Alex Vidal was a teenage father when he took on a secretarial role at Keyes Real Estate, one of South Florida’s largest and most well-known brokerages. Vidal, then 18, knew nothing about the real estate industry but realized it could give him the opportunity to build a better life for himself, his partner and their coming child.
“I needed a real job,” he told Intel.
Little did Vidal know, his year as a secretary would lead to opportunities as a telemarketer, real estate agent, recruiting director, sales coach and sales manager at some of South Florida’s top brands, a regional vice president role for Coldwell Banker Dallas-Ft. Worth, and finally, the newest brand president of ERA Real Estate.
“I wish you could see my face right now so you could see the smile,” he said. “I’ve been able to see literally every single side of what it takes to not only work in real estate but running real estate and owning real estate. It gives me perspective. There’s not a role that I haven’t been in already, and I can sit with any person and any level in our company and help coach and guide along the way.”
Vidal’s appointment was groundbreaking not only for him but for the Hispanic community, as Vidal is the first Hispanic president of a major real estate brand — an amazing journey for a teenage father and the son of a political prisoner who fled from Cuba to Miami in the 1960s.
“It was one of those things for my dad to see his son, a first-generation American, win and persevere and be able to put the Hispanic community on the map,” he said. “I’m happy and sad that I’m the first because it took this long. But there’s a first for everything, and now let this serve as the fact that the Hispanic community can win.”
Vidal sat down with Intel to speak about his first 100 days at the helm, his plans for continuing to push ERA into the future, and his passion for diversity, equity and inclusion in real estate.
Inman: You just completed your first 100 days as ERA’s president. How’s your experience been thus far?
Vidal: Anytime you take over an iconic brand like ERA, it will be a whirlwind. But if I could essentially describe my dream job to be a brand president, it would be ERA. In my short amount of time on the job, I’ve already been to 12 cities and been in front of a couple thousand of our agents, and it was literally like walking into a family reunion.
I have never seen a group that is more collaborative, that is hands-on from the top down and wants everybody to win. That attitude comes from a place of abundance. I go to bed every night with this amazing amount of gratitude for the opportunity to be able to lead this great brand and more importantly, be able to work hand in hand with these people. It’s been awesome.
Sherry [Chris] always spoke glowingly about ERA’s affiliates and how they support each other, so I’m glad you’ve been able to experience the same thing. Although you have a history with ERA, what have you learned about the brand that you didn’t know before?
What I didn’t know before that I know now is that I have never seen a closer-knit group of owners and brokers. It truly is something that separates ERA from any other real estate brand in the country. We have brokers who will literally call on each other to help each other out when it comes to an opportunity or challenge in their business. They don’t jump on Zoom. They literally fly or drive to each other to help each other out and coach your agency.
I’ll even give you a different example of that. It’s not super positive because it has to deal with a death in the family, but one of our largest franchisees, his ex-wife passed away. Almost all of our top 25 broker-owners went to Florida to be there for her celebration of life. And that is something amazing — when you look at the real estate marketplace and where a lot of people come from like it’s a competition, the ERA network comes from a place of abundance because they’ve realized the more we stick together, the more we help each other win.
There are things that we do within ERA that just further exemplify that. We have always been pioneers in a lot of different things over our 51 years in business, but it’s ultimately just the locked-in-arms attitude that our brokers have that helps us win no matter the market. That by far has been the biggest like aha moment.
I have ERA’s announcement about your appointment open in front of me, and it mentions your past as a VP of an ERA affiliate in South Florida. What is it like to look back at your history and how it’s led to where you are now?
My background in real estate may be different than most, at least at a brand president level. I actually started as a secretary to the owner of the largest privately held real estate company in Florida. That was when I was 18 and I had my son at 19. I needed a real job and that opportunity led me to literally holding every single role in real estate — I went from secretary to telemarketer to recruiting director to sales coach to sales manager, vice president, and now this. I’ve also spent time on the Anywhere side having run Coldwell Banker in Dallas-Fort Worth, which is a multi-billion dollar organization.
I’ve been able to see literally every single side of what it takes to not only work in real estate but running real estate and owning real estate. It gives me perspective. There’s not a role that I haven’t been in already, and I can sit with any person and any level in our company and help coach and guide along the way. I’ve been in the trenches, and this broker owner group is, too. These owners are working just as hard as their agents and they want a president that’s going to work right alongside them. That’s where the fun is.
Right before our interview, I learned something I didn’t know about you, and honestly, it didn’t cross my mind. I learned you’re the first Hispanic president of a major brand. As a person of color, I know how much it means to break barriers and open the door for others to reach your level. What does it mean for you?
I’m going to try to not get emotional here because that question immediately takes me to my very first phone call when I got promoted. That call was to my mom and dad. My parents came over from Cuba when they were in their teens. My dad’s family were political prisoners against Fidel Castro and communism. My grandmother literally had to sell everything she had to bribe a judge to get both my uncle and my grandfather out of jail because they were fighting Fidel.
My dad went to Miami and worked as a groundskeeper at a Catholic high school to pay for his college tuition, and he eventually got his college degree while raising a family. So to be able to call my dad and tell him that I was the first Hispanic president of a major brand really meant a lot not only to myself but to my dad … I’m trying to see if I can really put how I feel into words.
It was one of those things for my dad to see his son, a first-generation American, win and persevere and be able to put the Hispanic community on the map. That is something that we’re all very proud of. I’m happy and sad that I’m the first because it took this long. But there’s a first for everything, and now let this serve as the fact that the Hispanic community can win.
The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals does a phenomenal job of promoting the Hispanic community, and the power of Latino homeownership. It’s something that we’re proud of, I don’t talk about it enough. Honestly, I should probably talk about it more.
I agree. People need to hear a story like yours. My grandfather immigrated from Jamaica, making my father a first-generation American as well. I’m sure my grandfather would be amazed to see how his children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have progressed.
You should share that, too, Marian. Stories like ours get lost in today’s day and age. You know what our families went through to give us the opportunities that we have today. And my goal, now that I am the first Hispanic president is to really bring that within ERA and a few of the diversity, equity and inclusion projects that we have. It’s one of those things that I’m really excited about.
That’s definitely important and needed, especially as the real estate industry continues to evolve. The industry has been through an enormous amount of change over the past few years, including navigating COVID and the social uprisings of 2020, the lightening speed of how technology has progressed, what’s now happening with the National Association of Realtors, and now the settlements with the buyer-broker commission antitrust suits. What opportunities do you see for ERA to continue stepping up and leading?
Technology is a beautiful thing, right? Technology really gives us the ability in today’s day and age with [artificial intelligence] and data to know who we should be focusing our attention on. I think Anywhere probably has more data and more AI than any other real estate company in the world, and the beauty and the magic for ERA is the ability to take that information and marry it with the one skill set that I do think is being lost in the real estate industry today, which is how to genuinely connect with people at a level where they feel like they’re being heard, understood and valued.
A NAR study said the typical consumer knows 12 Realtors. So what makes you think they’re going to choose you over the other 11 Realtors they know? It’s about being someone they like and trust. The magic is going to be in embracing that technology, knowing where to focus the efforts, and combining that with the ability to deliver face-to-face, belly-to-belly, palm-to-palm coaching and teaching for our brokers and agents to be someone consumers like and trust.
Email Marian McPherson