When Donna Garrison decided to venture into real estate in 2005, she knew she would need a strong team member. Someone who was a master at branding and technology held a strong work ethic similar to hers and liked challenges and a little competitiveness. So, she recruited her sister, Susan Schall. After all, the two had an unintentional habit of already following in each other’s footsteps. First in youth, stomping away delivering Dollar Savers to hundreds of homes a week, and then climbing the corporate ladder as a sales executive at Microsoft in the mid-1990s. But after a decade off from the professional world to raise their children, Garrison and Schall were ready to take on their biggest task together yet.

They formed a real estate team, under the brand “Fabulous Properties” for Sotheby’s International Realty in Pleasanton, Calif. “Donna and I are definitely sisters, and we can banter a bit” when it comes to business, Schall admitted. “That’s why I’m here too,” chimed in their mother Jeri Stark, who joined Garrison and Schall’s real estate team four years ago, to work as their operations manager. Stark once would have to send the sisters to their room when they fought as children, and now she sends them to their office to hash out marketing strategies.

“Donna and I talk fast, and we expect a lot from everyone,” Schall said. “Some people may not be able to keep up with us, and honestly, we were getting frustrated with hiring. We knew if anyone could keep up with us, it would be our mother.” But working with family can be a gamble. If something in the business goes awry, well, family Thanksgiving dinners can get very awkward. For Schall and Garrison, they view sisterhood as an advantage. There’s that 100 percent trust factor, the ease of breaking away from business formalities to get to the root of issues right away, and not to mention the built-in support system. They’ll be there for you in good times and bad, and not just because they’re family.

Whether siblings, spouses, parent-child, in-laws, or grandparents, several real estate brokerages around the state are built on family ties. They use those ties in their marketing with photos together to show the strength and connectedness behind that family alliance. Family businesses are a big driver in the U.S. Indeed, about one-third of Fortune 500 companies are family-owned enterprises and family-run businesses account for 78 percent of U.S. jobs, according to a study called “FamilyPreneurship,” commissioned by MassMutural in 2009.

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Susan excels where detail meets vision. Always on the lookout for an innovative way to optimize your home’s sale or using her keen eye for detail to find you the best deal on the market, Susan stays ahead of the curve by embracing her love of learning and implementing cutting-edge, global technologies.

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