Roula Rouva is nobody’s fool. When you first meet her, you know you are in the presence of someone utterly determined, completely focused and very, very switched on. But that’s just the first impression. Because the moment she smiles at you, you know underneath the business powerhouse that you see is a real lady, one that is warm and understanding and decent and inherently kind.

Roula Rouva started her career working for the family business. It was a small, private, family-run hotel and she worked the kitchen, the supermarket, the bar, in housekeeping, reservations and wherever else was needed. And often when asked by guests she would turn up the music and teach them the Sirtaki too. She remembers these times with great fondness, one of her rare and beautiful smiles breaking out over her face:

“We had so much fun in those days. Everyone was so happy and we would all be laughing and dancing, hotel staff and guests, and we would fall asleep in the early hours of the morning, to wake up and do it all over again. Our guests became our friends and they would come back each year, sending us cards and pictures of themselves while they were away. It was beautiful.” However good things tend not to last forever, and the area in which Roula’s family had their business saw a drop in tourism, and as a result she had to find other opportunities that would enable her to raise her two young daughters.

As a single parent and a young woman, Roula decided to set her goals high. In 2003, she started a lettings agency in partnership with a fellow Corfiot who had returned from Australia. She then went on to start her own lettings agency out of a small office in the north-west assisted by an English friend. Over a period of time Roula branched out into sales, as well as lettings, and in 2010 moved into her current offices at Corfu Town.

Other than per personal powers of persuasion and the vision to provide a quality service to clients, she also used the most innovative of means to promote her business. She even got a local TV channel to carry a small show about real estate in Corfu, and the rest, as they say, is history. Overnight she was flooded with people who wanted to sell their homes through her and before she knew it she had over a thousand listings. “I was famous,” she says laughingly.

These volumes required more personnel, and so in 2011 she was joined by Andy Marshall and Jenny who worked from Paxos. Today there are over 25 staff, including Roula’s own daughters who are now graduates and hard workers just like their mother. It wasn’t all smooth sailing however.

The crisis in Greece left no one untouched. Roula had a team to keep motivated, two daughters who were still at university at the time, and a business to grow. “It was such a tough a time. I had to convince my team to keep going despite the fact that there were houses to sell, but almost no buyers. My girls needed me, emotionally and financially, and it was a rough ride, to say the least, and I had to do it single-handedly,” she admits. “I had no life of my own beyond my work during that time, as I had to make sure that everyone else’s needs were being met, often at the expense of my own. But her vision never wavered, and she kept the dream strong. She took ideas from everywhere, networked religiously, egged on her staff to keep the faith… and eventually the good times came, and business picked up once more. In fact, it not only picked up, it soared. Today most of the staff are long-termers and each one has been hand-picked and groomed by Roula. She is utterly committed to their welfare, both personal and professional and her staff know that in a crisis she is their first port of call. She has maintained a sense of family amongst those that work with her and it is a palpable thing when you visit their office. Their head of security (he has a vest that says so) is an adorable poodle cross who will inspect you carefully for worthiness as soon as you enter.

The inevitable Corfiot smile greets you from everyone, and one gets a sense of having walked into a friend’s house rather than a real estate office. As a leader Roula understands the need to run a tight ship, but she does it with a feminine hand that brings compassion, understanding and gentleness to the table, as well. “My people are my priority. Their happiness is my happiness,” she says firmly. And this is reflected in the quality of service her clients get.

Clients who buy from RR Estate get an after-care package that beggars belief. From being shown where to buy white goods, to coordinating with engineers and builders if needed, to being invited to get-togethers, to being directed to doctors and mechanics and accountants… the range of assistance is comprehensive and comes at no additional price tag. It’s just part of the package that Roula developed to offer customised support to both sides of the sale. “It’s just something we want to do and that we like to do. People trust us with their hopes and dreams and their savings, and so we want to provide them with all that Corfu can offer; friendship is an integral part of this island, so we want to make sure we give that as part of the offering, as well,” she says. During the process of a sale, home owners can expect a critical and fair evaluation, along with an appraisal of the legal paperwork required to ensure clear transactions; while buyers are presented with comprehensive documentation to ensure there are no hitches post the sale.