By Bradley Osburn
Carol Bosshardt is a force, a mover, the kind of person that doesn’t take no for an answer and treats obstacles as nuisances. As the owner and CEO of Bosshardt Realty Services, LLC, that drive has served to push her business to the forefront of the real estate market in Alachua County.
“We’re No. 1 in market share, and we have been for years,” she said as we talked in her comfortably homey office off of 43rd Street in Devil’s Millhopper. And it’s easy to see the fruits of that. You can’t go anywhere in Gainesville without seeing some property with the Bosshardt logo on a sign out front. Bosshardt hasn’t always been so successful, though. She had to fight to get where she is now, and it’s paid off.
Bosshardt, born in Rockford, Ill., had her start in real estate in 1977, a time when the idea of a woman working in the field was a novelty, she said, and not one that many men welcomed.
“I was very much a female in a male’s world, and it was hell,” she said. She worked for three companies in 10 years before deciding to open her own store with her own “Midwestern flair.”
In 1987, she opened the agency with a partner who left to start his own company shortly after. She started with 10 agents and one philosophy: take care of the customer. It grew by leaps and bounds, she said, but only because she put in the work to make that happen.
“Seven days a week, for years, all I knew was get up, spend a little time with the kids and then go to work,” she recalled. “I worked harder and longer hours than my competition, and I didn’t ever say no to community service or charity.”
She spent the money to produce high-quality business cards with a nice logo, she said, because her father taught her that to make money you have to spend money. So Bosshardt made sure that every piece of promotional material she ordered was “really classy.”
“I worked nonstop,” she said, “It really works. There is a payoff. I broke the glass ceiling, but I had to work harder and smarter than the competition.”
Bosshardt is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, with a degree in social work. In 2005, she received her MBA in entrepreneurial studies from the University of Florida. It was about that time, and during her 20-year anniversary celebration, that Bosshardt said she felt like she’d finally made it.
“It was a fight to get where I am today,” she said. “A woman owning a business; it’s a struggle, it’s a fight. At every turn on the way up there was a male counterpart who got something I thought I deserved. But if you can’t get your feelings hurt you shouldn’t own a business.”
These days, Bosshardt essentially acts as the CFO for the company while her son Aaron runs the day-to-day business. Her days are filled with management tasks, client work, business development and her own development work. She hasn’t shown a home in 15 years.
Bosshardt is now a multi-company endeavor with Bosshardt Realty, Bosshardt Property Management, Bosshardt Community Association Management and Smart Media, a design company she started to save the jobs of a few of her employees during the recent recession. Total, she has about 150 employees, 100 of which are real estate agents.
Bosshardt is a frequent speaker at UF College of Business Administration and to women’s groups around town like the Gainesville Area Women’s Network, as well as spending time as a mentor to three students. She has a big role in Alarion Bank and Mortgage as a cofounder and devotes time to the Partners in Adolescent Lifestyle Support (PALS) program, which promotes positive self-esteem and helps deter violence and suicide in teenagers.
She is also a major contributor to community events and initiatives, school yearbook programs and groups like the Boy Scouts of America
“I make my living by giving back,” she said. “It’s the defining foundation of who I am. I just give until people can’t say no. People want to do business with givers.”
Bosshardt has seen as many successes as she’s seen trials, and she’s learned quite a lot over the years.
“First and foremost, treat others the way you want to be treated,” she said. “Second, stay positive and surround yourself with positive people. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, with people that can help you, and by the same token you can help them. “
“If you can, do things to give back to the community,” she said. “Pick causes that you believe in and make sure they know who you are and what you do.”
You have to spend money to make money, she said. Brand yourself as a first-class business and market continuously. Also, she said, hire for attitude, but train for skill.
“And remember, it’s not about the money and it should never be about the money. It’s about doing the best job you can for your customer.”
“Give 110 percent and it honestly comes back to you. Success is a numbers game,” she explained. “The more you’re out there, the more it’s going to come back.”
The next decade for the Bosshardt brand is probably going to be a lot of cleaning up from the recession, she said. Bosshardt was hit hard, she said, but because the company had a cash reserve it was able to afloat, but not without painful staff cuts. Projects the company had were stalled and rents went down. But now it’s time to clean up and recover, she said.
“We’re in the recovery stage from this horrible situation,” she said, “but it’s a fun challenge.”
The one thing Bosshardt doesn’t see happening is giving up the business.
“I don’t see myself retiring any time soon.”