William Raveis Real EstateForty years ago, 28-year-old Westinghouse International systems analyst William Raveis Jr. was pretty disgruntled. Despite his success in spearheading a company project that integrated domestic and international shipping, involving long hours and weekend commutes to New York City, he got no recognition. The idea of spending his working life as a “company man” lost all appeal: “I wanted a business where I could succeed or fail on my own,” he says.
The answer? Real estate—for two reasons. As a child, he’d accompanied his contractor father on new construction jobs, helping him mix the cement. “I’d walk through the houses being built and just love the smell of them,” he says. Of course, the fact that the real estate industry seemed financially promising didn’t hurt. On those NYC-bound train rides to Westinghouse he’d check out the Fortune 500, and saw that more than half the companies on the list were real estate. His own first digs were, by comparison, modest: one room above Mercurio Grocery in Fairfield.
As of 2014, William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance stands as one of the top companies of its kind in the U.S.—the seventh-largest under family ownership—and is the No. 1 family-owned real estate firm in the Northeast, employing 3,500 agents and with annual real estate sales of $7 billion. The company currently operates 96 offices, more than 40 of these in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Hampshire. Over the years it’s become even more of a family affair, with chairman and CEO Bill adding his two sons to the team—Chris, who manages the out-of state offices, and Ryan, company treasurer and manager of its mortgage operations.
In December, Raveis announced plans to move from its 22,000-square-foot headquarters in Shelton to a 44,000-square-foot space a half-mile away, which will expand the company’s world-class IT platform and add employee-workout facilities and an interior garden. In order to keep employee commutes short, Raveis was determined to keep the business in town. This kind of consideration is only part of the reason Raveis has been named “Top Workplace in Connecticut” for the past three years by the Hartford Courant and Fox News, an accolade earned from reports by the company’s own employees. “Those are the awards that mean the most,” Raveis says. “I learned my lesson from the Westinghouse years: Treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Raveis is also renowned for community involvement, benefiting more than 100 nonprofits from Save the Sound and Grassmere Eldercare in Fairfield to the American Red Cross and Girl Scouts. In 2013, the William Raveis Charitable Fund pledged $750,000 to UConn Health Center for the William Raveis Navigator Care Program, in which volunteers and medical professionals will help newly diagnosed breast cancer patients “navigate” the stresses of diagnosis and treatment.
- Pat Grandjean
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