Kristin Blount | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Kristin Blount

Background:  

Colliers is a Boston-based real estate services company with more than 15,000 employees worldwide.

The Mistake:

Not realizing how much in charge of my own fate and my own destiny I really was.

I've worked for the same company my entire career. I was hired in the in the property management department in the late '80s. I was probably much better suited as a broker, but there were literally no women in the brokerage at the time, and so our CEO said, when the time's right you can switch over to being a broker.

I worked on a large account and everything went fine until I ended up with one client. And he absolutely terrorized me, in a way that was just so demoralizing. He was mean-spirited—a big bully, basically.

I'd gotten married young and I had two small children. Work started at nine o'clock every day and I would sometimes arrive at 9:10, and when I arrived I would see him standing in his window and I would know that I was going to get a call where he would berate me for being ten minutes late. He was just, frankly, kind of a mean person. I was in my 20s, and I I didn't understand how to advocate for myself. And so the more time went on, the more this guy just crushed me.

I think my big was mistake was it took me a good 18 months to figure out that I didn't need to take it, and that I could take charge of my life and I could get out of that situation. My husband and I were equal breadwinners in our house, so we had all the stress of two small children.

What I ended up doing was going back to graduate school. I wanted to be an investment sales broker. So I applied to a full-time program at MIT. During my application my then boss said, “Go talk to the CEO, he's a really nice guy.” I barely knew the guy because I had worked in our Cambridge office. But I went to our Boston office and said, “I need my health insurance while I'm there”—because I was worried about the kids—and he said yes. I got a full fellowship to MIT, got my degree and came back to the company.

When I came back, the CEO offered me a position as basically his protégé.

There's always a way out, it's just whether or not you allow yourself to see it.

The Lesson:

Not only did I learn how to advocate for my self in terms of getting what I needed when I went back to school, but it also changed my perspective on everything in terms of my entire career. Doing something that was sort of against what I had planned and going against the script put me in a position where I was really open to different ideas.

I was always taught to be the dutiful daughter and thought I had to soldier through every situation. For so long, I thought I had to just take my licks and figure I'd move on at some point in time. And it was really not recognizing for a long period of time that I was actually in control of my destiny. I was able to be my own advocate. There's always a way out, it's just whether or not you allow yourself to see it.

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