Gail Johnson, Restaino & Associates, Realtors

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Gail Johnson, corporate relocation manager for the Relocation Division of Restaino & Associates, Realtors.
Pow Gail Johnson Headsot

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

My goal is to reach recruiters and explain to them there is a real benefit to providing relocation services to people they are bringing in from outside the area. It is challenging to reach so many recruiters, who often live anywhere in the world. They could enhance their recruitment efforts while making peoples’ transition a smooth experience. Too many times, I talk to people and they say, “When I moved here, I wished I had someone navigating me through my transition and settling into the community.”

The most rewarding part of my job, and our relocation team, is the satisfaction we have helping a transferee during one of the most stressful times of their life — moving. Receiving an email like this recent one is gratification: “I can’t say this often. You all have been an absolute delight to work with over the last few months. What could have been a challenging transition for me to Madison further complicated with COVID became easier to navigate because of your patience and guidance.”

It makes me think of the starfish story (short version): A man is walking along a beach when he notices a boy hurriedly picking up and throwing starfish back into the ocean. The man asks the boy, “What are you doing?” The boy replies, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean.” The man laughs and says, “Don’t you realize there are miles of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” The boy smiles, picks up another starfish, and says, “I made a difference to that one.”

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

Over the years, I was fortunate to have various people in my life who led by example, starting with my parents, who worked hard and always found time for family, with mealtime bringing us all together.

Starting out, I was inspired and influenced by different authors who helped shape my career, beginning with a book my mom gave me, The Greatest Salesman in the World, written by Og Mandino. Additionally, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, were instrumental in forming my business character. Enrolling in Terry Siebert’s Dale Carnegie training class here in Madison also propelled me forward in my business life. My siblings and husband, Tom, have also been wonderful role models in business, family, faith, and serving their communities.

Mike McKay from ActionCOACH comes to mind as an influencer. At a coffee meeting, he asked, “What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?” It made me do a dive into my calendar, which was tightly packed with good things (right?): meetings, volunteering, work, and family. Busy! It didn’t happen overnight — it took years, in fact — but I started to schedule time for more of what brings me joy.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

The night I was recognized by my networking peers. Not only did they let me know I make a real difference in people’s lives but being appreciated was the most rewarding aspect of the evening. Janet Gray of Total Awards & Promotions presented the “Madison Connector Award” and said they chose a beautiful blown glass sculpture of a gently cresting ocean wave because they felt it reflected my seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, but represented it in a soft, warm manner.

I guess I’ve built a reputation for being a consummate connector. Connecting, referring, and making introductions for people all come naturally to me. Without realizing it, I was building a reputation for being a conduit to resources and connections to people.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

It’s OK if you don’t have it all figured out; I didn’t. We all have natural talents and interests that can be beneficial when we choose a career. Look for a career path that uses your skill set and is something that you care about and is fulfilling to you.

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

My love for the outdoors! Dane County offers four seasons to enjoy. Walking, hiking, and biking trails with beautiful scenic views, covered bridges, well-groomed trails, and an abundance of state parks. Pope Farm Conservancy is a favorite during sunflower days.

What do I like about working in Madison? I’ve worked in four states in my life and Madison has a vibrant economy with lots of amenities. Our workforce is highly motivated, well-educated, and skilled in their trades. Collectively, I think we have one of the best workforces in the country.

Many of the people looking to relocate to Dane County are or have looked at other jobs and communities. It is so critically important that they are introduced to all that the area offers: cultural events, recreational activities, area attractions, state parks, schools, housing options, and so much more! Our relocation team helps potential people exploring a move to get acquainted to all that Madison has to offer. We know we have done our job when they say, “I would love to live here.”

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I’m the creative type, whether it’s constructing a beautiful perennial flower garden or painting with watercolors and acrylics.

Some time ago, I started turning some of my work into greeting cards that I enjoy sharing with people. Right before the pandemic, I was introduced to kindness rocks by a co-worker who left one on my desk that was beautifully painted with the message, “Let whatever you did today be enough!” I loved it and thought, “I want to do that!” So, I did. I painted rocks with friends and my granddaughter with inspirational messages and scattered them on trails and places people could find them.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Waking up to coffee! I blame it on all the coffee work meetings. I actually love to book end my day with coffee in the morning and, occasionally, red wine at night! For that I blame networking meetings after 5 p.m.!

Click here to sign up for the free IB Ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.