I am an excellent multitasker, I delegate more, and I’ve learned to focus on the things that are most important in my business (rather than just the things that seem to be the most pressing.)
I had the pleasure to interview Sarah Saltzberg founder of Bohemia Realty Group. Sarah accidentally got into real estate ten years ago, when she was having trouble raising money for a musical she was producing. After several months of learning the business, she realized how much more interesting — and lucrative — real estate was than waitressing, and a second career was born. Over the next decade, Sarah continued to pursue both interests full time, growing what was originally a team of three agents in 2012 to over 150 today, while simultaneously appearing on Broadway, television, and film. Bohemia Realty Group is a testament to Sarah’s belief that artists are naturally good salespeople and don’t have to starve in order to go after their dreams…and that it’s possible to use a theater education for more than speaking with a killer Irish accent.
Creatively, Sarah’s most notable credits include: a creator and star of the Tony-award winning Broadway musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee;” a writer/actor/producer of the Broadway-themed improvisational charity show “Don’t Quit Your Night Job” (www.dontquitnyc.com); and co-writer of the comedy “Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage” recently running off-Broadway and touring regionally (www.missabigailsguide.com). As an actor, Sarah most recently appeared in the film “City Island” with Andy Garcia and on HBO’s “The Big C.”
Thank you so much for joining us Sarah! Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far, and the lesson or take away from it?
When I first got my sales license, I was living in a rental building in Upper Manhattan where there were a lot of vacancies. I called the landlord to see if I could help remedy the situation. The other line promptly went silent. I immediately called again and said, “I think we got disconnected,” and got another click. By my fourth try, I declared, “please don’t hang up!” My tenacity had finally convinced him to stay on the line to hear my proposal and give me a chance. Instead, he gave me the near impossible, i.e., the weekend to lease five apartments, which I did. He was my first and is still one of my most valued clients with an amazing portfolio.
Are you working on any exciting new projects? How do you think it will help people?
This is the first year we have partnered with Media Right Productions, with whom we are developing a five-song EP featuring music and lyrics written by our agents, (Bohemia is recognized for its support of dual careers spanning the arts and real estate.) We have planned a big marketing campaign and all the proceeds from the sale of the EPs are slated to go to a local charity working to end child homelessness in NYC. In addition, we just completed an exclusive contract for a spectacular new condominium project in Upper Manhattan. It is a game-changer for the neighborhood.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Since inception, Bohemia Realty Group’s mission has been to improve quality of life for the communities in that we live in and serve. That commitment, of course, also extends to our agents and clients. We are a unique firm in which nearly 90 percent of our agents are or have been professional performers, artists and writers, so we are staunch advocates for work/life balance and supporting dual careers. On any given day, there will be children, dogs and hardworking agents at our offices because they are an integral and welcome part of the Bohemia community.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful for helping you get to where you are?
I will be forever grateful to my initially reticent former landlord who gave me my first shot in the industry. He provided me with the insight to know that in this business, you cannot take “no” to figure out how to get to “yes!”
The real estate industry is a woman-dominated profession, yet women hold less than 20 percent of the senior positions are held by women. What do you think is the cause for this imbalance?
In New York City, leadership in the residential real estate space may be more equitably based than in other parts of the country. The chairs, principals and senior executives of most of the residential firms here are mainly women. Unfortunately, that is not the case in commercial real estate here or elsewhere. In Bohemia Realty Group’s case, we support time off for family leave, provide gender neutral bathrooms, and offer pay for staff members based on skill set, rather than gender.
What three things can be done by individuals, companies or society to support greater gender balance moving forward?
This question is not particularly germane to the residential real estate space in New York City. As for society, in general, women leadership must continue to set a high bar and make room for other women to join us at executive levels.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that are not typically faced by their male counterparts?
Having children — and the misperception that it makes us less capable leaders. Although family leave that includes both mothers and fathers is becoming an accepted norm, the fact is that after a woman gives birth there is a natural period of physical recovery. That reality should be an accepted norm, too, and businesses need to address it as a natural transition, rather than a handicap. That being said, being a working mother of two has absolutely made me a better leader; I am an excellent multitasker, I delegate more, and I’ve learned to focus on the things that are most important in my business (rather than just the things that seem to be the most pressing.)
Can you share three things that most excite you about the Industry? If you had the ability to implement three ways to reform or improve the Industry, what would you suggest?
I love working in the real estate because of its everyday challenges, creativity, diversity, camaraderie, flexibility — I have co-written two Broadway and two off-Broadway shows during my real estate career — and, of course, the financial rewards. But in New York State, the residential sector has been hit hard with new restrictive laws. Although the intent was geared to protect residents, primarily rent-regulated tenants, the unintended consequences are already resulting in layoffs of building staff, contractors reducing staff size or going out of business, and rental agents losing income. The new laws are also having a negative effect on smaller real estate agencies, a couple of which have had to close offices or make other drastic business model adjustments. In order to ameliorate these issues and address the prospect of other punitive legislation, individuals in our industry must become more engaged and aware of current and upcoming legislation. We need to speak to our representatives and educate them on the valuable services we bring to the residential space. Although the real estate industry has a respected organization representing us, it is still incumbent upon owners — especially those of us who head privately-owned real estate firms — to become more active and make sure our voices are heard.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their teams thrive?
At Bohemia, we are big believers in consulting with our staff and asking for feedback. We listen to our agents to find out what tools will make their work easier and contribute to their success. Communication is the key and whenever an idea makes our overall mission better and more efficient, we follow up.
If you had to advise someone on five non-intuitive things conducive to succeeding in the Real Estate Industry, what would they be?
- Creative problem-solving
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?
I encourage in everyone I know, work with and/or love to do something good every day, no matter how small or big. It’s the little things that often resonate the longest, so when we are simply kind, we reap the greatest rewards. The golden rule is infinite.