Despite deploying 87,000 real estate agents around the world, Budge Huskey still adheres to the principles of a tight-knit family business.

By Roger Grody

As President & CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC, Budge Huskey oversees a global organization encompassing 3,000 offices in 43 countries. But as the number of brokers and agents continues to multiply, he consistently instills a culture founded on the value of one-on-one relationships.

After earning an MBA from Wake Forest University, where he was heading toward a career in the international insurance industry, Huskey instead returned home to the Orlando, Florida area to join Huskey Realty, founded by his late father. “He practiced real estate for 60 years and was the greatest salesperson I ever met,” says Huskey, a powerful endorsement from someone who personally deploys an army of agents around the globe. “I matured, he mellowed and we began talking to each other,” jokes Huskey of his arrival at the family business, where he worked 14 years. “Throughout my career, I’ve always attempted to emulate his better qualities,” adds a grateful son.

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In 1998, Huskey joined Coldwell Banker, working his way up from branch manager to chief executive of the entire organization. “In some respects the real estate industry is a very complex business—due to matters such as regulatory compliance and technology, for instance—but first and foremost, it’s very simple…it’s a business of trust,” says Huskey.

“Whether I was running an office, a region or a multinational corporation, I learned that effective leadership demands you surround yourself with people who share your values, and to create a culture of high expectations,” says Huskey. He is confident every Coldwell Banker associate knows the company is committed to those shared values, because management makes it abundantly clear in every corporate communication.

“We’re incredibly proud of the brokers and sales professionals who make our brand so successful, but the most important party to any transaction is not us, but the individual or family being served,” maintains Huskey. And while the face-to-face transactional role of the real estate business is something he misses, the chief executive is pleased to report, “I still enjoy that experience vicariously through the stories shared with me from our agents in the field.”

Huskey believes that real estate is one of those rare industries in which a diverse group of people can succeed, simply through a strong work ethic and a commitment to building relationships. He notes that his father was one of those individuals who overcame every obstacle to become extremely successful in real estate during his career. “The greatest pleasure I get in my job is hearing about 87,000 people doing the right thing every day,” says Huskey, who is constantly flooded with emails, phone calls and letters praising the efforts of Coldwell Banker agents.

Although he surfed growing up in Florida and played soccer through college, the 55-year-old executive reports that music is his life’s most enduring passion outside the office. “I worked in record stores in college and have always been a music fanatic,” says Huskey, who has built a personal collection of nearly 6,000 recordings. “I love the convenience of a CD, but there’s nothing quite like picking out an old vinyl album on a Sunday afternoon,” says Huskey, who equates the experience to unfolding a traditional newspaper rather than reading the same stories online. With a weakness for the late ’60s and early ’70s, Huskey’s favorite artists include Bob Dylan; the Grateful Dead; and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

A firm believer that homeownership transcends simply having one’s name on a deed, Huskey is a longtime supporter of the nonprofit organization, Habitat for Humanity. The satisfaction of working alongside first-time homeowners to build a house they never thought they could afford is, he insists, worth all the aches and pains. The Florida native and his wife of 25 years, Jill, live with two dogs—a 120-pound Weimaraner and 80-pound German shorthaired pointer—on 10 acres in New Jersey the couple has nicknamed “Hound Hill.”