“A company culture that is more family-friendly by nature will likely be more balanced in terms of gender.” With Jason Hartman & Lisa K. Lippman

A company culture that is more family-friendly by nature will likely be more balanced in terms of gender. In my experience, the real estate industry has been a bit more female-friendly because you do have flexibility with your schedule. While you will have to work some weekends, during the week you can have more free […]

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A company culture that is more family-friendly by nature will likely be more balanced in terms of gender. In my experience, the real estate industry has been a bit more female-friendly because you do have flexibility with your schedule. While you will have to work some weekends, during the week you can have more free time than you would with another job.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa K. Lippman.

Lisa is a 23-year real estate insider, and the Number One Broker at Brown Harris Stevens, an honor she received for the fourth consecutive year. Having successfully closed over $1 billion in sales over the last four years alone, she specializes in helping a discerning clientele buy and sell high-end cooperatives, condominiums, and townhomes throughout Manhattan.

Consistently recognized among Manhattan’s top 5 individual brokers and the country’s top 20 brokers in terms of transaction volume, Lisa is currently representing some of the city’s most iconic properties including multiple apartments in the famed Apthorp, 15 West 63rd Street, 29/30 for $28,900,000, 25 Columbus Circle, 54D for $8,800,000, and 25 Columbus Circle, 54D for $8,800,000.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a law degree from Cardozo, Lisa spent several years as a practicing litigator at two prestigious Manhattan law firms — a background that affords her a keen understanding of the negotiation process, as well as the complexities often encountered towards the completion of a deal.

Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

Ibegan my career as a litigation lawyer. Following the birth of my first child, I tried to practice part-time for a few years, which was very difficult, and before having my second son, I had stopped working. However, it did not take me long to realize I needed to go back to work for my own mental health. I had bought an apartment a few years before and was intrigued by the process. I knew I was automatically licensed as a lawyer, so I walked into a Corcoran office on Broadway next to Zabar’s and said,“I’m a lawyer and I want to do this part-time,” and they said, “Okay, you’re hired!” From there, I did a few deals and my career began taking off, and I never worked part-time.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I think the new digital advertising platform that we’re launching at Brown Harris Stevens is going to be really helpful for selling properties because the ability to target consumers with relevant content will be game-changing.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The philosophy at Brown Harris Stevens, from company’s owners on down, is that we are in it for the long haul. We want to be your real estate advisor- like a financial advisor, we take care of one of your larger or largest assets. We don’t aee it as just a transaction to make money. From the way BHS advertises to the way we operate our business and take care of our clients, we always stand behind our values.

I think that ethos matches very much who I am and I’ve never wanted to leave BHS because of that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mom. Ever since I was a young girl, she always made me feel capable and gave me an inner confidence that I could do whatever I wanted to as long as I was an ethical, hard-working and kind person. Her philosophies were- “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all” and “you can say almost anything if you say it kindly.”

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?

I think that the corporate jobs that frequently involve a lot of politics rather than just accomplishments are still male dominated. All the jobs mentioned are somewhat independent and allow one to be their own boss, which is why women real estate brokers have made it so far in this industry. Corporate jobs where success is often determined by the powers at the top of the ladder tend to stay male dominated- as opposed to fields where you are what you create of yourself.

To that end I believe the residential real estate industry has so many female brokers because that world has felt comfortable for a long time with female leadership. I really commend the owners of Brown Harris Stevens, it was a male run company with male owners and yet they promoted Bess Friedman to CEO and Diane Ramirez has been President of Halstead for a long time. It’s obviously a company that believes in women.

What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?

Being gender-blind when looking at who to promote.

Make it a comfortable culture for women to work, there can be no sexism from the top, down.

Respect the family culture. Physically women have to have the babies, we haven’t yet figured out a different way! (We will someday I’m sure.) So for now we’re the ones –‘(and I see it as a blessing) who have to physically take time off to have the baby and also when you are pregnant there is no hiding what’s going on in our lives.

A company culture that is more family-friendly by nature will likely be more balanced in terms of gender. In my experience, the real estate industry has been a bit more female-friendly because you do have flexibility with your schedule. While you will have to work some weekends, during the week you can have more free time than you would with another job.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

One thing is, whether we like or not, women who are attractive do better than women who are not attractive. I think that it’s true to a certain degree with men, but it can almost be a liability for a man to be too good looking and that’s not true for a woman. We can never be too good looking.

And of course the other thing is women have to have the baby. That makes us have to take off at least one day [laughs]. I was in labor in the middle of a deal and the doctor had to tell me to put the phone down (I did, of course).

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?

I love that it’s not a desk job. While there are times I am at my desk, most of the time I’m running around to see clients, view interesting properties, meeting tons of new people. I love the constant movement.

I enjoy the various components of the job. One minute I’m doing a board package, the next I’m thinking about marketing strategy. The industry is always changing and evolving and I love the creative strategies behind the various components.

My job displays what I am good at. I’m a very good multi-tasker and between the constant movement and various components that go into a transaction, this job is a perfect fit and plays to my strengths.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

There is a false narrative that technology can replace human beings. I still think — just like a lawyer, or an accountant — you need a human being to talk to about these major decisions you make. A lot of people make mistakes thinking they can do things on their own or know more than a professional because of technology, and obviously it’s helpful for things like creating more transparency, but it’s not everything and we are always going to need humans to perform important tasks. I feel like clients who say to me, “We are in your hands, this is what you do, and we trust you,” are the ones who end up having the most successful transactions.

Another problem in our industry is the barrier to entry is very low so we have a lot of people thinking it is quick and easy money -from all the television shows etc. Lots of new brokers these days are looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Sometimes buyers and sellers think, (and I would say they are mistaken) that their broker should be a star and a flashy personality. But a real estate agent should really be an advocate, an advisor. We are a purveyors of information and advice- not models and actors.

And last, there is a misperception in New York City that wealthy people who own real estate are bad for the city. There has been a tons of new legislation and proposed legislation from changing fees paid by buyers and sellers to limiting broker fees that have been said to be done in the name of protecting those of low-income, but actually are just hurting the overall industry which hurts the economy and thus EVERYONE. For instance, by limiting who can pay the broker fee and requiring that the landlord/ owner has to pay it just translates into higher rent for the tenant- someone still has to pay the broker.

I would encourage and make it easier for people to invest in New York, not more difficult. The real estate industry brings a lot of revenue to the City and needed services so why would you want to dampen that?

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Remember to respect the people that work for you. Yelling never works.

Delegate when necessary.

Pay them well. If you’re doing better share the proceeds.

And thank them.

I’ve had people on my team from 6 years up to more than 20 years. People say it’s amazing that they never hear us yelling or hysterical and I think, “Why would we be? Problems come up and we handle them.” Being hysterical over it never solves anything.

Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

Don’t be pushy.

Don’t hand your card out every place you go.

Don’t start conversations by saying you’re a real estate broker.

Be open minded with who you talk to, don’t only think about business.

Be nice to everybody.

If you get to know people and let them trust you, then they will trust you with their real estate.

For example, I’ve been going to Equinox more than 20 years and over the years I have gotten a lot of business from the locker room because I have gotten to know and became friends with so many women there. It was never my intention to find clients there — they all approaches me when they wanted to start looking for an apartment because they knew and trusted me, not because I ever introduced myself as a broker.

Be a good person, be true to who you are, and don’t have ulterior motives, people figure it out.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire a movement that basically says, treat other people as you would hope they treat you, turn any selfishness into helping others.

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