A leader of leaders: How Gino Blefari inspires the executives at HSA
Get an insider’s look at what it’s like to work for the CEO of HomeServices of America — and why he’s the most influential leader in real estate.
- Blefari commands a vast network of global businesses and services under the HSA umbrella and directly leads more than a dozen CEOs and executives.
- His leadership style yields results: HSA is the nation’s most profitable brokerage, and Blefari landed the top spot in the 2023 SP 200 ranking of the industry’s top leaders.
- Blefari’s direct reports speak to his collaborative approach, personal touch and belief in leading by example.
"Steadfast. Resolute. Unwavering."
When Gino Blefari's direct reports were asked to describe their boss, those were among the first words that came to mind. Blefari, president and CEO of HomeServices of America, is a leader of leaders at one of the largest and most successful real estate companies in the country.
And he's also the most powerful leader in residential real estate.
Released today, the Swanepoel Power 200 — the definitive ranking of the industry's top leaders — elevated Blefari to its No. 1 spot.
Blefari, who has four decades of industry experience, commands a vast network of 55 brands — global businesses and services that integrate most every aspect of the real estate journey. The company's influence and impact are breathtaking in size and scope, represented by nearly 50,000 real estate professionals at 1,500 offices in the U.S. and a dozen other countries.
Blefari's leadership style — as told by those he leads
Many CEOs have only a few direct reports, but Blefari is known for his unique management style. When he took on the top leadership role at HomeServices of America in 2019, he removed a layer of upper management, according to the T3 Sixty Trends Report, and began directly managing the leaders of HSA's core business lines and the CEOs of the company's many brokerages
His direct reports are leaders in their own right; six of them join him among the ranks of the SP 200.
"It's very important to have accomplished and capable CEOs that understand what you are wanting to accomplish, and the HomeServices leadership team is, without question, the best in the business," said Blefari.
The traits Blefari looks for in his leaders are a track record of success, commitment and humility — a reflection of the company's Midwestern roots.
Real Estate News asked several of these leaders for their insider view on Blefari, and their responses highlighted his unwavering commitment to his people.
A personal touch
"Gino does not expect anything out of anyone that he doesn't expect from himself," said Christy Budnick, CEO at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and HSF Affiliates.
Other leaders under Blefari agreed, noting that he personally responds to texts, stresses in-person meetings, and relies on his executives to provide the necessary boots-on-the-ground, real-time intelligence on how HSA is performing.
Budnick recalled how, when she was president of the Florida Network at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Blefari phoned her out of the blue on a Saturday about the opportunity for a larger role at HSA.
"When he offered me the challenge of leading the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices global franchise network as CEO, I asked what that meant — 'What was a day in the life of the CEO like?' He replied, 'It's very similar to what you do now… Instead you will be leading over 50,000 agents across the globe. It's all about leading people and building relationships, and I believe in you."
Collaborative servant leadership
So how does Blefari manage the company's network of high-achieving leaders at a massive global company? By example and with teamwork, was the repeated response.
"Gino is an exceptional and brilliant leader on every level. I believe his greatest strength is his ability to lead and inspire senior leaders by creating collaboration, accountability, camaraderie and synergies within his team," said Martha Mosier, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.
Blefari's philosophy is that "none of us is stronger or greater than all of us [working] together," Mosier said.
Blefari is a servant leader who gives a lot of himself to others but expects a lot in return, said Rei L. Mesa, president and CEO at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty. "You can trust that he will follow through on his commitments, and he will hold you accountable to follow through on yours," Mesa said.
Accessible and people-first
"Gino is accessible and just a phone call or text away. There has never been a time that I have reached out to Gino where he did not respond ASAP," said Teresa Palacios Smith, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at HomeServices of America and HSF Affiliates.
Mentorship and relationship-building are prioritized, added Candace Adams, who leads BHHS New England/New York/Hudson Valley. "Gino will call to recognize anyone at any time," Adams said. She recalled the impression Blefari made when he left a personal welcome message on a new agent's voice mail. The agent promised to "save it forever," Adams recalled.
Shawna Alt, CEO at Wisconsin-based First Weber Inc., said that Blefari is a visionary who also focuses on the day-to-day details of running a successful business. One recollection stands out more than others for Alt. "Gino recognized very early where the real estate market was headed," Alt said — but he did not immediately emphasize the numbers or the importance of working harder.
Instead, he first "focused on the mental and physical well being of his leadership team," Alt said. That common-sense approach resonated with Alt. "We need to be at our physical and mental best to lead our people through the challenging times ahead," Alt said. "He knows that his people are his most important asset."