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Leading Women: Colleen Badagliacco

by Karen M. Kroll

How An Association Leader Keeps Her Business in Focus 

Colleen Badagliacco

Colleen Badagliacco has been an influential leader in the real estate industry for decades, first with the California Association of REALTORS® and then NAR. Today, she's a major donor for RPAC and also works with calREDD, an initiative to pull together all California real property records regardless of status. This month, she shares her tips for success in real estate with eConnect.

Although Badagliacco started her professional life teaching gifted and talented students, she found her true calling in real estate. Over the past 30-plus years, Badagliacco has advanced steadily through the profession. Since co-founding the Altera Real Estate Network in 2008, she and husband Dennis have grown the firm to 21 offices and 700-some agents throughout California, Hawaii and Oregon.

Colleen's Background


Badagliacco was a teacher when Proposition 13 passed in California. Among other changes, the legislation capped property taxes and limited the rate at which schools' and municipalities' budgets could grow. With its passage, "the whole educational establishment panicked and slashed programs," Badagliacco says. Just two days after the election, Badagliacco's job was gone.

Her father, who was a real estate broker, suggested she give the profession a try. Badagliacco agreed and earned her real estate license over the summer. That was in 1978, and Badagliacco hasn’t turned back. "I enjoyed the flexibility and not having a salary cap," she says.

Initially, Badagliacco worked as an agent with Century 21, where she remained for several years before moving to a broker cooperative. In 1991, she was named "REALTOR® of the Year" by the San Jose Real Estate Board. Eight years later, she and Dennis were RE/MAX of California and Hawaii broker/owners of the year.

Industry Leadership

Throughout her career, Badagliacco has been active in several associations. As a long-time member of the Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS®, she served as president in 1992. Badagliacco has also served as a director with the California Association of REALTORS® since 1985, and served as the CAR president in 2007.

She's also been a director with NAR since 1994. Currently, Badagliacco works as a director with calREDD, the initiative to pull together California property records.

A Typical Day


Over the past 18 months, Badagliacco has focused on driving growth within her own firm. To make that happen, Badagliacco uses her time as effectively as possible. She starts her workday by checking e-mail around 8 a.m., followed by conference calls, meetings, classes and user groups throughout the day. On Mondays and Fridays, Badagliacco works from home so she can focus on longer-term projects, such as developing budgets and forecasts.

Colleen's Tips for Success

Although it may sound like a minor shortcoming, poor time management will hamstring an agent's career, according to Badagliacco. To thrive over the long term, REALTORS® must stay organized and use their time as efficiently as if they were accounting for their hours to a boss.

That means preparing for and contributing at meetings, rather than simply showing up. "If you're not really present, you're not a good contributor," she says. To gain leadership positions, as well as future listings, REALTORS® need to do their homework and think through the issues they’re likely to face in a meeting. "If you react 80 percent of the time and are proactive 20 percent, you've got it backwards," she says.

Laura Deauville, Badagliacco's daughter and a REALTOR® with Altera, can attest to her mom's drive and dedication, as well as her ability to still have time for her family. "She's always been very driven and determined, but able to balance work and family," Deauville says. "She can have a great time and then turn around and make things happen."

Successful business owners also need their own vision, even as they listen to others' input, Badagliacco says. "You can't just get up every day and see what's on your plate. You have to look at where you want the organization to go," and then take the steps necessary to get there, she adds. Along the way, aspiring REALTORS® are better off focusing on doing an outstanding job and developing strong working relationships with their colleagues, rather than on gaining a particular title, Badagliacco notes.

At the same time, it's important to take a calculated risk every once in a while. "You can't just always do what you know you'll be successful at," Badagliacco says. Not surprisingly, one of Badagliacco's biggest risks was starting Altera. To increase the likelihood that the move would be successful, she and her husband worked hard to build their brand. 

They also kept a close eye on expenses. For instance, they quickly recognized that they could build an intranet to efficiently distribute materials among agents and brokers. This cost-consciousness has been critical over the past few years, given the market's constant turmoil.

The Badagliaccos also have focused on keeping their online capabilities at the front of the crowd. As Badagliacco points out, "you can buy a $7.50 book on Amazon and get an e-mail confirmation and track its shipping status. If you buy a $750,000 house in California, can you do the same?" Agents and brokers who don't provide these capabilities will quickly fall behind, she says.

All in the Family

In addition to Badagliacco's daughter, her son Robert Badagliacco, CCIM, is in the business. He is a managing director with Sperry Van Ness, a commercial real estate firm. Badagliacco's husband Dennis Badagliacco, CCIM, is managing broker for Altera.

To make a family business work, each person needs a unique role that plays to his or her strengths. So, Dennis focuses on sales, operations and legal matters, while Badagliacco works with the agents and training development. 

In addition, "we leave the family relationship aside. My children have to be treated as peers in their work," Badagliacco notes.

Badagliacco's drive and dedication will be key moving forward. While the market is stabilizing, the previous environment of constantly appreciating home prices is unlikely to return. At the same time, consumers continue to demand more from their real estate agents. "Generation X and Y's expectation levels for professional expertise, communication and accountability are higher than when the industry evolved over the last 30 to 40 years," she says. Fortunately, Badagliacco and her team are ready to meet their needs.

Karen M. Kroll is a freelance writer from Chanhassen, MN.

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