Leading Women: Leslie Rouda Smith
When Leslie Rouda Smith, ABR, CRB, CRS, PMN, says she grew up in the business, she means it. "My father, Harley Rouda, was founder of HER REALTORS® and Real Living in Ohio and a former NAR president," says Smith, broker-associate of Dave Perry-Miller & Associates in Dallas.
"I worked for my dad's title company while I was in high school," Smith says. Even before high school, she remembers attending REALTOR® conventions and visiting the office.
However, after graduating from Ohio State, she chose to forge her own path before finally landing in Texas in 1984, where she took a job at Ebby Halliday REALTORS® in Dallas. "The best part about moving to Texas is that I met my husband Brian in an Ebby Halliday training class," laughs Smith. "I've worked in relocation and sales, and I was a foreclosure listing agent in the 1980s before short sales existed."
Now, she specializes in residential property as a broker-associate where she works alongside Brian, who specializes in farm and land, daughter Kristin and son Austin.
Over the years, Smith says she's learned a lot of lessons the hard way. "I've had people try to keep me down, but I learned not to take no for an answer," she says.
In fact, over the years, Smith has been through trying relationships, both personal and professional, that made her question her abilities as a leader. "I volunteered at the local association for more than 20 years before entering the leadership line," she says.
At one point, she had a crisis of confidence. "I thought, maybe I'm not cut out for this. Maybe I should find another path." However, her husband pushed her to take the leap. "He made me realize that I was capable and could do it," she says. On September 1, Smith was installed as the chairman of the board of the Texas Association of REALTORS® (TAR). "I was installed by the first woman president of NAR, Dorcas Helfant-Browning. It was such an honor," Smith says.
Most would be surprised that such an influential woman in real estate would have a crisis of confidence, but she says, "I am the person I am today because of all the people who told me no and because of my supportive family." Smith says she is proud of the difficult times because they made her stronger.
At the national level, she has been a member of NAR's Board of Directors since 2009 and chaired the Professional Development committee in 2008. In 2011, she chaired the Leadership Academy Advisory Board. Leslie was a liaison on the NAR Enlarged Leadership Team in 2009 and 2011 before serving as vice president and a member of the Leadership Team of NAR in 2013.
She also served as a political fundraising liaison and on a Presidential Advisory Group for Political Survival. "I am a huge supporter of RPAC," says Smith, who tells the tale of how she learned what RPAC is all about.
"In college, I drove this old, hand-me-down, dark green Chevy Chevelle. One day, my dad called to tell me he had a new car for me — a Buick, which was like driving a grandma car for a college student. But, I thought it had to be better than what I was driving," laughs Smith. "When my dad showed up, he told me he bought it at an RPAC auction. I had him explain what RPAC is, and I've been raising money for RPAC since 1986."
"I'm an advocate for real estate, and it's so important to increase awareness about RPAC and our advocacy efforts at every level. It is my number one passion when it comes to real estate," she says.
In Texas, she served on the joint TAR-NAR Strategy Committee and the TAR Board of Directors for multiple terms. She has been a member of committees such as Political Affairs, Public Policy and Strategic Planning. She chaired the Professional Development committee and served as a TREPAC trustee for four years.
However, the one organization that helped her build her confidence was Women's Council of REALTORS®. "I was serving as the Secretary for the Dallas Women's Council chapter in the mid 90s," she says. When asked if she would move up the leadership ladder, she was hesitant but decided to go for it.
In 1998, she served as Women's Council's Dallas Chapter President. "It was one of the best things I ever did. That year, the leadership team and I drove to the state convention, which I've been attending since the 1980s. We decided we would go to all of the Texas state conventions to build our relationships and grow our chapter," she says. "Driving to those conventions helped me get to know some phenomenal leaders. I have friends who are in their 20s all the way to those in their 80s. They are like sisters. Women’s Council members are wonderful people whom I can call on for anything, anytime. And I would be there for them as well," she says.
In addition to the inspiration she finds from her Women's Council sisters and brothers, she says her "mom was always the glue who held our family together. My father was the successful business man, joke teller and great public speaker who inspired me to become a business person. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my husband and family."
"I'm under construction every day, so in the end," she says, "life was meant to happen the way it happened. It made me a better person."
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