Storytelling with Danie Fineman for "30 Days - 30 Voices - Stories from America's LGBT Business Leaders Skip to the content

Storytelling with Danie Fineman for "30 Days – 30 Voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders

Danie-Fineman-30gayvoicesStorytelling with Danie Fineman of Keller Williams Realty

Hartford, Connecticut

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AUDIO TITLE:  30 Days, 30 Voices – Danie Fineman

Jenn T Grace:

Welcome to 30 Days, 30 Voices: Stories from America’s LGBT business leaders.

Intro:

You are listening to a special edition of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Tune in for the next thirty days as we interview one business leader per day, each day in June to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. That’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month. You’ll learn insights around business and marketing from those who know it best. And now your host. She’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Hello and welcome. Thank you for tuning into this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Information about today’s guest and links mentioned in the show will be available on the website at www.JennTGrace.com/30days30voices. If you like what you hear in this interview, please be sure to tell a friend. And now, without further ado, let’s dive into the interview.

I am pleased to be talking today with Danie Fineman, who has spent eight years in the US army. She earned two Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Connecticut, and is now a realtor with Keller Williams Realty. She is located in the great state of Connecticut next to me, so I am pleased to have her on as my guest today. So Danie, I’ve given the listeners a really high level overview of who you are, but why don’t you just tell us a little bit more about yourself, and what your path looked like that led you to where you are today?

Danie Fineman:

Well thanks Jenn for having me, this is a nice surprise to be asked to be doing something like this. You know I tend to have the world view that I’m just a tiny, tiny person in such a large world. So for you to ask me to do something like this is really quite an honor, so thank you first and foremost for that.

Jenn T Grace:

You are very welcome.

Danie Fineman:

You know I need a little shot to my self-esteem every now and then so this is great.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Danie Fineman:

So I’ll just start from the beginning. I do like to tell people that I sort of came from a suburban neighborhood with a large Italian family, and did the typical things growing up; playing on soccer teams, and had a very typical childhood. But I grew up in a family where you know, resources were stretched a bit, so when it came time for me and my four siblings to go off and do our own individual adult things as children do go to college, get jobs and move out of the house, I was sort of left with the decision of do I not go to college because my parents really can’t afford it because they already sent somebody before me who has sort of drained the bank accounts? Or do I take sort of matters into my own hands and I was being offered a scholarship to a very, very small school in Pennsylvania to play softball for them. And as all good lesbians, we all play softball, so I actually toyed with the idea. And so I actually ended up taking matters into my own hands and as a very independent eighteen year old, met with a recruiter and decided to join the US Army; without my parents’ permission and without even their knowledge. And I don’t regret it one bit, it was actually a very freeing and liberating decision, and I got to grow up in the military. I spent sort of my formative years in the military, and I feel like that’s sort of where I grew up, that’s where sort of the adult me emerged, and I came out the other end as definitely a very different person than my peers, and a very different sibling than my siblings, and just a unique person in the family because nobody else had really gone into the military. So I’m not from one of those military families where you have this long heritage of everyone joining the military generation after generation. So yes, I joined the US Army straight out of high school and you had asked me to think about sort of one of the- I’m going to jump ahead a little bit. You had asked me to think about one of the fun facts that perhaps the average person doesn’t know about me or few people would expect. And this is sort of where that comes in. I would say it’s not necessarily a fun fact that I was in the military, but few people would expect that my job in the military was actually as an interrogator for the US Army Military Intelligence Corps. So it’s not often that I think we meet people who have such strange jobs that sound like they’re straight out of a Hollywood movie, but that was my job. They don’t call it an interrogator anymore, they’re a little bit more PC about it. The US Army calls it a Human Intelligence Collector.

Jenn T Grace:

Oh, that does sound very PC.

Danie Fineman:

Yes, yes and we abbreviate it as a HIC. So H-I-C. Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, so I interrogated for the Army, and on top of being an interrogator I had to learn a language. And it was very Cold War, because I got the opportunity to learn Russian, all paid for by the US Army. I learned Russian for a year, and then I went off to interrogation school. And then of course, you know you have September 11th that occurred and I went through back-to-back deployments and I ended up actually interrogating about 120 prisoners, not in Russia obviously, using an Arabic interpreter. So part of my job was also to learn how to use an interpreter and basically my job was in questioning. So a lot of people wonder how my personal relationships go, because they wonder if I’m interrogating my spouse. Although I have to say, I did use a tactic once on one of my foster children a few years ago. She had gotten in trouble in high school, and she was denying that she had done something, and I have to admit I used a tactic and within about three minutes got her to admit that she did it, and my wife looked at me with a horrifying look on her face like, ‘Oh my God, do you do this to me every day?’

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome, poor Bonnie.

Danie Fineman:

No I don’t actually use what I learned, because quite honestly most of what I learned is how to question. So it’s really sort of what I learned how to do, is sort of what you’re going to do with me today, is do follow-up. So if I say, “You know I spent eight years in the military,” a good follow-up would be, “Well what did you do for those eight years?” And if I say, “I was an interrogator,” a good follow-up would be, “What else did you do?” And I could say, “Oh well I was a Russian linguist.” “Oh well what else did you do?” And basically I was taught, keep saying “What else,” until the person on the other end says nothing else. And then you go to the next question.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow. I have known you for a while now, and I had absolutely no idea any- like I obviously knew that you had a military background, but I had absolutely no clue about any of the actual details.

Danie Fineman:

Well there you go, that’s exactly why it’s a fun fact that few people would expect. And I don’t talk about it much because it sounds absolutely insane.

Jenn T Grace:

Well I don’t think it sounds insane. I am over here thinking, what a great business tool that is for you to have. Because if you have the skillset that you’re able to get the bottom of something, then you can get to the bottom of your client’s problems very quickly.

Danie Fineman:

You’re absolutely dead-on with that because I always have to remind myself that because of my training, the one thing I did learn is that there’s always something more. So when I was interrogating in Iraq, and perhaps one of my Intelligence requirements that was coming down through the Pentagon, and they wanted to know where chemical weapons were being stored, say for instance. And I’m interrogating a prisoner and I say, “Where are chemical weapons?” And they say, “Well I know that they’re east of the river.” I have to keep asking and asking and asking until I get like an eight digit grid coordinate. And sometimes I have to think about getting that eight digit grid coordinate with my clients. If you tell me, “Well I want to be on a quiet street.” Okay well what does that mean? Does that mean you picture yourself off the main road, then off another subsequent road, and then off another road on sort of an unimproved dirt road that only has two other houses there? Do you picture yourself on fifty acres? What does that look like for you? And so I try to extract that from them by asking very detailed questions about, “Tell me about your vision. What do you picture when you picture the kids playing in the yard? How much yard are you envisioning? What does the road look like? Are there sidewalks? Are there trees? Is there a good park nearby? Like what’s your vision?” And I always think back to sort of that experience of always asking the next question, because there’s always more that can be said.

Jenn T Grace:

That is absolutely fascinating, and that seems like a really good way to use your skillsets in your current position as a real estate agent. Which actually makes me want to ask the question. I know the answer to the question, but I want to let the audience know, is what was the impetus that got you into real estate?

Danie Fineman:

Yes, I’ve told this story many times because it really was sort of the ‘ah-ha’ moment in my life. As you’ve said I got two degrees from the University of Connecticut, and obviously I’m not using either degree. And I know that that happens to a lot of folks, and sort of what happened for me was I was in the middle of my second degree at UConn, and simultaneously I was selling my condominium with my wife, and we were selling the condo, and we had interviewed a few other realtors because this was a few years before I got into real estate myself. And we were given a strong recommendation to use this broker who had been in the business for almost twenty years, and we had interviewed some other agents who weren’t veterans, they had only been doing it a few years. And we ended up going with the veteran, and we thought well we really can’t lose, this person has a ton of experience. And so we put our house on the market and I begrudgingly had to lower the price on the condo a few times because of course as all ignorant and stubborn home sellers, I was like, “My house is worth this much, and that’s how much I want to sell it for.” So she didn’t put her foot down and really show me and educate sort of why I was wrong and why we should have started off at a much lower price. But I’m getting off track here. What ended up happening was we went through her, the condo took almost a full year to sell, and while the condo was trying to sell we were out house hunting with her, and so she was really making out on both ends. She was selling the condo and she was our agent on the buying side. So it’s kind of like a dream job where you can sell someone’s property and then go and look for a house for them simultaneously. So we had been looking, and we had been looking, and we had been looking, and subsequently at the same time that the condo was selling, we found a house that we wanted. And needless to say, I could go into all of the minutia of everything that happened. But needless to say when all was said and done, I realized that I could do her job and do it far better than she did with us. She was- she knew that we’re a same sex couple, and she was tolerant and professional about it, but she was by no means family. She wasn’t another lesbian realtor, she didn’t understand maybe the finer nuances of what it means to buy a house as a same sex couple. The type of deed, the wording that would go into the deed, who could be on the mortgage, who’s the primary, secondary. You know I myself as veteran, I could have taken advantage of a VA loan that would have given us a very, very, very appealing low interest rate, and we wouldn’t have had to put a single dollar down on the property. It’s 100% financing. But we had the money from the condo sale so we didn’t utilize my VA loan. Well come to find out actually- and this is sort of one of those things that as a lesbian realtor, I know actually a few things about what it means to be an LGBT buyer, and one of those things is if you happen to be a veteran, and if you happen to be of the LGBT community, and you may be in a same sex marriage, or domestic partnership or civil union; and your partner is going to be the primary borrower on that mortgage, meaning maybe they make more money than you do. They can not get your VA loan. So we were not qualified to get that awesome, awesome interest rate because my wife makes more money than I do, and she was going to be the primary on the mortgage, because I was the primary on the mortgage for the condo. So we thought, ‘Hey, why don’t we take advantage of the first time homebuyer rates- they were doing $8,000 tax credit at the time. So hey, let’s qualify for that $8,000 and we’ll make my partner at the time marry on the loan. Well guess what, she’s not a veteran and because you’re in a same sex relationship, she doesn’t qualify for your VA loan or your VA benefits, or anything. So that was kind of hard to deal with. But needless to say, going back a little bit on sort of the ‘ah-ha’ moment and why I became a realtor was really this experience of selling and buying. And realizing that I could do her job, and that I saw it as sort of fun and easy; and who doesn’t want those adjectives to be able to describe the job that they do every day, right? Fun and easy.

Jenn T Grace:

Exactly.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah. And obviously I was a little ignorant at the time, I didn’t know all of the little things that she had to do for us for the stresses that she was going through behind the scenes. But really in retrospect now that I am a realtor, I really don’t think that she did her best for us to begin with, and I actually- I look back even further to the gentleman that I used to buy my condo when I got back from overseas and I purchased the condo. It was this little, little rinky dink cheap condo, and the realtor that I was working with at the time, he probably saw me as just kind of a waste of time. Like, ‘Oh here’s this veteran with money to burn, and she’s only looking at this really, really tiny condo and I’m barely going to make any money off of her. So let me really not spend too much time on her, because I’m only going to be making X amount off of her.’ And you know I’m sure that that was the mentality because I know that there’s people out there that feel that way. And it’s unfortunate because you could have someone who buys a $60,000 one bedroom condo, and then in five years turn around and buy a $300,000 house; and in the meantime they’ve recommended five friends to you. And so even though you may have only made $800 off of them back in 2002, off of this little condo, they’ve exponentially brought you maybe $15,000 in commissions subsequently because they were that impressed with how you dealt with them and the level of customer service that you gave them. So I look back at both experiences, of buying the condo and buying the home, and realized that I really didn’t get the kind of experience that I felt as though I deserved, and that I expected. So you know here we are, we’re buying and we’re selling, and I just thought, ‘I could do this, and I can do it better than you, and I think I want to do it. I think this is a blast.’ You know taking people out to look at homes and figuring out what’s the best home for them, and really showing them maybe something that they hadn’t necessarily thought of, or an area that they hadn’t thought of, really appealed to me. And sure enough, literally the month or two after we closed on our house, I was finishing up with my history degree and started to go to real estate courses. And here I am three years later, you know still trying to build my business. But you know what, I had a transaction where looking back at my own experience, and I can compare and contrast the two; it was interesting because I was dealing with a homebuyer who just wanted to look at one area. It was this very, very tiny zip code on the west end of Hartford. And that’s all that they wanted to look at. And sure enough one day I was looking through properties and I found a home in Mansfield; and if you don’t know Connecticut geography, Mansfield is nowhere near West Hartford and Hartford.

Jenn T Grace:

And it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Danie Fineman:

Right, exactly. Right. And they’re very different towns. I mean Hartford is the capital so you can imagine there’s sort of everything there. And Mansfield is sort of near like cow-tipping country. So I stumbled upon this home in Mansfield that looked eerily similar to the types of Victorian homes that we were touring on the west end of Hartford. And just for S’s and G’s, just for fun, I sent my buyer this property, and I send her a link to it and I said, “Hey I thought of you. Check out this property in Mansfield, you’d really be surprised what you can find out there and the type of deal that you can get when you just change geography a bit in Connecticut.” Sure enough, she loved the property, we ended up doing a complete 180, and she ended up buying a property in Willimantic, which is the next town over from Mansfield. And absolutely loves it, we got the best deal that I have ever seen; in fact my mortgage broker who I like to use, he said and I quote, and I have him on my website quoting this. He said, “It’s by far the best deal that he had ever seen because we got the house for $35,000 less than it appraised for.” So it was just one of those moments in real estate where you thought, “Yeah, this is what I’m meant to do.”

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, it totally seems like you are right in your wheelhouse. And it also- it shows that you’re serving a need within the LGBT community in terms of homebuyers. Because there are so many different things that go into same sex couples planning for anything. We know this. But it goes even deeper in terms of real estate transactions. So having that firsthand experience of how much a cluster it was for you, is able- it gives you the opportunity to translate that into something that’s of value and benefit to everybody that you serve.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, definitely. Even just letting same sex couples- giving them the heads up that when they are involved in a real estate transaction together, that if say they’re married in the state of Connecticut, I give them the heads up that when they sit down at the closing table and they’re signing all the paperwork, they’re actually going to see on the deed to the house that they’re single people. So the deed will say, ‘Danie Fineman, a single woman of blah-blah-blah, Connecticut, is buying this house with her spouse so-and-so, also a single woman in the state of Connecticut.’ So because they’re not federally recognized and the deed is a federal document, you will see that as a same sex couple, you’re treated as single people. And I remember feeling really down about seeing that on my deed and feeling like a second class citizen. And so when I get to the closing table with people who have a marriage, or a civil union, and they’re same sex, I let them know, “Just so you know, it’s not going to say that you guys are married. And just so you know, you can be on the mortgage together because any two people can be on a mortgage together; you don’t have to be related, you don’t have to be married. So you can both be on the mortgage together. But you really want to be on the deed together, that’s what matters.” And so you want to make sure that your attorney draws up a deed that gives you joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. Which means if one of you happens to pass away, and you survive the other, there is no reason why the house would not automatically transfer to the surviving partner. You don’t need to go through probate, you don’t need to go through the courts; it’s just any other two people buying a house together, it’s in your deed that if one passes away, it automatically transfers to the other. So that’s a little bit of an extra piece that I bring to the LGBT community, because I don’t think other realtors are saying to other people, because they don’t have to think about these things, and say to people, “Hey if you want to be on the deed together, you have every right to do so. But here’s the type of ownerships that you can have. You can have joint tenancy, you can have tenancy in common. You can have different types of ownership, but if you want to make sure that you’re protected under the law, you want the right of survivorship specifically stated in that deed if you’re same sex couple and you have a marriage, do not assume that the marriage in that state will protect you. Make sure it’s in the deed.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s absolutely crazy to me. So when I first bought my place, I was single, had no- you know I had no big vision plans of having a spouse anytime in the near future. And so I didn’t have to go through all of this. So what you’re talking about now, a lot of that is actually news to me even, in terms of the deed and whatnot. And it just seems like it just reinforces the second class citizenship that a lot of us feel for a variety of different reasons. Even for when we’re travelling out of state, and if you’re married you have to bring four different documents with you. I was just on Facebook yesterday and a friend of mine is travelling to Georgia. And she and her wife were trying to find their wills and the healthcare proxy; all sorts of documents. And it’s like- it just seems so unfair. So in terms of DOMA, what type of effect do you think the real estate transactions? Can you think of ways that that might- that might play out? Because I feel like some of these things, just like with taxes and estate planning and that kind of stuff, that over time it will gradually no longer be an issue. But I’m curious about real estate.

Danie Fineman:

I would say that even if the Supreme Court next month turns over portions of DOMA, I don’t think it’s going to affect the way that I have to counsel my buyers, my same sex buyers, here in the state of Connecticut. I think that if it gets completely overturned, and obviously the nation ends up adopting full scale marriage equality, that’s a different story. Because then you really don’t have to worry about it. You are legally married, and therefore it’s the automatic natural default in the deed when two people who are married are buying a house together. Typically their real estate attorney will default to drawing up the deed in that manner, but if they’re same sex, they want to know how to draw it up. And then also in any marriage, or in any relationship, you can just have one person owning the house in severalty, just owning it by themselves. So I think if portions of it get turned over it’s not going to affect real estate per say, and I don’t know all the finer nuances to it. But from my understanding, I don’t think it’s going to affect how I treat these real estate transactions here in Connecticut, unless it’s completely overturned, dissolved, said and done with, and we have marriage equality in the entire fifty United States.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. And I have high hopes for DOMA, but I can’t imagine it being 100% overturned and all of the states having to abide by same sex marriage. I feel like it’s still going to be under the state’s jurisdiction.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, I agree with you there. I think we’re a few years away from anything major happening, if it ever does happen.

Jenn T Grace:

Well we can still hope. And my next question actually is around what inspires you? And I feel like what you’ve been talking about, I can hear how passionate you are about helping your clients. So what does inspire you and just keeps you motivated to just keep doing what you’re doing every day?

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, you know I get that a lot from people saying, “Oh I can hear the excitement in your voice.” And I don’t realize that I’m getting kind of pumped up about certain things. But I would say what inspires me is really the big payoff, and I’m not talking about the financial payoff, although that helps. Really the big payoff when I get to see someone hold the keys to their new home, and I know that they fully entrusted- they entrusted me with everything that went on. So from the beginning they entrusted that I was going to show them properties that they could afford, and not try and show them properties that were outside of their purchase power. Point out bad things about a property. There’s too many realtors out there that say, “Isn’t there lovely light coming through the windows? And don’t you just love that cream color in the kitchen?” And it’s like, no that is not what you’re there for. You are there as sort of the second pair of eyes. You’re there as like the mini home inspector, and if you can’t provide that service to say, “Hey look, I think those gable vents are a little too small, or I think the foundation here doesn’t have the- whatever you want to talk about. If you’re not pointing out those things then you’re not doing your job. And so what inspires me is sort of the big payoff at the end where they’re holding the keys to this new home, they trusted me of all people out there, because there’s hundreds of realtors out there, to help them get there that very moment. And then the icing on the cake is really when these same people go out and they talk about their experience with me as their realtor, and they talk about how I really had their back so to speak. I have two very close friends of mine who ended up buying a house with me, and I was very new out of the gate out of real estate school. I was no more than six months into having my license. And they trusted me to do the transaction with them, and sure enough we were in a transaction where the seller wanted to charge my buyers for one of the kitchen cabinets that was mounted to the wall, okay? And this is outrageous. But the seller’s realtor, the other real estate agent involved, didn’t step in and say to his own client, “Um, you can’t charge them for that.” And so I literally had to do my due diligence and go back to a real estate law book and photocopy a page out of a law book that defined what a permanent fixture is in a home. And that a kitchen cabinet permanently affixed to a wall that is stained the same exact color as the rest of the cabinets, whether it was originally a part of that cabinet set or not, is considered a permanent fixture, and therefore cannot be removed, and cannot be charged for it. And so I went above and beyond for them to make sure that they weren’t getting charged for these like superfluous items. He wanted to charge them for other things as well, and so I had to go to bat for them and I think that level of paying attention to the transaction, and that level of going to bat for somebody and finding the correct page in a law book to defend your position, really separates realtors from other realtors. And so ultimately the icing on the cake and the big payoff for me is the referral. If you really had a great experience with me, and maybe the transaction was awful because the sellers were awful but I really went to bat for you, and I disclosed everything to you, and I pointed out the bad things about the house, and we got contractors in there, and quotes, and I told you about prior transactions that I had gone through and this is probably what’s likely to happen, and I set up all of those right expectations for you. Even if the transaction didn’t go well, but if I gave you the tools and the expectations, ultimately you’re going to go, “Wow, she really did a good job for me,” and you’re going to then refer me to your friends and family, and that really is the big payoff.

Jenn T Grace:

That is so awesome, and I feel so jipped in so many ways from my first experience purchasing a home, because I feel like it had to do with the fact that I was young, and it was in 2007 when the market was right at the peak of it. So you know my story, I got really screwed essentially in it. But I am looking forward to the sale of my house, and I’ve already told you that you are my go-to gal when I am ready to get that done. So I feel like just your passion and your excitement and what motivates you is reassuring to people that you’re talking to but that’s also reassuring to people that are potentially going to be doing business with you in the not-so-distant future.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, exactly. Really this whole business is word of mouth. So many people don’t realize that we don’t get a paycheck unless we’re working with someone who ends up actually purchasing something. So I could work with someone for nine months, and never see a single dollar because maybe they didn’t find something or their financing went through, or whatever million other variables that can be responsible for not getting to the closing table, and I never see a single dollar. And so it’s important to stay active, have your face be seen, have your voice heard, be places, go places, constantly building up a database of people who may be potential clients, and it’s very, very, very important that when you get a client, that you treat them exceptionally well so that they refer you to somebody else. Because otherwise you’re never, ever, ever going to grow and that’s the only way to sort of survive is to have every transaction be the best transaction it can be so that it grows.

Jenn T Grace:

And I- so a piece of business advice that I’m thinking based on what you’ve just said, and then I’m going to ask you for what yours is, is I have had countless encounters of running into people that I have absolutely no idea who they are. And I just get into a conversation with them, and then after we walk away. A lot of times this happens in elevators at conferences it seems. And it’s like, “Oh yeah I was having this great conversation with so-and-so” and then someone turns to me and says, “Did you realize that was the CEO of Aetna?” Or “Do you realize you were just talking with the CEO of Ernst & Young?” And I have absolutely no idea. And to me it’s a matter of talking and treating everybody the exact same, regardless of how influential you think they are, or how insignificant you may think they are. Like I feel like that’s one of those rules of business that you really have to treat everyone fairly, and treat everyone the way you would want to be treated, and not be looking at people based on what they’re going to get you, and how they’re going to get you from A to B. You know, like- and I’m thinking of your real estate clients, and I’m thinking how I definitely got taken advantage of and I think it was because of my age. And it’s like if I had somebody who was really in my corner, who was interested in helping me just because I’m me- not because of my age, not because of the potential insignificant amount of money they’re going to make off of me. Like I feel like it would have been a lot easier for that referral process. Because it’s like, “Hey, I was treated fairly, just like anybody else would have been treated.”

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, you can never know the potential of anyone that you’re talking to. For instance, I was on a real estate team where one of the people on the team with me had a great story of getting stranded and needed a tow. And sure enough the tow guy showed up, and they’re sitting in the truck together towing his car back to his house, and they just got to chatting, and you know it’s a blue collar guy, he tows cars for a living, and he probably had some greasy hands and he definitely out there, and I think it was even like one in the morning, and sure enough the realtor sitting next to the tow truck guy, they are just chatting about sort of, “Hey where do you live?” And that’s what’s great about being in real estate, is it’s always a natural conversation starter. You can just ask someone where they live, and boom, you’re in real estate. Sure enough, this guy ended up being a client. He ended up saying, “Oh, I’m actually looking to sell my house and looking to upgrade and buy a bigger house, can I get your business card?” So you never can count someone’s- you know there’s the old saying don’t count other people’s money for them. But it’s a very similar saying is don’t count on someone’s potential. You know they could be mowing your lawn, they could be cleaning your teeth; everybody has a house that they live in, or an apartment that they live in, or they know someone who’s selling or buying. And really the potential is so exponential and infinite that it’s scary and it makes me wonder why I don’t have more business.

Jenn T Grace:

That is funny. So you’ve already given some really awesome tidbits and pieces of advice and whatnot, but I want to know what is the best piece of business advice that you’ve been given?

Danie Fineman:

Well unfortunately I’ve been given a lot of advice. You know the first thing that comes to mind, and it’s something that comes to mind so quickly that I just- I’m going to have to talk about it. It’s not necessarily the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given in my thirty something years on the planet. But it’s probably the most memorable because it does surface so quickly for me when people say, “What’s some advice you’ve been given?” And it was actually from a high school English teacher; I won’t say how many years ago. But my high school English teacher, I was telling him about a little bit of trouble that I was in because I got into a lot of trouble in high school, I’ll be honest. And he said to me, “The best defense is an offense.” And I didn’t really understand wholly what he meant at the time, and it took a little while to look back in retrospect really what that truly meant in the context that I was in. But you can apply that advice to what I do as a negotiator. It really captures the spirit of representing a buyer who may run into issues with a home purchase. You know I have to be offensive in order to defend my client’s position, and I’m actually in a negotiation right now where this really plays, and this piece of advice really does play into a negotiation that I’m going in right now where the seller is being very defensive about what she’s willing to pay for, and I need to take the offensive measure about already getting quotes, and already filling out the right forms, and already setting up the scene and the expectations for everybody involved to defend my client’s position of what she’s going to need to have done to the property before we close, because she has a special type of financing. And so I need to take that offensive initiative, because I know her type of financing and a realtor that doesn’t take those offensive measures when they already know sort of the variables involved, the type of clients that they have, any special case by case scenario; if they don’t take the offensive in negotiating, they’re always just going to be taking the defensive and like my high school teacher, the best defense is an offense.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really good advice, and I would have attributed it to your softball history, but we’ll go with the English teacher.

Danie Fineman:

That’s great.
Jenn T Grace:

So I actually haven’t had softball come up in an interview yet, which is really a little bit surprising and I don’t want to go down the stereotype road, but I am going to go rogue again and ask you what position?

Danie Fineman:

Well I played center field in high school up until senior year when our high school catcher graduated and they needed a catcher. And I played catcher for one year, and then I got recruited at the catcher position, believe it or not. I was a very fast and skinny little outfielder who would take balls out of the other outfielder’s hands and do like these crazy, leaping, acrobatic catches. And then sure enough senior year I’m behind the plate counting pitches, and it was very strange. And I ended up getting recruited for that, which was even stranger. And right now as an adult playing in like a women’s league I’m back out in the outfield doing my crazy, acrobatic catches. Although I’m usually sore for about three months after we play a game, so that’s the difference.

Jenn T Grace:

You’re not as limber as you once were.

Danie Fineman:

No, I’ll pull a muscle just running to first base.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, I don’t even know- one of the things that I think about, and I get really like that homesick type of feeling for softball during the spring, because it was such a huge part of my life for like twenty years. And every year I’m like, “Oh, I want to go out and do something.” And then it’s like, “Oh, my body can’t take it.”

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, it does, it takes a lot of warming up when you’re getting up there in age. And there are women in our league that are in their fifties that put me to shame, and they’re the ones that keep me coming back because I really expected to sort of blow the league out of the water like, “Oh here’s this young girl.” And you know the pitching is different, it’s like this giant lob coming at you at one mile an hour, rather than what you’re used to in high school at fast pitch. So I thought I was going to be amazing, and boy was I humbled.

Jenn T Grace:

That is funny. It’s interesting that I was a fast pitch pitcher, and you ended up as a catcher. So we would have made a great pair back in the day.

Danie Fineman:

We sure were, maybe we can warm up sometime.

Jenn T Grace:

I would imagine that somehow one of us would end up injured.

Danie Fineman:

Probably both of us, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

But it would make a great story, and we could go to a CABO event together all beat up and bruised, it would be great.

Danie Fineman:

Perfect, I look forward to it.

Jenn T Grace:

Alright, so I want to switch gears into marketing for a couple of minutes. And the people who are listening to this podcast right now are either a business owner, they’re in professional services, and they may be allies, they could be LGBT. But they’re listening to hear more about ways that they could market to the LGBT community, or better position themselves in the LGBT community. So do you have any words of wisdom around how one might do that successfully?

Danie Fineman:

Well I have two. Two words of wisdoms, if you would. The first thing is that the LGBT market has recently blossomed. And what I mean by that is if you just go back five, six years ago and you were to Google- if that was even a verb back then, if you were to Google six years ago ‘lesbian car mechanic,’ or ‘lesbian realtor,’ or anything that had to do with gay or lesbian and then fill in the blank trade, profession; you weren’t likely to find really anything. And then all of a sudden it was like- well for my profession it was like all of a sudden there was www.GayRealEstate.com. There was the Pink Pages. Gay Realty. It was like all of a sudden when you Googled these things, actual websites would come up. But even just five or six years ago when we were selling the condo, we were trying to Google a lesbian realtor and nothing came up. And nowadays you’re kind of competing to get into these registries for sort of these LGBT websites. So for instance www.GayRealEstate.com is huge now. And so my first bit of advice would be to have an SEO; like have a search engine optimization working for you. So make sure you’re in- you’re on the web with certain key words. So if you want to be that lesbian accountant in Atlanta, make sure you have a website where if someone typed in, ‘lesbian accountant, Atlanta,’ or ‘LGBT accountant, Atlanta,’ or ‘gay friendly accountant, Atlanta,’ that you come up. That those key words represent your website. And so that was one of the first things that I did a few years ago, was to just get a website so that if someone like me were to ever go back in on the Internet and want to type in ‘lesbian realtor, Hartford area,’ that I would come up. I haven’t- honestly I haven’t had much success with people contacting me through my website, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be worth it eventually when someone who is really looking to just be represented by someone in the LGBT community, that they’ll contact me. Also I have links from my website to other LGBTQ type businesses like the HRC, certain places that are near me in Hartford like a health collective, CABO for instance. And I also have a link onto www.GayRealEstate.com on my website because actually because the worldwide web is so limited when you’re talking about LGBTQ key words, www.GayRealEstate.com actually ended up contacting me and asking for me to exchange links with them because they were apparently Googling things and saw that my website was trending very high. And I haven’t even paid- I’m not paying like a tremendous amount of money to be on Google’s first page, or for anything. I’m not paying per clicks or anything like that. I just had an IT guy, a web guy, set up my page, I told him what I wanted, we moved things around, we changed some colors, some this, some that, we threw in some links and it’s taken about four years but now if you were to Google ‘lesbian realtor, Connecticut,’ I’m probably going to be the third website that’s up there. That’s not to say that I don’t obviously go house hunting with heterosexual people, but they have enough resources. And so if they want to find a realtor, they don’t have to worry about absolutely anything other than looking up an agency or driving down the road. So when you’re dealing with someone who really wants an LGBT person to represent them because they’re in a same sex relationship, then you need websites like mine. So if you’re looking to advertise to the LGBT community, first use a search engine optimization, use key words. And then my second piece of advice has nothing to do with technology, it’s just to- and I could use actually this advice more. Because even though I’m touting it and telling people to do this, I don’t listen to my own advice. Is you really need to just get out there into the community, show the community that you support them, that you’re either a part of the community or you’re friendly to the community, and eventually referrals- business will come your way. So for instance when I go to CABO, there may be a representative from Nutmeg State Credit Union there, and the person representing Nutmeg State may or may not be a lesbian or a gay person or a transgender person. But just because they’re there at CABO, and they’re an ally, and they’re friendly, and they’re there month after month- it makes me want to do business with them. And it’s not just I strictly have to work and patronize other LGBT businesses. It’s hey, you’re there, that means a lot to me. So I try and go out to the gay film festivals, the Prides, the this and the that. You know I’m a softball team so right there, that’s like a dozen gay client right there. Although we do have a sprinkle of some straights in there, you wouldn’t believe it. But you know they’re awful. I’m just kidding. So you know that would be my second piece of advice, is just to get out in the community and do whatever you can to show your support. And once you show your support, they eventually will want to work with you no matter what you do.

Jenn T Grace:

So for people who are listening to this right now, and do not know what CABO is since we’ve thrown it around a couple of times without actually explaining it, it is the LGBT Chamber of Commerce located here in Connecticut. And I will put a link to a resource that can help you identify if there is an LGBT Chamber of Commerce in your area. And one of the things that you were just saying; it’s almost like just showing up is half the battle. And being active and being engaged. Right? That’s like the easiest way to kind of frame it up.

Danie Fineman:

Yup, definitely.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s really interesting and it’s something that I have talked in great length about at one point or another on this podcast. Is that you just really have to be genuine and you have to be authentic. So your example of the folks at Nutmeg which is a regional credit union based here in Connecticut, and they’re really active, they’re really engaged, and they show up over and over and over again. And because of it, they’re just really starting to make a really good reputation for themselves within the LGBT community, which at the end of the day is what we’re all trying to accomplish.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, exactly.

Jenn T Grace:

So staying along I suppose the marketing / business area here, as a member of the LGBT community have you been able to leverage your status as an LGBT person in any particular way?

Danie Fineman:

Unfortunately I don’t believe that that would apply to me yet. I mean I’m hoping eventually I have an experience where being a part of the community and trying to get myself out there, and having a website that definitely has my picture on it and says that I am Connecticut’s residential lesbian realtor; hopefully eventually that does give me leverage. I mean in my company itself when I first joined Keller Williams, I had a few people come up to me and say, “You don’t want to bog yourself down to advertising just to one community. You don’t want to limit yourself.” And at first I was really taken aback by this. Like I thought, “Who are you to give me advice about marketing to my own community and thinking that it’s a waste of my time and that I’m limiting myself?” Because there’s always straight people out there that are going to want to buy houses and they’ll find me if they know me, et cetera, et cetera. But it’s so, so, so small, the community that exists amongst true professionals that represent the LGBTQ community. So I didn’t heed their advice. I went ahead and did my own website and joined the softball team and CABO, and the health collective, and I donate to HRC, and I still do all of those things. I wouldn’t say that I have had any particular leverage by being a part of the community yet, that’s really given me an advantage over other realtors. But I do know that there are realtors in my company that feel as though I have a real true edge with that community. And I wouldn’t say that they’re intimidated by it, but they would sooner recommend me to one of their LGBT clients than try and serve that community and keep the profit for themselves. You know I’ve definitely had people come up to me and say, “Hey maybe you might want to work with this person.” And I’m like, “Why? What do you mean?” And then they skirt around the issue a little bit, they’re a little uncomfortable, but really what they were trying to say is, “Hey they’re gay, you’re gay, why don’t you work with them?”

Jenn T Grace:

That is awesome. And I think it’s great that you didn’t take the advice of not putting yourself into a narrow market. Because now you’re really carving out that market for yourself which is awesome.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, I’m really trying to. I mean that was really the goal. Was- you know every now and then I feel a tinge of regret knowing that if I give out my business card to someone who’s clearly straight, that I have a tinge of worry that they’re going to go onto my website and see that it really is outwardly marketed to the LGBTQ community, and then think that maybe I am not going to represent them. That they might think that I don’t want their business, and that all I’m looking for is to find people in the LGBT community. And that’s not the case, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the time to talk with them, educate them, give them my business card, et cetera, et cetera. But you know I’m not going to fine tune the website that it seems overly inclusive, and it doesn’t really represent the fact that yeah, my ultimate goal is really just to work with LGBT people buying houses in Connecticut, and that’s really what I want to do. Because I know I can make you feel comfortable, I can understand what you’re going through, and there’s enough of you out there where I can really have a solid business all year round and never actually work with one straight person; and that’s really the goal but I can’t pick and choose the sexuality of clients, that sounds hilarious. Yeah, but I would definitely- it’s just kind of like someone saying, “Well ultimately I would want to serve the underprivileged or serve kids that come from broken homes.” And then you happen to actually help out a kid who has all of these resources at home and you’re like, “Aw shucks, I shouldn’t have helped that kid out.” It’s like it’s silly to think that way.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, I agree.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah so I mean my first clients were a heterosexual couple, and then subsequently I had a gay couple, I had a transgender couple, another gay couple. And right now I have two clients right now who are in negotiating periods with their house and they’re both straight couples. So you know I’m doing my best for anybody, but obviously I hold a special place in my heart for representing people that may not have always had someone fully representing them to the best of their abilities.

Jenn T Grace:

And I would say that that is what your competitive advantage really comes down to. It’s that if a straight couple comes up to you and say that they want you to sell their house, and they go to your website. I feel like if anything, if they’re turned off by the fact that your niche market is LGBT, that’s not somebody you want to work with anyway.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, and I have to tell myself that sometimes as well. That if they didn’t call me back and I know that they went on the website, that yeah I don’t want to be working with them anyway.

Jenn T Grace:

And that’s really my philosophy, and I feel like it’s a little bit tough to really immerse yourself into that type of mindset because at the end of the day if you’re trying to pay the bills, you don’t want to be turning down business. But if you’re going to accept business from somebody that’s either A) not your ideal target or your ideal client, or B) it’s going to be somebody who is actually more effort or work in the long run; then it’s better off than just not to have them to begin with. So it’s almost like your website is a way to filter out the people that wouldn’t be wanting to work with you for the right reason anyway.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, you know I never thought of my website as a filter, but you’re absolutely right. I mean I had a chance back in February when I was redoing the website to make it a little bit more inclusive and to sort of dumb down the LGBT sort of propaganda that was in there. And I did, I toyed with it for a minute. I toyed with maybe making it a little bit more inclusive because my first two years in real estate, I actually had two separate business cards. And I literally would call one pile the ‘gay pile,’ and the other pile the ‘straight pile.’ And I don’t do that anymore. I have one business card, one website, and I am who I am, and if you don’t appreciate the fact that I’m trying to get a niche clientele, and you feel as though since you’re straight- even though you got a warm and fuzzy from me, you thought I was well spoken, you thought I was educated, you thought I’d really represent you well in your real estate transaction. But now you stumble upon my website and maybe your political or religious views don’t coincide with the person that you met. Then yeah, ultimately it is a filter, so I think you’re right about that.

Jenn T Grace:

I actually use my website in the same way. And so even though we’re in entirely different industries, I think that what we’re both doing is very similar in terms of carving out our niche. And if I meet with somebody and they go to my website, there is nothing about my website that doesn’t say, ‘LGBT.’ Like that is my niche, that is my focus. That’s not to say that if somebody were walking down the street and they said, “Oh you know what? I need a new website, do you know somebody who can do it?” Of course I could do it. Do I want to be doing it is another story. Or if this person- like you said, doesn’t have the same values or ideals that I have, I would much rather pass that person off to somebody that I have a referral with. That I know will do them well, but it’s just not me, because we’re not a right match. And I really- I like that my website is a filter, so it’s good that yours is acting in that same way.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah it actually makes me feel better about my own website being so specific.

Jenn T Grace:

Because if you’re not- if you’re trying to speak to everybody, you’re not resonating with anyone.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah, yeah that’s really- that really says it well because if I’m going to spend the time and the energy and the money on the website, the first thing I say in my website is that there are hundreds of real estate agents and we are not all created equal. And that being said, that’s the first line on my website. That being said, is here’s how I am not the same as everyone else.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, and I think you’re on the right path, and anybody who’s listening to this who may be in an entirely different industry myself being in marketing and you being in real estate, they could apply the exact same type of philosophy and principle around it, and I think that they’d still be able to find success.

Danie Fineman:

I hope so, yeah I’m still working on it. It’s still a work in progress, I’m not trying to say that I threw this website up and within a year I’m inundated with LGBT clients. I mean that definitely is not the case, but I’m still hopeful that as time goes on and I get sort of the cycle of referrals coming back my way, that really the community is going to start talking about me on some level. And there is this one other realtor who works sort of in southern Connecticut, so I’m sort of in central and northern Connecticut, and there is this one lesbian realtor that works in southern Connecticut- you actually know who she is because she’s in the CABO directory as well. And she is really someone who she’s been in the business a lot longer than I have, and so she’s kind of like a trademark name for lesbians. And I want to be that trademark name for this area. And so I’m not necessarily to her for like tutelage or anything, but I already know that she’s a name that’s out there that people know, and that’s where I would like to be sooner rather than later.

Jenn T Grace:

And in my experience in the networking environment since you and I are both pretty heavy networkers here in Connecticut, I really think that you’re already probably further ahead on that path than you realize.

Danie Fineman:

Well I hope so. I mean when I’m sitting down here in the basement drinking my coffee, wondering where my next bit of business is going to come from, I’ll remember you said that.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes, please. This will be recorded so when it airs you can just play it over and over again. It will be like a little pep talk. Alright, so why don’t you tell us one business book, or some sort of program or a tool that’s just really helped transform the way that you go about business.

Danie Fineman:

Well most recently, Gary Keller which is one of the founders of Keller Williams; thus the name Keller Williams, Gary Keller recently published a new book called, ‘The One Thing.’ And ‘The One Thing,’ I haven’t read it cover to cover yet, but to summarize it’s entitled, ‘The One Thing,’ because the book really breaks down how to do business by focusing on one thing at a time. And I know that that sounds simple and mundane and like common sense. But what he means by that is if your ultimate goal is to make $80,000 this year and to close on fifty homes this year, what can you do right now- right this very moment, to get closer to that? Well he breaks it down to such minutia that it is well what I can do right now is I can go on the Internet and go through my email and respond to one email that I got from either a current client or a past client. And then once you’re done with that, what’s the one thing you can do now to get closer to that $80,000? Well now I can go and take a shower to get dressed to go to that home inspection. Okay now what’s one thing that you can do? And it really goes one thing at a time to make- you know a lot of people will say, “What are your manageable goals?” You know? Keep it simple, keep it manageable. So if your goal is $80,000 this year, and I don’t know if that’s lofty for the business that you’re in or if that’s undercutting for the type of business that you’re in. But in real estate to make $80,000 that’s very good. And if my goal for instance was $80,000 this year, instead of saying, “Okay well I should break it down week to week or month to month, and I need at least four closings a month to get to fifty houses a year or whatever, however the math draws out. What is one thing that I can do right now, sitting here right right now that will get me to that daily goal, that weekly goal, that monthly goal, that yearly goal? So that really puts sort of life into perspective on so many levels. You can utilize the book called, ‘The One Thing’ for anything. So I think Gary Keller didn’t write it specifically for realtors, but for anyone who’s in business who needs to do one thing to be successful, what is that one thing and how do you define that one thing for yourself in that very moment?

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really awesome. I hadn’t heard of that book but I have a business coach who tries to get me to focus on things, and focus on one thing at a time. So it’s a little bit of what she’s talked about, I’m wondering if that may be where she got it from.

Danie Fineman:

It’s recent, it’s very recent. It came out like a month ago.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome. And every one of these interviews that I do, I have a blog post that goes with it. So any information you’ve been talking about, I can make sure that I link to it. So I will make sure that I put a link to that book there as well.

Danie Fineman:

Okay, good.

Jenn T Grace:

So I have one last question and then we will say goodbye. And that question is what is one thing in your business right now that is just super exciting?

Danie Fineman:

That’s very easy to answer. What’s super exciting is that the interest rates are record low, and they’ll remain record low throughout 2015, I believe the government has allotted for. And coupled with the fact that the interest rates are at a record low, we are now moving into a very strong seller’s market, the pendulum is swinging back the other way very, very quickly. So we are already out of the five year slump that we’ve been in, it is officially over. 90% of all US cities are reporting a seller’s market, so we are in a seller’s market and it is only going to further swing in the opposite direction and so we’re kind of heading into another little perfect storm in that you have buyers who if they have buying purchasing power, they’re going to get an amazing, amazing rate. You know you can get something that’s around 3%, 3.5%, 3.75% right now; which is honestly historically unheard of. So even if you have a mortgage right now that’s in the 5’s in the 6’s or even in the 4’s, and you plan on staying in the home for a while, meaning probably more than five years, you really need to look into refinancing because the interest rates right now are ridiculously low. And they will only stay that way for about another year or so. So take advantage of low interest rates, that’s something that’s really exciting in real estate and it’s been really exciting in real estate for about the past two years, as the interest rates have remained very low. And then the other exciting thing is that if you’re a seller and you’ve been kind of waiting out these past five years for the slump to be over with, or the depressed market to be over with, it is now here. And I think a year from now we are all going to be having a very different conversation about real estate, and about the economy as it pertains specifically to real estate and distressed properties and foreclosures and short sales, and it’s really, really, really going to be exciting for me to finally be in a seller’s market.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s exciting for me since I need to sell my current place.

Danie Fineman:

Yeah I was thinking about you as I was saying it.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome, and of course we will engage at a later date about that. So thank you so much for taking the time out of your day today. This interview has been fun and it’s been full of information so I’m hoping that people who are listening to this can get all sorts of great gems of wisdom from you. But if anyone wants to get in touch with you, how would you recommend that they do so?

Danie Fineman:

Well I really people going on the website, the more clicks the better. So if they wanted to check out www.EqualityHomesCT.com, that’s ‘Equality’ like we all want marriage equality. ‘Homes,’ which is plural, and ‘CT’ for Connecticut, dot com. Or you can just give me a call on my cell phone or text me which is (860) 948-0370.

Jenn T Grace:

That is fabulous. Thank you again and we will talk soon.

Danie Fineman:

Thanks Jenn for having me, I’m glad you got to interrogate me for once.

Jenn T Grace:

We’ll have to do it again.

Danie Fineman:

Sounds good.

 

Want to see who else is being interviewed for this Pride month project? Check it out here – 30 days – 30 voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders

This podcast episode originally aired in June 2013.

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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