Rosey Koberlein, CEO of the Long Cos.

Rosey Koberlein's day starts at 5 a.m. with a cup of coffee, an hour of email and a walk with her two pups — a pit bull mix and Shih Tzu Maltese mix — Sadie and Lucie. 

And then it's off to the office. 

Koberlein is the CEO of Long Cos. Long Realty Co. is the largest real estate company in Tucson and the fifth largest in the state — or the third largest, depending on how you run the numbers. The company did some digit-crunching about two months ago to get those rankings. 

About 100 employees work for Koberlein, and more than 1,000 real estate agents hang their licenses with her company. 

If you're property hunting in Tucson, Long Cos. wants you to shop no further — Long companies do real estate, lending, titles and insurance. 

And Koberlein oversees it all. 

Koberlein got into real estate in 1985 after spending 15 years working for county and city governments in Ohio and a short stint in the private sector. She came to Tucson in 1990, started working under the umbrella of Long Realty Co. in 1991 and never looked back. 

She became CEO in 2004 and now sits on boards for the YWCA, the Southern Arizona Leadership Commission and the Pima County Real Estate Research Council. She was Greater Tucson Leadership's 2015 Woman of the Year. 

Read how this one-time real estate agent got her start in the biz she now dominates. 

On getting into real estate: 

"Well, it was 1985 in California, and I wasn't very happy with my employer at the time, and they wanted to move me back to the Midwest to work, and I said, 'I don't think so,' and so I got the idea, which is what most realtors think, that my last real estate agent hardly did anything and they made a lot of money, so I'm going to be a millionaire, you know? So I took a class and got my license and went to work and realized it was the hardest thing I ever did in my life." 

On why it was challenging: 

"I had always been in a salaried position. Not really high salaries, for sure, but it was like all of the sudden. I was used to getting a paycheck every two weeks whether I needed it, deserved it or wanted it and then all of a sudden, there's no paycheck. ... And so it takes you a while to wrap your head around that you're totally responsible for your success and you're also totally responsible for your failure. ... The real fabulous part of the realtor role is there is no glass ceiling. You can make as much money and as many transactions as you want or are capable of doing. ... That's very empowering." 

On how globe-trotting led her to Tucson: 

"When I turned 40, I made the decision to allow myself to be the hippie I never got to be when I was a kid and took two years off to travel. ... I traveled a lot of weird places. And in my travels, heading back to the United States, I discovered Tucson, so when it was time for me to go back to work because I had spent a boatload of money traveling two years, I decided that I didn't have to go back to the Bay Area. The Bay Area is beautiful, and it's lovely, but it's also extremely expensive to live there, and I had never lived in the Southwest, so I decided in 1990 to move to Tucson for two years. And I have been here ever since." 

On starting over: 

"When I moved to Tucson, the real estate market was in a terrible terrible terrible slump, so I had to literally start over from scratch and didn't know anybody in town, so it was a very humbling experience. I came from California where I was earning six figures and moved to Tucson and had to start all over. But what that taught me is you can always start over. You can always recreate yourself, no matter what happens." 

On being a female executive: 

"It has always been an issue. Real estate is very woman-dominant on the agent side, okay? ... I became CEO of the company in 2004, and for the first eight years, many times I was the only woman in the room. Not at our company but on a national level. It has just been very recent that women have climbed into the upper management part of real estate companies. It's starting to change." 

On navigating the recession: 

"I probably saw the turning of the market a year before real estate companies across the country started to see it. We started making cuts in 2006. Most real estate companies didn't make cuts until 2007 and 2008. ... Probably the most difficult thing I did and the most productive thing I did was brought the employees together and told them, 'We're in for a terrible time, and I will always tell you the truth, and the truth is not going to be good and it's not going to be easy, and there are going to be a lot of people who will lose their jobs, but I will always tell you the truth.'" 

On why she loves management: 

"I'm very passionate about creating opportunities for people to be the best or the all of what they want to be. ... "I get a lot of joy out of watching people be successful and knowing that in some way, shape or form I had some sort of participation in that." 

On being a badass: 

"You know, it makes me laugh. And it makes me want to motivate more women to be badasses." 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


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Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@tucson.com or 573-4357. On Twitter: @JohannaWillett