When Marlis Sandwith came to work for Teri Williams, they decided to buy a large farm table instead of individual desks.
That unconventional workspace is now an icon of collaboration and laughter as the crew has continued to grow.
“We all bring something different to the table,” said Williams. “We respect everyone’s view and hear different perspectives. Our discussions help me solve many types of challenges.”
In 2006, Williams and her good friend Sandi Friel started T Williams Realty in Eastsound. They ran the business primarily as a team of two until a few years ago, when Sandwith sent a fateful email.
“She asked if she was crazy to go into real estate on Orcas Island, and I said yes,” remembers Williams. “And then, knowing I was mostly a solo office, she asked which office I’d recommend. I told her she needed to come work for me!”
Mandy Randolph and Beth Holmes later came on as real estate agents, and Mary Ann Sircely, who owns her own design company, runs the marketing department. Most of Williams’ staff first got to know her after a buying a house through her office.
For Friel, who has traditionally worked alone, it’s been a positive change.
“I found that I really like having sisters,” she said.
It’s also been surprising for Williams, who says she is “not a girl’s girl.”
“My children are all boys and I don’t have many girlfriends,” she said. “This group has come together so organically.”
Randolph, Sandwith and Holmes all have kids of varying ages in school, so family is a huge part of the office, whether children are stopping by for a hug or making art for the walls. The women of T Williams are involved in a variety of nonprofits including Children’s House, the Booster Club, Orcas Senior Center, Lahari, Coffelt Farm Stewards, Funhouse Commons, San Juan County Land Bank and the Deer Harbor Community Club.
“A lot goes on in here – not just real estate,” Williams said. “Everyone is involved in the community and everyone has family.”
Added Sandwith: “I’ve learned far more working here than just real estate.”
They also spend time together outside of their jobs. Williams took them all on a sailing trip to Yellow Island, and she hosts a holiday party in December at her home. This past summer, Sircely’s son Erik built a tiny house and the women created a July 4th parade float to showcase it. They won first place.
What makes their group so successful is that they all genuinely like and respect one another and are not competitive.
“We are always so excited for each other when our collaborative efforts are successful,” said Randolph.
The women say Williams, who is called the “Queen Bee,” holds everyone to a high standard and is honest, kind, appreciative, tough, incredibly smart and available to answer questions at any time of day.
“You know exactly where you stand with her,” said Randolph. “We don’t have any conflicts because it doesn’t get to that point.”
Williams has also run Permit Resources for the past 20 years, and her son Cory Harrington and his wife Miramonee recently took over as permit consultants. Their two-year-old daughter Eleanor “sets the standard for fashion in the office,” says Williams.
Her crew also flexes its writing skills in the T Williams blog, www.simplyorcas.com, which explores everything from parenting to nature to island life.
“It’s about us and our life here in this community,” said Williams. “It’s important for people to know about island life if they want to move here.”
The women say they run a “full service” agency. In addition to helping clients buy and sell properties, they help with moving in, moving out, staging, finding interim places to live and more.
“We aren’t here for just the paycheck,” said Williams. “I have shared with everyone, you need to be confident in who you are and what you want out of life. Our aim is to support one another, support our clients and invest in the well-being of our community.”