A continuous effort to learn will always serve your business well. Learn how mentorship and education can lead to new growth.

For as long as she can remember, Diane T. Longacre has always strived to forge a unique path forward, in life and in business. Growing up, Diane worked at her family’s milk and ice cream company in Berks County, Pennsylvania—this is where she first experienced the rewarding and challenging nature of business ownership. But she also recalls that, as the youngest of five children, “I felt like I had more to contribute and that I needed to branch out to truly realize my full potential.” So, Diane made the decision to go out on her own.

As she considered what was next for her professionally, Diane had one key requirement for her new career: she needed to do something worthwhile where she could provide real value to her community. This led her to explore a variety of options before landing on real estate: “In the real estate field, I could chart my own course while also helping people achieve the American dream of home ownership.” Having made her career choice, she got her real estate license in 1985, her broker’s license in 1989, and, in 1993, received her license for what would ultimately become her specialty—real estate appraisals. By 1999, Diane was running her own real estate and appraisal business—and she has been going strong ever since.

At present, Diane’s business, Realty Wise, has been helping clients for more than two decades. Through hard work and dedication, she has built a thriving business supporting the dreams of prospective homeowners throughout her community and across Pennsylvania.

Reflecting back on 37 years in the real estate industry, Diane credits continuous learning as the most important ingredient for her success. During her career, Diane and her company have been through a lot—from housing booms to market downturns to the ongoing impacts of a pandemic—but through it all, her willingness to learn and actively pursue her professional development has allowed her to manage through adversity and maximize new opportunities at every turn. She believes this attitude could do the same for other business owners, no matter what industry they’re in. The following are lessons gleaned from Diane’s business journey.

Embed continuous learning into your business.

An eagerness to learn can benefit any business leader at any stage of their career, but it was especially crucial for Diane. Transitioning out of her family business was a big adjustment, and when she first entered into real estate, she had a lot to learn. “In this industry, for every single transaction, there’s always something different that’s thrown at you,” Diane explains. “That’s the nature of this business, and it can be really challenging.” In her early years, as she looked for every opportunity to learn more about her new industry, Diane discovered two resources that she would use throughout her career to develop the skills she needed to run Realty Wise: mentorship and continuing education.

Tapping into the knowledge of other business leaders helped jumpstart Diane’s career—in fact, it was a mentor, JoAnn Esterly, who first introduced her to appraisals and helped her develop the tools she still uses to run her business today. Continuing education has served a similar purpose and opened new doors to business growth.

Be okay with not having all the answers.

Through the years, Diane has found that the key to forging productive mentor relationships for her business is embracing that there may be others who know more than she does. Letting go of the belief that you must have all the answers and surrounding yourself with experienced business leaders who have been where you are can unlock new opportunities for growth. “At every stage of my business career, I’ve always made a conscious effort to be around people who I feel have more knowledge and more experience than I do,” Diane explains. “That’s how you learn and that’s how you find the people who can help you move your business forward.”

Get involved in your industry.

It’s one thing to be open to learning from others, but how can business owners actually go about finding a mentor with the experience and knowledge they need for their business? Diane’s advice is simple: make sure that you’re active in your industry.

Some of Diane’s most important mentor connections and learning opportunities over the course of her career came through industry events. By joining local, regional, and national Associations of Realtors and getting involved with local real estate committees, Diane gained access to a network of industry professionals with expertise in the issues she was encountering every day. Looking back, Diane can’t emphasize enough how important these relationships can be to business owners like her: “No matter what line of work you’re in with your business, you have to be involved in your industry.”

Don’t be afraid to reach out.

One of the most challenging aspects of finding and learning from a business mentor can be making that initial connection. Approaching successful business leaders can be intimidating, but Diane has noticed that it’s the mentors who most intimidate you that often end up providing the most value to your business. Whether you’re looking for insight into day-to-day business challenges or big-picture strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to those in your field whom you admire—you may find that they’re more receptive than you first expected: “In my experience, most people want to share their knowledge and they’re excited about helping other business owners get to where they are now.”

When it comes to education, go above and beyond.

While mentorship has been central to Diane’s business success, she has also found that continuing education can be a great way to grow her business knowledge. In addition to the certification courses required in her industry, Diane looks for any educational opportunity available—whether they be virtual classes or in-person seminars at industry events—to develop new skills she can use to run her business.

“I’m always taking time to pursue continuing education for my business,” Diane explains. “Not because it’s mandatory, but because the real estate industry is always evolving, and it’s a great way for me to stay up to date on all the latest trends in my field.”

Looking to the future

Diane took a risk when she transitioned away from her family business and into the real estate industry four decades ago. It took courage to bet on herself—but today, the results speak for themselves. Over the course of her career, she has built something that is set to last, and for Diane, that was always the goal. “For me, the true value of Realty Wise has always been the pride of running my own business, making my own way, and helping people realize the great American dream of home ownership!”

It is this passion, together with her longtime philosophy of continuous learning and development, that has her business poised for even greater heights moving into 2023 and beyond.

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