In the Real Estate Business, Take the High Road


We work in a very small community. Granted, Manhattan sees 53 million visitors per year, and many hundreds of thousands of companies work here and employ millions of people. But the people who help make this happen, the commercial brokers in New York, are a small group of people. It is a sophisticated community, and we always bump into each other. 

There are two sayings that I like to employ frequently. The first chestnut: Treat people the way that you would like to be treated. And the second: What comes around goes around. I take them both very seriously. I bring this up, because when you are on a deal with a colleague in the industry or when you are simply receiving an inquiry about a particular space, it behooves you to be a “gentleman” or a “lady.” There are plenty of people who are grumpy or don’t return calls or treat you like dirt, and I admit that on that rare occasion if I am having a stressful day I too can be short with someone on the phone, but there are plenty of people who are as nice as can be, helpful, patient and informative. Before you let the effects of your day loose on the person on the other end of the phone, keep in mind that you may need this person at some point in the future.

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I believe that if you treat someone poorly, it is likely that you will bump into them again at some point in your career and they will remember the way that you treated them. It’s like life but with a different purpose.

The same can be said about gossip. I am not talking about “Did you hear Joe moved to the east side?” I am talking about “Did you hear about how Joe Smith left that firm?” Joe left; no, he was fired; no, he was caught doing this or that; he got a big bonus to go to the new firm; he wasn’t doing any business. … There are three sides to every story, and it is better to tell the truth than gossip or make up stories, because I only have to remember the truth, not several different versions of the same story. 

The other day, someone asked me about a broker who was no longer with us and then proceeded to tell me that they’d heard how it happened and that the broker had left to find greener pastures elsewhere. At was interesting story except that I am the one who let the person go, because they were disruptive and wouldn’t just put their head down and do the work, so out they went. No hard feelings. We are here to do our work in a collaborative atmosphere conducive to performance. Our firm is built on the very principles I mentioned earlier: Treat people the way that you wish to be treated.

I remember very shortly after 9/11 we had a meeting in a conference room, and our founding partner, Norman Sturner, forcefully stated that no one was to take advantage of this situation. “We are here to help people in need.” Treat people the way you expect to be treated. I mention this phrase in the first broker meeting at the beginning of every year. I want to set the proper tone. We are a collaborative organization in a great, diverse city, and we all benefit from everyone’s experiences. Keep in mind how you feel after helping someone in need. Every day, we get an opportunity to do the right thing.