Kelli Bailey, 39
Kelli Bailey grew up in the real estate business.
While that’s something a lot of people say, in Bailey’s case it so happens to be true.
Her family moved to Lakeland when she was in grade school after her parents sold the cosmetics company they ran in California. Once here, her mother took on the job of vice president of sales and marketing for the developer Highland Homes.
Her father was in car sales.
Bailey remembers being a kid and riding around with her mother to look at communities and sitting in on sale meetings. She knew then that real estate “was something I was passionate about.”
Like most young people, she did try to pull away from the family business attending the University of Florida with the goal of becoming a pharmacist.
But it didn’t take long to figure out “that the sales world is truly where I fit in,” she says.
Today, Bailey is vice president of sales operations at the home builder PulteGroup. She started with the company after an internship in Tampa during her junior and senior years in college. She then sold homes between Tampa and Orlando before eventually moving into management.
One particularly memorable during her tenure in sales was when she spent six months trying to sell houses from a kiosk at a mall in Brandon.
This was during the downturn, after the 2008 housing crash. The company was trying to find creative ways to drum up business. The experience, Bailey says, helped her step outside her comfort zone.
It also proved her bona fides as a salesperson.
She “went into it not believing I would sell anything and ended up selling six homes.”
“It changed the way I sold homes going forward,” she says. “I don’t think we will try that again though.”
Bailey credits Sean Strickler with helping her both move into a management position and guiding her to where she is now.
She met him in 2009 when he took over the Tampa division of Pulte Homes as the vice president of sales. She was still in sales then and he put her to work at a 55+ plus community in Orlando.
“He really saw my potential and pushed me harder than any of the previous managers had,” she says. “I raised my hand for a management position initially and he politely told me I wasn’t ready for it. And I wasn’t.”
Eight months after going to Orland, Bailey joined the company’s management team, first working as certified field trainer and mentor to get early experience in developing and managing people.
“I think you have to be passionate and resilient to build a long-term career in the real estate industry,” she says. “You need a mix of both a sales mindset and a passion for customer service.”
— Louis Llovio
Name: Kelli Bailey
Place of residence: Lakeland
Title: Vice president of sales operations
Birthplace: Mountain View, CA
Years in the area: 30
Marital status/Children: Married, two children
Alma Mater/ degree: University of Florida, Bachelor of Science in Business Management
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Children’s Home
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? Company office
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had? Or the weirdest task you’ve ever been assigned? Selling homes from a mall kiosk
What’s your top tip for being productive? It’s not about time management it is about focus management. Eliminate the distractions. Leverage time blocking and take time to plan your week. Work life balance is key.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Motivational Speaker
What’s your favorite off-hours activity? Watching my daughters play volleyball/soccer, playing golf and traveling
What’s the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what’s keeping you from completing it? Masters Degree. Not prioritizing it
What’s your favorite podcast? Moms that Lead
At what percentage on your phone do you start to get Low Battery Anxiety? 20%
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? One note, Breethe and Amazon
What books are you reading now? Atomic Habits & The Power of Full Engagement
What’s your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? X Ambassadors
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Anne Hathaway
Where is your happy place? Anywhere on a beach or on our boat in the ocean
Describe yourself in three words: Driven, inspiring and hardworking
Who is your mentor for your career and why? Sean Strickler. We first met I was a young single mom just starting my career. He always saw my future potential and never stopped pushing me towards it.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? Never ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. Confidence is key you have to be bold and always willing to make a decision. He helped me understand how to embrace being uncomfortable and that I had to focus more of my time on the business rather than always being in it. Employee experience is invaluable. Take the time to make your employees feel important and appreciated. Hand written cards or notes and surprise "Thank You" phone calls etc. You have to focus on culture and positive morale on a daily basis. Invest in the development of yourself, your peers and your people. Lastly, put your family first in the work-family dynamic.