ULI New York Blog

YLG New York: Real Estate Entrepreneurship

Picture NOVEMBER 9, 2011
Reported by James Ryan III, ULI New York Young Leaders Group
Additional contributions by Christopher Turner, ULI New York Young Leaders Group

The phone won’t ring.  The clouds won’t part.  Cash yielding properties aren’t going to fall into your hands.  Capital will be hard to come by.  No one will hand you anything.  Diligence and perseverance are tantamount to survival.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

If there was one major theme at the YLG Entrepreneurship in Real Estate event on Thursday, November 9th, it was that entrepreneurs forge their own path – and that path can be difficult.  If you choose to be an entrepreneur, get used to the word “no.”  Get used to long hours with payoffs that aren’t guaranteed.  Get used to picking up the phone and “dialing for dollars.”  You’ll need to scrap and push your way through difficult situations.  It’s not always fun.

Panelists included Matthew Blesso, President and Founder of Blesso Properties, Jeff Carus, Founder of JAC Partners, David Eyzenberg, Managing Director and Head of CRE of New Oak Capital, Brian Ray, Founder and Managing Partner of ABR Partners, and the moderator for the evening was Ruchi Pathela, Partner of Grove Street Investment. All of the entrepreneurs are experienced real estate professionals with an average of 15 years in the industry.

With the “entrepreneurship is difficult” theme ever present, the panelists touched on many important aspects of entrepreneurship and the skills that are necessary to find success within the real estate space.   First, an entrepreneur needs to be passionate about what he or she is doing.  While it shouldn’t be used as a crutch, passion is a necessary ingredient for an entrepreneur because it helps keep the motor running.  Something needs to be driving you to be in the office at 2am on a Tuesday.

The second key is the importance of surrounding yourself with competent people.  An entrepreneur isn’t going to be able to do everything by herself.  She’ll need assistance to help grow and maintain her firm.  She will need people she can trust and who can “move the ship forward.”  The panelists agreed that these types of people are hard to come by.  Nearly each panelist shared stories of employees hired from established firms who didn’t pan out because they didn’t have an entrepreneur’s mindset.  In fact, it seems that it is on the rarer side for excellent employees to come from established firms as they do not know how to source their own work and structure their own day.

Third, as noted above, an entrepreneur needs to source her own work and structure her own day.  There are no training programs and no stable job descriptions for an entrepreneur.  All decisions rest solely on her.  She will need to plan and execute every aspect of her day.  Panelist Jeff Karis noted that, on average, a minimum of ten phone calls should be made per day to various people whether they be capital sources, brokers, tenants, etc.  The entrepreneur needs to be able to create her own day and push to get things completed.

When summarizing the main skill set required the panelists all agreed on the following virtues:
•     Hard work.
•     Perseverance.
•     Creativity.
•     Ability to focus and problems solve.
•     Be able to operate without a “playbook”. No rules. No guidance.
•     Unable to take “No” for an answer.
•     Ability to self-promote.
•     Stay in constant motion.

The final major topic touched on by the panel was the importance of networking.  While this is something that is not exclusive to entrepreneurship, it is uniquely important to entrepreneurship in that a young and growing firm won’t survive without it.  An entrepreneur needs to know who to call in any and every situation that may arise.  As panelist Brian Ray noted, “it’s not only who you know, but who you know that can help you in a given circumstance.”

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