CEO Takes American Dream to New Heights

Rick Davidson knows a thing or two about achieving the American dream.

As the CEO of Century 21, the world’s largest real estate sales organization, he helps people realize their dreams of home ownership every day. Davidson became CEO of the company in 2010 after more than 20 years in the real estate business – starting out in Baltimore.

“The secret to success is teamwork and collaboration,” he said. “When I came onboard, we took a lot of time to do our due diligence to understand what we needed to do in order to position the company to be able to perform extremely well on a go-forward and sustainable basis.”Making Business More Personal

It’s not just his work as chief executive that leaves Davidson fulfilled at the end of a long week. His dream-maker status goes well beyond the reaches of real estate.

Century 21 partners with Easter Seals, a nonprofit organization that helps make the lives easier of those living with autism and disabilities. It’s a partnership that’s been in place for more than three decades, but one Davidson has utilized to the fullest. Over the course of those 34 years, the real estate company has raised and donated more than $106 million to Easter Seals.

“Giving back is critically important no matter what it is that you do,” Davidson said. “I find that when I can make a connection with somebody at a local level and give back to that person and make not only the local area where I live better, but then have an impact down the road, I’m all in.”

But his work with the nonprofit doesn’t end with monthly volunteer activities.

He’s literally taken his dedication for the cause to new heights. In 2006, Davidson launched the Climb for Kids initiative in which he and a group of six climbers set out to scale mountains of the world in an effort to raise money for Easter Seals.

In 2012, he and his group of six ventured to Mexico, where they climbed Pico deOrizaba and Iztaccihuatl – two mountains whose elevation together totaled more than 35,000 feet. Davidson’s goal was to raise $1 for every foot of elevation climbed during the trip. The team more than surpassed that goal, raising more than $57,000 instead.

“It’s a real passion and a lot of fun,” Davidson said. “And there are some parallels to business. It shows those kids if you set your mind on a goal, work hard, train, you can achieve your own personal summit. We try to deliver a message every time we climb.”

The takeaways aren’t just for the kids.

Davidson said there’s a takeaway for him and his team as well. Climbing mountains for a week at a time takes a lot out of a person – both physically and mentally.  It’s taught him that preparation is critical whether it’s in the boardroom or on the side of a mountain, knowing better how to work with and compete with rivals, and being ready to respond to rapidly-changing dynamics – be it sudden changes in weather, or sudden shifts in the market.

More than Just a Hobby For Davidson, volunteering is more than just about making himself feel better. It’s about giving back to the community in which he lives and works.

“Being a CEO is all about leadership, and I think that showing I’m willing not only to help support these organizations, but also get out and get my hands dirty and show that it is really lead by example, it shows that you need to be committed to something beyond your own personal life.”

In addition to his commitment to Easter Seals, Davidson volunteers his time at Big Brothers, Big Sisters, a mentor program in which he serves as a “big brother” to a 12-year old boy named Robbie. The pair has been partnered since Robbie was six-years old…and it’s having a son-like bond that Davidson says is the most rewarding part for him.

In fact, Davidson’s wife is also a volunteer with the organization. Her “little sister” was just seven-years old when they first partnered together. Now, she’s a sophomore in college at Clemson.

“To see the impact it has had on this young girl’s life is incredible,” Davidson said. “The relationships are life-long. The relationship I have with (little sister) Mandy, she’s like the daughter my wife and I never had.”

Davidson said being in the home-sale business is all about the local community: About helping families find their dream home, one in which they’ll build memories to last a lifetime.

“To get involved in something that’s doing good and doing good for the community is tremendous.”