Act like a lady, work like man, know your business.
Ebby Halliday is largely credited with "single-handedly changing the face of real estate for women" when she opened her first real estate office in 1945. With her combination of business sense and feminine flair, she made selling real estate a fashionable and admirable profession.
written by Rachel Sokol
According to RealTrends Inc., Ebby Halliday, Realtors® sells more homes than any other broker in Texas. And this company was founded by none other than its namesake – Ebby Halliday, who is 102 years old. (Yes, you read that right!) One of the first successful female entrepreneurs in Dallas, she’s created one of the most respected real estate firms in the country and she still goes to work nearly every day! But of course, she also benefited greatly from the help of Mary Frances Burleson, current president and CEO of Ebby Halliday, Realtors® and Halliday’s righthand woman for more than 50 years.
"Mary Frances is the woman to lead us into the 21st Century," said friend and mentor, Ebby Halliday. "She has been a driving force in pointing us toward a vast utilization of all our latest technologies and impressive expansions."
As a testament to Mary Frances' impact on the real estate industry, Inman News recently named her among the Inman 100: Most Influential Leaders, their picks for the most influential leaders from across the nation that affect today's real estate industry.
According to Mary Frances, the company’s growth has had a lot to do with Halliday’s personal growth as well. “Ebby has always been very ambitious, has always been a voracious reader and always trying to learn and expand her horizons. She brought back the idea of computerizing the company when she attended the convention of the National Association of Realtors,” she states, “She was always willing to speak to groups around the Metroplex, around the state and around the country. That certainly led to her knowing Realtors around the country and to the fact that she was a founding member of the National Association of Realtors. As she grew and expanded, she gave many of us the opportunity to grow with her.
Thus she has always given the team as a whole the credit for her growth and success of the company.”
And having worked together for such a long time, it’s almost impossible for Mary Frances to not know Halliday on a deeply personal level. “Ebby has always been willing to give time, effort, and money to many, many charities and to many, many families. Every year each branch office works to raise money for United Way, having many events, picnics, garage sales, parties and events, thereby having some fun and also sharing with those less fortunate,” she recalls, “Ebby has always written personal notes and I have had people tell me that they have treasured those handwritten notes and keep them in a special place of honor. She is a firm believer in gratitude and setting that example for all of us. She has also been known to send you a thank you note in reply to your thank you note,” she smiles.
Born in1911, Ebby Halliday lived through World War I, the Depression and World War II to reinvent the Real Estate industry
Ebby Halliday, Realtors®’ fame is self-evident. But how exactly did it begin? The seeds must have been sown a long time ago. “I’ve loved Dallas-Fort Worth from the moment I stepped off a train in 1938, having been transferred to Dallas by a national millinery company. I just loved the vibrancy of the city.
I truly thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Halliday recalls.
“I was in the millinery business and was in charge of the W.A. Green store in downtown Dallas. I really admired women who wore hats and gloves,” she remembers, “W.A. Green was right across the street from the original Neiman-Marcus store and I would spend my lunch hour perusing their merchandise, in particular, items in the millinery department.”
But her story most definitely doesn’t end there. “After leaving W.A. Green, I started ‘Ebby’s Hats’ on Fairmount Street in Dallas.
One day, a customer came in with a message from her husband, who happened to be Clint Murchison, a legendary Texas oilman. Clint had said to his wife, Virginia, ‘The next time you visit your friend who sells crazy hats, ask her if she has any ideas to sell my crazy houses.’ The 52 recently built homes were made of insulated cement panels put together one piece at a time,” Halliday describes, “That’s how I went from selling hats to houses. I dressed those houses up – what today is called ‘staging’ -- and proceeded to sell them one by one.” And although it might seem more uncommon, Halliday’s path to success doesn’t include gender discrimination. “I’ve never felt that I was discriminated against because I am a woman. In fact, men often noticed my youthful energy and took me under their wing. The leadership of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce greeted me with open arms. Mary Frances Burleson was also received with open arms,” she says. With the gradual transformation of technology, Ebby Halliday, Realtors® also adapted to its rising importance. “After having served on a national real estate computer committee, I brought the concept of computerization to the Dallas real estate industry. Ebby Halliday, Realtors® was a very early adopter of computer technology – and, believe me, that changed everything for us,” Halliday states. And for Halliday, her company simply fits into her conception of what joy is. “Happiness is doing work you love to do; being close to family and friends; and accomplishing something of value to benefit others,” she claims.
For the young women pursuing their dreams, she has only one thing to say: “My advice is simple: Act like a lady and work like a man. And, know your business.”