C-Suite Agenda

Over a Decade Later: What I’ve Learned Since My First Year in Business

Prior to getting my start in the real estate industry, I worked as a reporter, editor and media analyst in my home country of Serbia, reporting on the front lines of the Bosnian War. Although my journalism career was challenging and rewarding, reporting on the devastation of war left me with a desire for peace and stability, and I decided to give United States a shot.

I arrived to New York with a need to recharge, and also with a strong desire to design and create. As my life-long fascination with design persisted, expanded upon by the years of destruction I have first-hand borne witness to… shortly after settling in, I enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Interior Design program. I went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, and my detail-oriented self, now also rid of the PTSD that the years of war have left behind, started earning its wings. After spending time in New York City and falling head-over-heels in love with its architectural beauty, I decided to take a jump into the world of real estate, a near-perfect theater for me to often use my design and individualized leadership skills.

April of 2007 saw my partner Erik Serras and I working at a boutique real estate brokerage firm in Manhattan. During this time, we found ourselves spending more time in our home borough of Brooklyn, a NYC borough which we felt was widely and undeservedly so under-served by the city’s real estate brokerages. We felt and recognized the potential. Using the foundations we have built during our individual careers, our sales and project management skills, and our shared passion for challenge, we co-founded Ideal Properties Group, a privately-owned, independent real estate firm specializing in premier Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods.

It’s been a little over a decade later and we now have offices Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, Williamsburg and Chelsea and a staff of over 200 highly trained real estate brokers and salespeople, and we’re continuing to expand. As we are now well into our second decade of business, I’ve taken the time to reflect on what we have learned over the years, and below are my top 5 lessons:

Diversity of Thought is of the Utmost Importance

New York City is an incredible melting pot, and we are very lucky to have an amazing talent pool within our own stomping grounds. At Ideal Properties Group, we know that without our associates our company would not exist or prosper, and we take pride in hiring people who believe in our mission and work to exemplify it daily, at varying experience levels. Working with a diverse group of individuals allows us to better serve the communities in which we work, because our brokers and support staff come from the many distinct and diverse neighborhoods and cultures that make up this wonderful city.

Intensive Training at Every Level

We employ the most passionate and empathetic candidates, and find it imperative as a small business to effectively onboard our team members and immerse them in continual training.

To some level, ours is an old-fashioned style of training, in its resemblance to a college class. The program involves a textbook that incorporates all the activities and habits of a successful real estate agent, and it presents hands-on lessons and evaluations. The program is continually updated, and is one of the most structured and detailed training programs in the New York City’s real estate market. They also stay with Ideal, making our retention rate extremely high in an industry that’s known for its inability to hold on to talent lured away by promises of a greener pasture. Our records show that eight out of every 10 new agents trained through the program become successful, commission-earning real estate professionals.

Transparency is Essential

The real estate industry is notorious for being an intense field, especially in the New York City market. Still, we have managed to grow every year while maintaining our small, boutique agency vibe across each of our five offices. I credit this to the literal and figurative transparency that we epitomize. We maintain relationships with buyers and sellers by being as transparent as possible throughout the process of representation, which is what has helped us to retain talent and accounts, and to grow over the years. Not being upfront with clients or associates, in my opinion, is the quickest and surest way to losing their trust and interest.

The concept is reinforced internally in our physical offices by the provision of an open, glass-encased environment that allows access to leadership at every level at any time. Maintaining this openness empowers our associates to work well together and ultimately leads to an uplifting office culture, and fosters a collaborative work environment across all levels.

Adapt to Changing Times

In my experience, it is a leader’s responsibility to ensure the company is performing at its highest potential. That translates into a need to constantly optimize practices and procedures to ensure operational efficiency, but also to regularly evaluate the company’s marketing strategies, promotional activities, online and social media presence, making changes and updates as needed.  Even when you can cross an update off of your “to-do” list, it’s never really complete, as you should always have the next improvement on your radar.

Embrace Technology

Ideal Properties Group is a tech-driven firm that embraces and practically implements the latest technologies to stay on the cutting edge of the brokerage business. We deem it important to never become overly comfortable with the tech we’re using, and to stay on top of the latest developments and trends, including those foreign to the industry. Be willing to think outside the box and confines of your business, and don’t be afraid to investigate tech-based solutions for scaling up. Educate yourself on what’s available, and what your competitors are using, and aim for a rung above.

In the 12 years at the helm of Ideal, I have learned an enormous amount about how to effectively grow a company. Passion for the work you are doing, and a willingness to make mistakes and use them as learning vehicles… are the elements I find critical to a business’ success.

Written by Aleksandra Scepanovic.

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Aleksandra Scepanovic
Aleksandra Scepanovic is co-founder and managing director of Ideal Properties Group, a leading real estate firm specializing in premier Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods. Aleksandra is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.