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 the 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 doing 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 agents working in the South Bay and Beach Cities district.
MD: 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, and it allows us to meet the people in the community. Indeed was challenging because I was timid at a younger age. I have had to overcome the nervousness about talking to strangers. Besides the fear of getting attacked by some of the dogs that have run out at us, the conversation can be pretty interesting if the homeowners are in a good mood. 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, he was one of my favorite people I have met.
MD: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The Agency is different from all other real estate agencies. We consider ourselves a family. We collaborate as one team and build each other up rather than constantly competing 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 more significant than its parts, and my favorite (sorry for swearing), “No Assholes.” It is so important to have people who are willing to collaborate and play as a real team for better achievements for all. By following the mentioned direction, the company achieved a positive working environment, phenomenal and superb networking, and closing deals faster, which is why our company is expanding. We are here to help all our team to thrive in the sector.
MD: 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. Both of them have helped me build a foundation for success and showed me how to be entrepreneurial. My mother, Dr. Estella Sneider, is hugely supportive and 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-known 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.
MD: 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 the most significant mixed-use development in the Western United States. The Agency also sells 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.
We sell these unique properties as a company, which is very exciting. We have access to events at the top and unique luxury homes in Los Angeles.
MD: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One of the most extraordinary experiences I have had is volunteering for giving 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 to do multiple build days a year and get involved on a deeper level. It is different from the regular volunteering that I have done in my own community. This felt incredible to give to total strangers. I encourage everyone to do this at least once in their lives, if not more.
MD: 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 now. I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. I have always loved its simplicity 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. When a car cuts me off, or someone tries to skip a line, I tend to think about that. 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 principles are what keep me sane in our crazy, hectic world.
MD: What are your “5 things I wish someone had 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 own a bakery, people come in and buy what they need by paying the price on the tag. It is binary, for lack of a better term, not quite so in the real estate marketplace. Each deal is organic, often taking on a life of its own. Recognizing that and embracing that is what maximizes my client's 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, at the very least, help.
I wish someone had told me about the extras. As a realtor, I don’t just sell a home. I am here 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 earlier how fun this is, As I would start sooner. It really is an incredible career with a fantastic company. I hope my clients see that through me and feel the same.
MD: The most significant VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, 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 many 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.
MD: How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook, The Agency, Instagram
MD: This was indeed inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!