Don’t worry if people are talking about you (because they are): It really is useless to worry about whether folks are talking about you or not, no matter what age, because, frankly, they are. So good or bad, what’s the use of worrying about it?
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Safier. Jamie is one of the top luxury real estate agents at Douglas Elliman in New York City. Jamie grew up in a small suburb outside of Baltimore, MD. As a life-long athlete, he was recruited to play baseball by the University of Southern Florida, from which he graduated in 1998. Following graduation, he began his real estate journey in Miami and was personally recruited by the powerhouse duo know to the public as “The Jills” of Coldwell Banker in 2001. Only a short time after, he became a partner in purchasing two waterfront homes on Sunset Island Three. Though he always had an eye and love for real estate since he was a child, it was at this moment he knew it was a calling, and began purchasing homes on 1800 Sunset Harbor Drive, as well as two units in Eichner’s Continuum. In January of 2004, Jamie relocated to NYC and he became licensed in both New York and New Jersey. The Olympic Tower at 645 5th Ave. in Midtown Manhattan became his first New York office. It was also at this time that he invested and brokered his first building project, 1800 Park Avenue LLC, to Vornado Realty Trust. In 2013, Jamie moved to Douglas Elliman Real Estate and once again began to rapidly produce. Not only did he list a unit in the The Sherry Netherland in Lenox Hill for 95MM, but also recorded a shattering price per square foot at 25 Columbus Circle, and even established the highest price ever at 150 Columbus Avenue. To this day, his knowledge of the real estate market provides his clients with the most extensive, relevant, and up-to-date news and research, giving them the most current and cutting edge advice in the industry. Additionally, Jamie is extremely philanthropic and takes pride in being a supporter of the American Red Cross, March of Dimes, Autism Speaks, Holes for Hope, The UJA, and Robin Hood. In his spare time, he is an avid golfer, world traveler, recreational athlete, and most importantly, dad to two daughters, Ella & Isabel.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in a small suburb about 20 minutes outside of Baltimore that was mostly Jewish families at the time. My grandfather was one of my biggest influences growing up, not only an incredible man but also a very savvy businessman; a true entrepreneur. He built the company my dad worked for when I grew up and eventually took over. My family also owned a tremendous amount of commercial real estate throughout the greater Baltimore region. I always would tell my dad what areas or buildings I thought they should buy, what neighborhoods I thought would be turning around. And even as a kid, I had a knack for it…I just sort of had the feeling and intuition for it in my gut, I suppose you could say. Plus, I really enjoyed it.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
Sure, well, to be honest, I really always wanted to be a pro-athlete when I was younger. Soccer, Basketball, Baseball….I just wanted to be on a field or court. But of course, life doesn’t always quite turn out the way we want or plan and so I realized in college that I was going to have to figure out a plan B. I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure even after I graduated, but it was really when I became involved in the Sunset Island deal and started buying real estate that the feeling I had when I little crept back. That gut feeling that you’re good at something and love it at the same time. And that was kind of when I just knew…YES! There will be a world after baseball. And it has been a great journey now, twenty years in almost. It also allows me to do other ventures on the side, angel investing and consulting, which I love. Business is such a passion of mine and to be able to do multiple things that you love in your life is truly a blessing.
There is no shortage of good ideas out there or hobbies, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual career. How did you overcome this challenge?
Well, I think you have to really know or be knowledgeable about what you want to do. If I hadn’t grown up being around the real estate business and hadn’t learned so much from my father and grandfather, I think it would have been much harder to jump into it and immediately do well and thrive.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
I’d say a few things. First, ask a few friends, people you trust and are solid on their feet business-wise, what they think of the idea. What you think in the end matters the most, but opinions are still good and can show you where there might be holes in the idea. Secondly, make sure you have some money saved up in case it doesn’t take off right away. You don’t want to be asking around for loans. And lastly, go for it. You only have one life to live and you don’t want to end up 85 looking back and asking yourself, “what if?”
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
The great thing about real estate is that every project and every listing is so different. From a brand new condo in a modern building, to say, a home in the River House, one of the oldest and most unique co-op buildings in the country where I actually currently have a listing….there is such a broad and diverse landscape. I truly love getting to know each and every listing and I also have my license in multiple places so that I can switch up the scenery too! And I also can hop around from the selling side to investing….it allows me to keep things fresh so I’m never bored or in an office all day long.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Two things, I think. First, it’s much more intense than I ever could have imagined. But I thrive on that speed and energy, running around NYC, meeting with people….stagnancy is my worst nightmare. The thrill and hustle of the industry are tough but part of why I like it so much. Secondly, I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many incredible people doing what I do. The part is probably because I’m naturally outgoing, but also, the nature of the job itself. I have some pretty incredible stories that have come about from my career…and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Well, like any industry, there are highs and lows in luxury real estate, especially in Manhattan, but I am not a 9–5 office kind of guy and I love what I do. I also always have at least one or two side projects going on to keep me busy and diversified. For example, I’m consulting at the moment with a new sports clothing line. I was also an early investor in Vitamin Water. Always something new on the side!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In my early twenties when I was still in Florida, I was showing a property that had a pool…beautiful home with a huge built-in pool in the backyard. I was just taking off in my career and feeling pretty confident, and as such, was walking backward as I was talking to the couple viewing the house. In fact, I was walking backward so intently, I walked right into the pool, fully clothed. Needless to say, they did not buy that property….however, I did learn to always watch my own back better.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Richard Branson is a personal inspiration for me in my career. He has given me some incredible advice over the years and continues to push me to make myself a better businessman. And other than him…well, of course, my mom.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Well, I’ve done a lot but a few would be supporting the American Red Cross, March of Dimes, Autism Speaks, Holes for Hope, The UJA, and Robin Hood. I also never turn down a charity golf tournament if I can help it!! Additionally, I try to help in small, everyday ways, like giving a few bucks or doggy bags of food to homeless people. Little things do matter in this world and we can’t forget it.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Don’t worry if people are talking about you (because they are): It really is useless to worry about whether folks are talking about you or not, no matter what age, because, frankly, they are. So good or bad, what’s the use of worrying about it?
2. A miss is as good as a mile: Meaning, if something bad almost happened but didn’t, don’t stress or worry about it, just let it go. You almost got into a car accident? Great, well, you didn’t, stop stressing about it. Move on.
3. Trust your gut: It’s self-explanatory….you can take advice from people, but your gut is the best thing to listen to, always.
4. It’s okay to fail: You’re not always going to get it right, mistakes happen, we’re human. Own them and move on.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff: It really is all small stuff. When the big stuff happens, you realize just how much so.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Hmmm..…well one thing I would love to see is some kind of movement to make restaurants ban cell phones at the table. I have read that a few are actually offering discounts to folks that turn in their phones before sitting down and I think it’s a great idea. There’s nothing worse than looking around a restaurant and seeing a see of noses glued to phones, especially kids. People aren’t going to be able to communicate face-to-face soon, and what is the point of going out to eat just to stare at a screen anyway!?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Golf is another passion of mine and I have always loved this quote from Arnold Palmer, “Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.” Because sometimes in sports and in life, things can seem hopeless or impossible, but you simply can never give up. You just never know when things are going to turn out well, or that last-ditch effort will be all it takes to turn around the entire outcome of a situation. Arnold was the best and so is his quote.
We are very blessed that 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 with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
You might not believe this, but I was actually lucky enough to have dinner once with Mick Jagger in Vegas, the lead singer of the greatest rock and roll band of all time….but I think it’d also be phenomenal to have breakfast with Keith Richards. You up for it, Keith???