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Tracy Tutor Talks “Breaking Boundaries” in Her Career: “You Can Be All Things”
The Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles agent exclusively opens up about her “full-circle” career journey.
Tracy Tutor is a bestselling author, a public speaker, a co-founder of Un’sweet wine, a mom of two teenagers, and, of course, a top real estate agent representing some of the world’s most notable brands and personal clients. And yes, to be clear, she can do it all — and more — in a crop top.
“I get picked on from time to time on social media for what I wear, being a businesswoman and how I present myself,” the Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles agent tells BravoTV.com. Although she has figured out when to “sort of fight back” versus let the comments slide, it’s a topic she doesn’t generally shy away from. “The reason I sometimes respond is to elevate the conversation,” she explains. “Because I am trying to shift that [perception], and I can’t shift it by not saying anything about it.”
Tracy’s wardrobe may seem like a trivial topic when discussing her lauded career, but fashion is just one of the many ways she’s breaking the mold for women in business. In her early days as an agent, Tracy struggled to relate to “the Barbara [Corcorans] of the world,” although she has “a crazy amount of respect for” the real estate mogul and other female trailblazers in the industry.
“It was so corporate at that time, and I didn’t understand the suits,” she says. “I didn’t understand why you had to play as a man as a woman in business.”
Now, Tracy is very intentional about showing the next generation of businesswomen the power of being their authentic selves. “I want to be able to have young women in their 20s, who didn’t have someone that they related to or understood, to see someone like myself and show them that you can be all things,” she declares.
Of course, that realization has come with years of learned experience, starting from her childhood.
A Family Business
Tracy has been surrounded by real estate since the moment she came into the world. “I grew up with a father [construction magnate Ronald Tutor] who does a lot of infrastructure and public work contracts… and then, of course, he dove into casinos and hotels after that,” Tracy says. “So I’ve always had sort of that tough contractor real estate guy from the time that I was born, and I grew up around that.”
Many years later, she “ended up marrying a residential contractor,” Jason Maltas, who “also happened to grow up with a mother who was a builder.”
“That’s very rare, to see a female building residential contractor,” Tracy explains. “So he kind of grew up with that experience, and I told him very much so he should break into the industry here.” Tracy’s sister-in-law and sister were also both influenced by their upbringing, eventually becoming interior designers.
Her Unexpected Path
Tracy “was traditionally an actor,” and as she studied theater at the University of Southern California, her vision for post-graduate life didn’t exactly include contract negotiations and open houses. However, working for her father quickly changed everything.
“When I graduated from the theater school at USC, I was going on auditions and I was working at my dad’s office in construction at the time. I just sort of woke up and I said, ‘Do I want to spend the rest of my life auditioning for a role that I may never get?’” she says. “It’s like going on a never-ending interview. I didn’t want to wake up and be 40 years old and not have the certainty of a career that I knew could make me financially independent.”
With that, Tracy decided to get her real estate license in her early 20s. While she initially struggled to find female mentors in the industry, Tracy aspired to be like women such as Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, who were “breaking boundaries in businesses that traditionally hadn’t been broken before.”
For the first 16 years of her career, Tracy worked “primarily for smaller boutique firms with men at the helm,” and while “they were all wonderful men,” she noted, “they still didn’t elevate me.”
“As much as they liked me,” she says, “I was never at the top of the list.”
Her “Massive Full-Circle Moment”
That all changed when Tracy “found Douglas Elliman” — and the female mentors she had long been searching for, including Dottie Herman, who was CEO at the time, and Susan De Franca, who “was running a billion-dollar new development for the company.”
“I was completely inspired to take sort of a left turn and leave the agency where I was happy to go potentially work for some women that I looked up to and that were actually at the forefront of the brokerage, which you hadn’t really seen in Los Angeles,” she says.
Herman and De Franca were immediately Tracy’s “biggest advocates,” and it wasn’t long before Herman gave her some life-changing advice: “Dottie is the person who sat me down and said, believe it or not, ‘I just don’t see you in a traditional real estate role here. You’re so much bigger than that. You need to do a TV show about real estate. You need to be at the forefront of female empowerment.’”
“She’s the one who sat across from me in my home when I [was] 15 years in the industry, prior to starting the show, and struggling to be successful and compete against the male powerhouses that were my competition, and she said, ‘You can do that, but you’re bigger than just the sales piece of this,’” Tracy shares. “She encouraged me to do Million Dollar Listing.”
After giving up on acting in her early 20s, taking Herman’s advice to join the show felt like coming into a “massive full-circle moment.”
“The fact that I could have both was just not really on the table,” Tracy explains, “[until] she said, ‘Come to the company. I will support this. I will help you get there.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Since Tracy joined MDLLA for Season 10 in 2017 as the show’s first full-time female cast member, viewers have watched her career soar at Douglas Elliman, where she now leads teams in California and Texas. However, Tracy would be remiss not to mention everything fans don’t see.
“I have all these successes, and on the show we’re celebrated for selling luxury real estate at the highest level. All of those things are true, but for every 10 deals that I’m able to showcase on the show that were a success, or in some facet a success, there were 10 deals that I didn’t get,” she says.
No matter how successful she is, Tracy admits, “There are still those disappointments when I wake up and I say, ‘God, what’s it all for?’” When those moments happen, she explains, “You’re gonna have those failures, and you have to embrace those too.”
In fact, Tracy “celebrates” those “falling on your face” moments. “Owning it,” she says, “gives you the ability to recover and not just sit in it. Because if you don’t take ownership of those failures, how do you move on? How do you learn from them?”
Rather than "just consistently say, ‘Oh, I lost that pitch to [Josh] Altman,’ for example, which has happened many times,” Tracy notes, she takes the time to understand “the reasons that I might have lost.” Otherwise, “I can’t move on and learn from it and grow from it.”
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those failures,” she declares. “I believe in continuing to move forward, continuing to challenge yourself. If you’re not failing anymore in your career, then you’re not pushing hard enough. Then it’s time to expand, time to pivot, or think about things that are greater that you can challenge yourself to become better and bigger. Because otherwise, you just become stale, and there’s always going to be someone in this industry that’s a shark, that’s gonna come out and kick you when you’re down, and that’s just the nature of the business.”
As Tracy puts it, the world of real estate can be a “shark tank” because agents “have to go out and fight for every freakin’ dollar that we make.” With that, there are certainly people who “fight dirty,” but she isn’t willing to go to that level.
“Believe me, there have been times where I’ve been like, you know what? Screw it. I’m gonna have to fight that way too, because being above board doesn’t always get you the job,” she admits. “I’ve tried it both ways, and what I’ve realized is the only challenge with me not operating from an ethical place is I don’t sleep well at night, and if I don’t sleep well at night, then I don’t feel good about what I do for a living.”
From those experiences, she has learned that nothing is more important to her in business than being “a good person and a good businesswoman and ethical” as well as “protecting” her clients. As for people who operate differently, Tracy says, “If you sink to their level, you’re beneath what you’re capable of.”
How She Gets It Done
With her many, many thriving careers, Tracy is able to maintain her success by following as much of an organized routine as possible. “Typically, the alarm goes off at 5:45 and I’m up and out the door and at the gym by 6,” she shares. “I’m looking at emails and I’m looking at my calendar for the day, which is divided into seven or eight different categories: I have the kids category, I have my business in Los Angeles, I have my business in Texas, I have my Million Dollar Listing stuff, and speaking engagements.”
“There’s all these different animals, and if I don’t schedule it down to literally 15 minutes at a time, I can’t get through the day,” she continues. “I’m militant about scheduling, I’m militant about how my team inputs things, I’m even militant about drive time.”
While Tracy has accomplished so much, there’s another side of real estate she’s ready to dominate. “I want to start getting into my own flips and development,” she says. “I want to start buying more investment property. I think having some background in interior design and construction makes me that much more of an asset as a real estate agent, but there’s no reason that I can’t have both sides of that coin.”
“That’s sort of my 10-year plan,” she continues. “I’d like to have five homes in the next 10 years developed and flipped.”
Paying It Forward
When strategizing those long-term goals, Tracy notes, “The truth is, you can’t do it without the right team in place.” With that in mind, she will continue to hire and mentor the next generation of female powerhouses, just as Herman and De Franca did for her.
“If I can do anything for young women in business — whether they’re in real estate or coming out of college and not really 100 percent sure of the direction they’re going to go — it’s give them the tools and the confidence to walk into those rooms and own them.” Ultimately, Tracy’s hope is that her mentees are “as successful” as she is, “if not more.”
“I want to be able to look at [team member] Shelby [Bay] 10 years from now and go, ‘She was a model who didn’t think she had what it takes, and she’s closing her first $10 million deal in the next 30 days,” Tracy says. “Hopefully, 10 years from now she’ll close a $100 million deal.”
For Tracy, the “best possible reward” is to one day be remembered for the way she “raised those women up.”
Ultimately, everything Tracy does is to provide a great life for her daughters, and it’s possible her eldest may carve out her own path in real estate in the future. As MDLLA viewers saw on Season 14, Juliet, who is currently in high school, spent a summer interning on Tracy’s team. “There are so many different facets to our industry that I think were interesting to her, that she never knew existed,” Tracy says. “It’s like this whole opportunity has opened up, and nothing, obviously, would make me happier than to be able to hand this to her and say, ‘Mom’s retiring now, and you’re gonna take it and run with it.’”
“I’m never gonna force it,” she adds, “but if she comes to me and wants to take this path, I celebrate it.”
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