All in the Family
Family duos find success working side by side / By Julie Tereshchuk / Photos By Sadie Barton
There’s been a lot talked, written and even wept about the relationship between a mother and her daughter. But what happens to that dynamic when it moves from the home to the workplace? With that question in mind, we talked to two successful Austin businesswomen who now find themselves working with their daughters. Then we heard about another family duo in the same line of business. And given that we’re talking about longtime Austinite Matthew McConaughey and his mom, we decided to take some liberties with our theme by including a mother and her son as our third pair
WESTON & CHARLOTTE LIPSCOMB
Advice is a strange thing. It is so easy to give yet many of us find it extremely hard to take. Particularly if that advice is being given by a parent. Isn’t that the surest way to induce a rebellious-teenager or a pouty-toddler flashback? Not if you’re Weston Lipscomb. With a firm shake of her immaculate blond hair, the fifth-generation Texan smiles as she again gives thanks for having the kind of parent who she actively turns to for advice, often several times a day. And, in Weston’s situation, who wouldn’t when the parent in question is seasoned luxury-home Realtor Charlotte Lipscomb?
With 28 years in what is surely one of the most crowded professional fields, Charlotte has thrived since starting her residential real-estate career as a single mother of two young daughters back in the 1980s. Yet, she has not forgotten the realities of the early days of her career.
“I feel my children sacrificed a lot growing up. I was a single parent for many years, and real estate is a very time-consuming and demanding job,” she says. “But everyone has to work hard in life, and if real estate is in your heart, you are going to do great. And Weston is.”
Charlotte’s early sacrifices have certainly borne fruit, and her many accolades and awards include being recognized as a member of Austin’s Elite 25 every year since it was established in 1994. (Specializing in luxury residential real estate in Central Texas, the Elite 25 comprises Austin real-estate agents who are in the top 1 percent of their industry.) Despite being a sought-out specialist in the luxury market, Charlotte points out that customer service is the primary focus for both Lipscombs.
“Sometimes that means a condo for a son or daughter at UT,” she explains. “Sometimes that means it is investment properties we’re focused on for our clients. There is always a little bit of everything.”
That variety means a constant flow of clients, listings, viewings and property tours all made even more accessible and available by the rise of technology in the real estate industry. And that is where Weston Lipscomb has made a major impact from day one, says Charlotte.
“She brings a fresh look at technology for me,” Charlotte says, adding the continual updates Weston makes “really help with properties that either of us have listed, and we find it helps with overall recognition on Google.”
For Weston, it wasn’t so much a case of if but when she would go in to real estate. That inevitable step happened a couple of years back, giving her the opportunity to put her business degree in marketing and management to good use.
“I always wanted to prove myself, to build my own business and work hard at that while also learning from Charlotte, the best teacher I could have,” says Weston, glancing toward her mother. And “Charlotte” it is, at least during working hours. “In the business world, I call her Charlotte because it is more professional when we are with clients or conducting business. I feel she is my colleague during the day, as opposed to Mom.”
There’s as much friendship as mother-daughter bond to their relationship, says Weston.
“We’ve always enjoyed each other’s company and communicated well. And we enjoy the same things outside of real estate, whether it is volunteering, cooking or traveling.” Charlotte agrees, adding a mother’s perspective to their shared lives.
“What parent does not want their child to have opportunities? To be successful, to be happy and for life to go well for them? For her to share my passion and to be successful at it is just the icing on the cake.”
Talking of passions, Charlotte has always been a dedicated community volunteer. It is work she loves. Thank goodness, as the list is long and includes the Junior League (after years as an active member, she is now a sustaining member) and the Heritage Society, where she recently volunteered as a docent on the annual homes tour. Charlotte also enjoys supporting the Women’s Symphony League and The Women’s Fund of Central Texas, which engages women of all ages in philanthropy, supporting programs that directly benefit women and children. Once again, Charlotte’s been a great role model to her daughter. Weston’s list of volunteer activities ranges from Explore Austin, which mentors Austin’s under-served youth; the Umlauf Sculpture Garden; the Hill Country Conservancy; HAAM; KLRU Next; and (as the proud owner of Maizy and Leroy) the Humane Society.
With a bustling day job filled with showings, viewings and client meetings, it is little wonder that much of the younger Lipscomb’s volunteer work is done late at night or early morning. When it comes to long hours, however, Charlotte Lipscomb holds her own.
“She is the only one who emails me back at 1 in the morning,” says Weston.
Even though Charlotte gently protests, proof of her work ethic came when an email question received a cheery 3:30 a.m. response from the inveterate night owl. Today Charlotte and Weston are business associates with Austin Portfolio Real Estate, which has partnered with the international-luxury arm of Keller Williams Realty. As classic and elegant as one of the multimillion dollar listings they represent, the pair exudes professionalism, confidence and ease—the perfect combination for ensuring the continued success of the Lipscomb name, whether it be mother or daughter.
GAY & REBECCA GADDIS
The imposing front doors of the mid-century building swing open to reveal a structure transformed. Gone are the small, dark offices. Gone are the trappings of a bygone era. In their place is a vibrant, creative space with the stripped-back concrete and utilitarian fixtures lending a distinctive Manhattan loft flavor. One of the few original features is a curving staircase that leads to the executive offices. When she’s home from one of her frequent business trips, that’s where you’ll find Gay Gaddis, founder of what is now America’s largest advertising agency wholly owned by a woman, with offices in Austin, New York and San Francisco.
It’s been 23 years since Gay founded T3 (The Think Tank), and the last four years have seen some of the toughest transformations, reflecting the roiling changes wrought by the 2008 economic downturn. And although T3 has survived, she’s a realist about the ongoing challenging business environment.
“This is the tough new normal. It is never going back to the way it was. We’ll always behave a little differently because of this deep recession the whole country has been in,” Gay says.
It’s her high energy and drive that help keep T3 ahead of the curve, in one of the nation’s fastest-moving, ever-evolving industries.
“We’ve been very fortunate in a lot of ways at T3 because we focused so long ago on new media and digital innovations,” Gay adds.
As for that renowned Gaddis energy, it never stops. And it takes a rare individual to balance it. Enter Rebecca Gaddis, the yin to Gay’s yang. Rebecca’s was the guiding hand and discerning eye when completing the three-year, $14.5 million building-renovation project for T3’s Austin headquarters—no small project for her first as part of the T3 team, and a sign of the trust and respect Gay has for her daughter’s talents. Those talents were honed in New York City, where Rebecca graduated with a degree in marketing from LIM College, the former Laboratory Institute of Merchandising.
“It’s a school for the business side of fashion, not design,” Rebecca explains. “I went on to work in PR and marketing in New York.”
Her resume would make any stylista drool, including stints at Carolina Herrera, Giorgio Armani and respected luxury textile house F. Schumacher & Co. (The latter gave her the opportunity to work with designer Trina Turk on a campaign launching Turk’s Schumacher line.) Despite all the great times, by 2009, Rebecca was ready for a change.
“By then, it was about five years of being in New York, and I’d had enough of being up there,” she explains. Ready but unsure what that change would be, she decided to head back to the town she was raised in, the town with family and friends in abundance. If she was unsure of her plans when she arrived in Austin, Rebecca quickly found a role very close to home.
“2009 was when the bottom fell out,” Gay recalls of those days when business owners realized that the economic woes of 2008 were not going away anytime soon. “The beginning of 2009 was probably one of the roughest times of my career.”
Rebecca stepped in at a crucial time.
“We were in the throes of this building remodel. So, I needed her help so much,” Gay says. Having Rebecca on board allowed Gay to fully focus on the business. “I was able to go do what I needed to do.”
Rebecca also began to help organize her mother’s many travel and speaking commitments. Today, that role has morphed and expanded to include both internal and external communications for the company.
“I am promoting the brand by getting our people out there in speaking roles, submitting for awards, press and media placements, and also [managing] the internal public relations for the T3 brand,” Rebecca says.
The two work closely together given that Gay’s role is focused on high-level strategy for T3 and the company’s clients.
“My job is to be the ambassador for T3,” Gay says. They are in constant contact when Gay’s on the road, and when she is in the office, the two sit right next to each other.
“It’s a good job. She’s gone a lot,” jokes Rebecca as Gay smiles broadly.
“We make each other laugh almost every day. In the pressure of the advertising business, laughter is truly the best medicine,” Gay says.
These days, T3 is quite the family firm. Gay’s husband, Lee Gaddis, is the longtime chief operating officer, while Ben, the oldest of the Gaddis boys, joined T3 before Rebecca and is now vice president of innovation and growth. Even though she hadn’t planned on working in the family business (as a child who loved animals, her early dreams were of being a veterinarian), when Rebecca did join T3, she felt the burden of the family name, but views it as an incentive to aim high.
“As T3 is our family’s business and since we hold a high standard for our employees, I did feel pressure to maintain that high standard. But I think that’s helped me to perform my role the best that I can,” the 28-year-old explains.
Gay is a big proponent of the Myers-Briggs personality tests, and attributes the success of her working relationship with Rebecca to their complementary types.
“Being different personality types really allows us to work better together,” Rebecca agrees.
As for the ever-active Gay, who this year has managed to downsize the longtime family home and take up drawing again while still keeping up a punishing travel schedule, it’s clear that her own life has been transformed by working with her daughter and her son.
“When they joined, it really changed how Lee and I felt about the company,” Gay says. “With the kids here, we see that it can continue on.”
KAY & MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY
Due in theaters April 27 and billed as a dark comedy, the latest movie from School of Rock and Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater finally unites Kay McConaughey and her youngest son, Matthew, on screen, albeit, not in the role she’s been wishing for since Matthew began in films. For years Kay—or KMac, as she prefers—has been campaigning to play the screen mother to her real-life son.
“It’s not up to me,” has always been his response. “I don’t do the casting.”
And although longtime family friend Linklater cast KMac in a cameo role as the town gossip in Bernie, and not Matthew’s mom, the sprightly and über chipper KMac is happy. And so she should be. There are not many, if any, women who get their first movie role at 80, let alone in a movie that includes such Hollywood luminaries as Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine. That’s correct, Bernie is KMac’s first venture on to the silver screen. To steal a line from Bernie’s publicity machine, hers is “a story so unbelievable it must be true.”
During the swirling frenzy of Austin during South By Southwest, where Bernie had its world premiere at the redoubtable Paramount Theatre, KMac talked about her moviemaking experience with aplomb. Asked what Matthew thought of her performance, she’s quick to point out that Richard Linklater’s opinion as director was the crucial one.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Rick was pleased with the way it went off. That’s what is important, that Rick was pleased,” she says.
Mother and son share just one scene, in the local diner. How did that go?
“Delightful,” says KMac. “Like I was just sitting there chatting with him.”
Her son laughs at the memory of their scene together. “Crafty Rick, he puts my mom in the scene. I had no idea,” Matthew says. Interviewed just hours before the premiere, he adds, “She is having a great time with this film, and she is pumped up for tonight.”
Clearly, his mom’s trips to several other red-carpet events as Matthew’s guest have rubbed off on her. Throughout the years, she’s also been a regular visitor to his movie sets.
“One time I went to Australia,” she says of her globetrotting adventures.
It’s not only his mother that Matthew keeps in close touch with. The 42-year-old and his two older brothers, Mark and Patrick (aka, Rooster), “still talk a lot,” says KMac of her three boys, all raised in Texas. “I’ve been here over 55 years, and so I’m absolutely a Texan. I just happened to be born in New Jersey.”
Although filmed on location in Bastrop, Bernie is set in the real-life East Texas town of Carthage, not far from Longview, where the McConaugheys lived for many years. KMac recalls when the events retold in Bernie took place. She also grins with relish as she reprises some of her lines from Bernie. They certainly have a zing, particularly her opening lines about Shirley MacLaine’s character, Mrs. Nugent, the widowed grumpy shrew who meets an unexpected end. “She’s a mean old bitch,” says KMac’s character straight to camera. (To be fair, Linklater and Texas Monthly’s Skip Hollandsworth, who share the screenwriting credits, are also less than kind to McConaughey’s character, long-suffering District Attorney Danny Buck, who is described as “good at getting himself re-elected.”)
As for KMac, she also tips her hat to the screenwriters. “All of [my part] was great lines,” she says. “I didn’t have to do anything but say them.”
Although a novice to the movie set, KMac has acted in several plays. Her stage roles include playing another character with great lines, Ouiser Boudreaux, coincidentally, the same role Shirley MacLaine played in the screen version of Steel Magnolias. Today, the former kindergarten teacher, who also spent time working as a model, lives in Sun City, Texas, and is a proud five-time grandmother and three-time great-grandmother. Her husband, Jim, died in 1992, before Matthew’s acting career took off with the cult-classic Dazed and Confused.
“I told Matthew his dad would have really gotten a kick out of it because Jim didn’t even know that Matthew wanted to be an actor,” KMac says.
The younger McConaughey originally went to school at UT Austin to study law and only later changed his career path, graduating from the film school in UT’s Radio-Television-Film department. He’s gone on to make more than 40 feature films. There are many layers to the feisty Kay McConaughey, who is also a published author. In 2008, she published the motivational and personally candid I Amaze Myself!
“With the book, I am trying to get women to admit that they are amazing,” she explains. “I’m a firm believer that women should never feel they are second class, or that they are not good enough.”
She’s certainly taken her own book to heart. Asked if she’s looking forward to future movie roles, the answer comes right back.
“I’d love to!” she says. KMac’s a realist and also not averse to having fun at her own expense, so she adds, “I don’t know how many movies there are for 80-year-old women! So, this could be my first and last, but that’s OK.”