By Tatyanna Carman
Real estate entrepreneur and Rider alumna Diane Turton ‘69 spoke to the Rider community about her experience starting her business, her core beliefs and the importance of personal branding at the virtual event, “Building your Personal Brand and Navigating the Signs to Success,” on March 10 at 6 p.m.
Senior global supply chain management major Lillian DeMarco moderated the event and 50 people attended. Each participant received a signed copy of Turton’s book, “Always Connecting: How I Built My Business and Navigated the Signs to Success,” after attending the event. Questions from the audience were entered in the chat and answered throughout the event.
DeMarco said, “The goal was part of celebrating Women’s History Month, and it was hosted by the Women’s Leadership Council at Rider. So part of that goal is also showing accomplished women faculty and alumni. So Diane is definitely an experienced and successful alumnus.”
Turton talked about why personal branding is important in today’s world. Turton explained that after she majored in real estate and she went to night school to get a teaching degree so she could “substitute and ask the children whose parents were going to be selling their houses.”
“It was just constant, constant branding on all different levels. I just wanted to be like Coca-Cola, soda, Turton, real estate and how do you do that,” she said. “You’ve got to really think outside the box, because everybody’s got a different brand. And if you treat somebody well, and I feel like hey, if I sell a house, and they really liked me, they’ll give my name to somebody else. And the brand will keep growing.”
Turton also shared how in the early part of her career, before she became an entrepreneur, she would gain customers through garage sales. She said she became a part of a listing team because she “never wanted to be in an office.”
“I would put a for sale sign in the garage and people would come and say ‘Is your house for sale,’ and I go, ‘No, is yours?’ They asked me how much an item was, I would never charge,” Turton said. “I would say, ‘OK, I’ll give you that bike if you hand out 100 of my business cards.’ And people, I guess they just felt like they owed me something, so they would start giving me buyers and sellers.”
Turton said that she was doing so well that her buyers and sellers were asking her why she hadn’t opened her own company. She decided to leave the company she was working for and started her own real estate business. To keep her from leaving, her old broker invited her to dinner at Denny’s.
“I’m thinking, ‘You’re kidding right?’ You think I was gonna leave the company and this is how you reward me, you’re taking me to Denny’s,” she said. “Thank God for Denny’s because the next day I said adiós and I opened my own company and it’s all because of Denny’s. It just opened and then all of a sudden, I had this influx of all of these people.”
Turton expressed the importance of negotiation, which was a skill her grandfather taught her and shared her most successful marketing strategies, including an accidental marketing incident where a man from France found her sign on a beach.
“That’s what created the book and somebody from New York called in and said, ‘Diane, I really think we should write a book on the metaphor and the journey of your life.’ That was actually in the ocean in France, and the guy picked it up. It still got all the sand on it. But he knew the number so he took it 13 hours back to Brussels, Googled me and texted me at 3 a.m. and said, ‘I found your sign.’ I’m telling you I almost deleted it, but I sent it to Harry and he said take a picture of it. We must have done TMZ, I didn’t even know what TMZ was, TMZ, ABC, CBS, Fox, every station possible, People magazine, it was like a million dollars worth of free advertising,.” explained Turton.
Turton said that getting people to trust her is one of the core beliefs that she credits for getting her where she is today. She also accredited her interest in real estate to her professors at Rider.
“I like the size of the school. You can talk to the teachers. You got a lot of one on one. It’s a great business university. And that’s how I got in real estate really because I was going to be a math major and I just said, ‘I am never taking a language again.’ I just totally flopped when I was a freshman. And that’s what got me in real estate,” said Turton.
The event concluded with a raffle, in which three students won a personal one-on-one professional development session with Turton, a $25 Amazon gift card and a $25 Uber Eats gift card.
DeMarco said that she thought the event went well and has gotten great feedback on her moderating.
“I’m just really excited to see people get her book because a lot of the stuff she did talk about is in her book,” she said. “And I skimmed all of it and ended up reading more than half of it in like one night. So it’s definitely an easy read, but it’s just so great, because she expands upon, like, all the stories she talked about.”
DeMarco also encouraged Rider students to attend more events on campus.
“So I feel like for somebody who’s not into marketing, or was interested enough to come to this event, even for those that are not interested, I’d say you should definitely branch out,” she said. “And please try to get more engaged in, for anybody who’s scared to just go to an event, just start off with asking a question in the chat or something for virtual events, or just forcing yourself to ask something, if it’s like an in-person event, because then you’ll get noticed more and you’ll have more opportunities for like connections.”