11 Insights From Howard M. Lorber on Being a Successful Entrepreneur

On May 10, Scott Durkin, President and Chief Operating Officer of Douglas Elliman Real Estate sat down with Elliman Chairman Howard M. Lorber at the 92 Street Y to discuss the entrepreneurial mind and what it takes to have a successful career in real estate. Throughout the insightful discussion, Howard revealed his tips for how to achieve success in business, especially sales and real estate. Elliman Insider gathered the 11 best tips to share with you here.

1. Real estate grew up as a mom-and-pop business.

“It was a part-time business for many,” Lorber noted. “Therefore, as the business became a better business to make money in—which probably happened over the last 20 years—I’ve always felt that no matter how big you are in the residential real estate business it is a hand-holding business and a mom-and-pop business. And that’s the way we try to treat it and be with everyone.”

2. The best time to get new customers is in a bad market. 

“In bad times, people want to see a fresh face and they want to hear a new idea,” Lorber offered. “In real estate, reaching out to new customers during these times gives them the opportunity to see a new face, get your thoughts on where the market is, your thoughts on the pricing, while you’re building your business.”

3. The greatest motivator for a sales person is to spend a lot of money. 

“Most great sales people will spend money during bad, good or indifferent times and then they have to work harder to do that. And that’s a motivating factor because if you spend a lot of money, you have to make a lot of money.”

4. Great brokers have one thing in common, they work like dogs.

“It’s almost impossible to do it any other way,” Lorber noted. “The work ethic is really the key to success.”

5. “If you give a great person too much to do, they are no longer a great person.”

You have to know how to manage people. Good people are the hardest asset to find. But if you give a great person too much to do, they will no longer be great.

6. Real estate is a people business.

“I get to spend time with people. I learn, and I have a sense of enjoyment if I can figure out a way to help those people do better in their profession. Real estate is a business where you need to want to go out and talk to other people. It’s a people business and that’s why I love it so much.”

7. There are lots of ways to stand out as an agent. That’s what marketing is all about.

“Today, you have a much better chance of standing out and making a name for yourself with social media.”

8. Technology is an aid to your business but not a substitute.

“We need technology because it’s going to help you in your business. You want to have the technology to help you with things like pricing and finding buyers. But it’s still very agent-centric. You still need a great agent to sell. It’s important to keep up with technology, but technology doesn’t substitute for great salespeople.”

9. I always view real estate as a comfortable asset to own.

“Today you can check your stock portfolio every 10 seconds and see if you’re making money or losing money. If you see you’re losing money you’re going to get emotional and sell it,” Lorber noted, comparing the experience to real estate. “If real estate was that easy to buy and sell you’d have the same problem. I can’t think of anyone that over a long period of time didn’t make money or at worst break even on real estate, when you look at it as a long term asset.”

10. Surround yourself with people who are more successful than you.

“What you want is to surround yourself with people who are smarter or have different skills or better skills than you. This way your shared skills are complemented.”

11. Don’t worry about making mistakes.

“I make mistakes every day, but I don’t make the same mistakes. Making mistakes is not a bad thing. If you make no mistakes you’re not taking enough risks. So you should make mistakes, just don’t keep making the same mistakes.”


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