I See The Future
It’s an exciting moment for me – this past week my daughter became the President of Warburg Realty, and I created a CEO position for myself. Although our roles have not really changed, titles matter. She is vested with new authority as she pursues her areas of expertise: technology, the creation and management of partnerships, a general retooling of the company to face the 21st century. And I will continue to do what I do best: oversee both the expense and the earnings sides of the ledger, watch the market, bring in listings and agents who intuitively fit our company culture, and work with our agents to close their deals. After many years in the real estate trenches I have a real partner.
Working with a family member is both complicated and fascinating. It requires radical relationship reorientation. For me, this person who was my little girl is now a brilliant colleague, one who often disagrees with me and presses her points with a determination somewhat new to me in my work situation. One of the dangers of being the boss for too long is that one becomes accustomed to deference. Deference can be the enemy of forward movement, which no doubt explains the enormous changes which have occurred since 2014 to update the company while maintaining its philosophy and essence. Clelia profoundly understands me (including, sometimes, my most sensitive buttons!) and I can see that I excite both admiration and impatience in her. By the same token, I possess a depth of experience after 35 years in this business which often enables me to see the forest rather than just the individual trees. We are growing into a great team.
First imperceptibly, then exponentially, the residential brokerage business changed over the past ten years. The Internet has not rendered us obsolete as many predicted it would – quite the contrary. But technology has radically reshaped our business. With information so widely available we have, like so many other businesses, had to rethink our value proposition. We are not (and never were) mere door openers. The most successful of us have always cultivated the role of trusted advisor, and gradually the public has come to expect a far higher degree of professionalism from us than it did when I began in the ‘80s. Clelia, with her far purer business background, sees this clearly, as do the many members of her generation among our agents. They do extensive research, they correlate data, and what they want more than anything else from their firm, other than a respected and recognizable brand, is electronic facilitation of these tasks. Today’s buyers and sellers of real estate want data-driven spreadsheets (as well they should) and we as an industry have been slow to respond, which is probably why there is so much interest today in disruptive technology for residential real estate brokerage nationwide. At Warburg, these issues form a big part of my daughter’s portfolio: she sits on the Boards of several tech start-up companies active in the real estate space and she has an intuitive understanding of the role data analytics will have in brokerage going forward. As for me, I can see it happening and I get it, but that has taken work. Technology isn’t intuitive for me. My gut remains my best pricing tool; luckily 9 times out of 10 the comps back me up.
Any business, like art or music, is 10% inspiration followed by 90% perspiration. I believe (and hope!) that over my decades of perspiration I have gained some wisdom. Clelia has certainly paid her dues over the last fifteen years at her various high level jobs, yet her perspective is still fresh and full of inspiration; her ideas which energize our whole team. We have had our days of conflict; she likes to say that she came to the company BECAUSE of me but stayed IN SPITE of me! That said, I think we have threaded the needle of working side by side, and we feel excited to face our future together.