Sotheby’s International Realty president and CEO, Philip A White, has been in the industry for nearly four decades and has been the chief executive officer since 2004. During his time at Sotheby’s International Realty, he has broken countless records. In 2018, Sotheby’s announced that under his leadership, the company achieved a record of $112 billion in global sales volume, the highest in the history of the company.
Under his leadership, the brand now operates in 72 countries and has 990 offices and 22,500 sales associates. White sat down with Elite Traveler to talk about how he has led the company to success, the challenges he faces as a CEO of a global brand and the trends driving the luxury real-estate market.
You’ve helped reach the highest sales number in the brand’s history — what do you think are some of the management strategies and ways that you’ve helped your team reach these numbers?
I believe the key to our success from a management perspective has a lot to do with selecting the right people to represent the brand and a consistent brand persona. We have maintained high standards over time in terms of the brand, our business, and our people, and this has resulted in quality growth. We have said no to certain requests that were off-brand or not right at the current time, when it would have been easier to say yes, and this has allowed us to maintain brand consistency and high standards across the globe.
What do you think sets Sotheby’s International Realty apart from other firms in the market?
The Sotheby’s International Realty network represents a unique combination of heritage, innovation and impeccable standards of service, and we are proud to be the brand that represents luxury real estate around the world. Our culture is incredibly strong and our network spans the globe. I believe that a culture is defined by its people. At the end of the day, we are in a relationship business and the discretion and professionalism represented by our affiliated network is what truly sets us apart.
As a CEO, what are some of the challenges that you face?
As CEO, my job is to continually challenge my team to think differently and push the boundaries to improve our business. With various economic and business changes impacting our industry today, it’s important for me to constantly review and adjust our agenda accordingly in order to best position the brand for success. One of the challenges of being a CEO is to ensure that the entire team is focused and meeting our objectives every single day. This requires solid communication, organization and meetings to stay on track, and a reset if needed, to meet and exceed our business goals.
On the contrary, what are some of the advantages?
A key advantage is that I can set the agenda and oversee the execution of our business plan — it’s a big responsibility. Ultimately, I’m accountable for determining the direction of the company, making the final business decisions and ensuring that the Sotheby’s International Realty brand continues to thrive. I also appreciate the opportunity to continually look for ways in which to innovate and reinvent the brand and harness our efforts in that direction.
What are some of the biggest trends you see in New York right now in the ultra-luxury sphere?
One of the trends we are currently seeing in New York City’s ultra-luxury space includes high-net-worth individuals buying multiple units in a building and turning them into one dream home. Developers are amenable to this in today’s market and it’s the ultimate luxury for consumers to create their own unique space in a prominent building. It provides the opportunity for consumers to take some of the best and most luxurious residential buildings in New York, and make them even better with a one-of-a-kind home.
What are some of the keys to success in the real-estate industry, especially at the scale that you are working at?
From my experience, the keys to success in real estate are to build strong relationships, provide quality service and know your market inside and out. Despite having a presence in more than 72 countries and territories worldwide, I take pride in knowing our owners personally and on first name basis. While it’s always important to innovate, staying grounded in the foundation of what makes a company’s culture great — quality and trust — is essential for success.
What should ultra-high-net-worth individuals know about the current state of the market?
What may often be overlooked among ultra-high-net-worth individuals is the importance of hiring a trusted real-estate agent that has local expertise. Every market is dramatically different, and a real-estate professional with specific market insight can properly help navigate and advise consumers through the sometimes difficult and emotional home buying and selling process.
What do you love most about the real-estate industry?
I have a tremendous amount of respect for successful real estate agents. They are entrepreneurs, they run their own business, and they think on their feet every single day. It gives me great energy to be surrounded by these entrepreneurial and business-minded individuals that come up with creative solutions every day.
For more information, visit sothebysrealty.com