“During the Bosnian war, words “Life sucks and then you die” somehow always found their way into a conversation. In talking odds with my friends in Sarajevo, I’d always realize how true the words actually rang, and I learned to appreciate my natural-born optimism even more than ever. Optimism helped me get over the trauma of war, the trauma of moving to another continent, the trauma of starting anew. I remember my dad, on the other hand, when I was a little girl, always talking about happiness being a choice and to try to do my best in life to keep my smile around. My personal experiences in New York City, where everything and everyone strives to be perfect — or at least perceived as perfect — every moment of every day, taught me that optimism could be a choice as well, and that without it, you can’t be persistent, and that you can’t find it exciting or easy to grow and change.”
I had the pleasure to interview Aleksandra Scepanovic, Managing Director of Ideal Properties Group. Ideal Properties Group, is a leading residential real estate firm specializing in premier Brownstone Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods including Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Brooklyn Heights, as well as Williamsburg, Gowanus, Chelsea and other sought-after locations. Aleksandra is responsible business development at Ideal. Since co-founding the firm in 2007, she has helped develop its foundation and technological edge, set its mission and implement a clear vision. Today, Aleksandra continues to formulate Ideal’s strategy, identifies and monitors the markets, works at upholding the company’s values, oversees hiring and marketing, and assists her partner in setting Ideal’s direction and building its culture by creating an exciting and supportive environment for brokers to work.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
I was born in what is now known as former Yugoslavia. Growing up there, at the crossroads of Western and Eastern civilizations, I found it easy to become captivated by human history. This prompted me to study archaeology in college, with hopes of someday working in the exciting world only distantly resembling that dreamt up by the Indiana Jones franchise. When the war engulfed my country, I watched it robbed of its beauty and essence, and my dreams of working in the field focused on times past — were shattered. I knew I needed to look forward, surveying and excavating on the sidelines of history. I began working as an editor and media analyst reporting from the war zones of the Balkans.
Following the conflict, armed with a desire to create and rebuild, I moved to New York City and pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). The FIT program awakened my inner eye for detail and strengthened my passion for architecture — I had come to see architecture as a symbol of perseverance and proof of the human need for continuance and rebirth.
With the trained designer’s eye and architectural appreciation, I took a leap into the fascinating arena of New York City real estate. I was working at a boutique brokerage firm when I met my partner, Erik Serras, and we co-founded Ideal Properties Group in 2007.
Why did you found your company?
My partner Erik and I sought out to fill a growing need for quality real estate services in Brooklyn. There was a nearly palpable void created by the lack of technologically innovative infrastructure for sales and rentals. The firm where we met also severely lacked support for salespeople and so we set off to create a collegial work environment where agent support would be paramount.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Since launching the company in 2007, I have been in charge of setting its mission and implementing a clear vision for its tomorrow. Our team is continually developing our technological edge and monitoring the markets for emerging trends. I don’t believe that there has been a single day, even predating our incorporation in 2007, that our systems have been exactly the same as the day before. We have grown steadily around the concept that support is the single most important element of business-building in the world of brokerage, not at all commonplace when we first started in the real estate industry. We operate in a consciously and purposefully curated environment where people can work in the spirit of camaraderie rather than competition against one another for business. We continue to build and provide our teams with groundbreaking technological tools that power steady growth.
Who have been some of your mentors?
We didn’t have any direct mentors in the industry, so we built an environment within Ideal that could compensate for that generally missing aspect of most salespeople’s work in the industry, at least in New York City. We have personally had plenty of mentors in life, words of wisdom and sound advice coming from family and friend circles. I look to the memory of my late father, who I credit for being my voice of reason, and the perspective I would always take into account when analyzing a conundrum or searching for that proverbial light at the end of a tunnel. For my partner, it was his hardworking single mom who did whatever it took to support the family that provides that critically important comprehensive point of view.
How are you going to shake things up next?
We have a lot in the works and are constantly focused on making our work more effective and more meaningful for the public. We will continue to capitalize on our shared passion for real estate in New York City and use my ability to quickly adapt to technological and industry changes.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
During the Bosnian war, words “Life sucks and then you die” somehow always found their way into a conversation. In talking odds with my friends in Sarajevo, I’d always realize how true the words actually rang, and I learned to appreciate my natural-born optimism even more than ever. Optimism helped me get over the trauma of war, the trauma of moving to another continent, the trauma of starting anew. I remember my dad, on the other hand, when I was a little girl, always talking about happiness being a choice and to try to do my best in life to keep my smile around. My personal experiences in New York City, where everything and everyone strives to be perfect — or at least perceived as perfect — every moment of every day, taught me that optimism could be a choice as well, and that without it, you can’t be persistent, and that you can’t find it exciting or easy to grow and change.
Not to mention, of course, spend a day in New York City and you’ll learn first-hand that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” possibly the best words of advice an inanimate place, a city can give any newcomer.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
I enjoy reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. For an old war-accustomed soul, it remains relevant in the business thinking that prevails in the NYC real estate circles. And as of late, I tend to pair this with classic fairy tales that continually amuse my second-grader. The unlikely pair helps me draw the lines, the parallels, consider the angles, the differences between the yesteryear, and the expectations of today, and the unknowns of tomorrow. The differences between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and the need for the “why nots?”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Elon Musk, without a doubt, because of a shared appreciation of my former countryman, the tragic genius Nikola Tesla and his radical and unorthodox ideas (although — shame on me, I know, predictable — I’m not sure I wouldn’t use the opportunity to pitch the idea of exclusive broker representation rights for the Mars colony(ies)). Ideal, now active in New York City, would always welcome some captivating territories to expand into. I remember, as a school girl, standing in a dark room in the Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia, holding a lit-up fluorescent light tube, nothing connecting it to an electrical source — thinking that anything must surely be possible. And an investor with the admiration for that fact is definitely someone worth sharing a meal with.
Originally published at medium.com