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“To develop Grit, you should harness the sense of scarcity” With Chris Lim & Phil Laboon

Failure was and is never an option for me. So you find a way to make success — even if it’s not initially how you intended it to be. I think my drive comes from a sense of scarcity. Growing up in a real estate family, you know that you’re only as good as your last deal and that at any moment, the market can shift. Having that experience has made me a better real estate agent, investor and entrepreneur. I take nothing for granted.


Failure was and is never an option for me. So you find a way to make success — even if it’s not initially how you intended it to be. I think my drive comes from a sense of scarcity. Growing up in a real estate family, you know that you’re only as good as your last deal and that at any moment, the market can shift. Having that experience has made me a better real estate agent, investor and entrepreneur. I take nothing for granted.


I had the pleasure to interview Chris Lim of Climb Real Estate. Chris began his real estate career in 2002 and quickly became recognized as one of San Francisco’s top-producing agents, having sold more than 1,800 properties, a distinction he maintained until stepping back from full-time sales in 2010 to start Climb Real Estate. Recognized by the Asian Real Estate Association, the Chinese Real Estate Association, Inman News, and the San Francisco Chronicle, Chris’s combination of marketing, negotiation skills, and design aesthetic brings a fresh point of view to the industry. 

Prior to his real estate career, Chris worked in finance at both Merrill Lynch and Fuji Securities as well as in advertising for Grey Worldwide, where he built brand and digital marketing programs for Fortune 500 companies. In 2017, Chris was named to the Swanepoel Trendsetters list.

Chris is a native of Northern New Jersey and graduated with honors from the University of Richmond. An avid world traveler, his passport is stamped from Africa to Australia and Europe to Asia as he searches for design inspiration, Eichler homes, and the perfect lobster roll. His future travel plans include completing the tennis Grand Slam by visiting each tournament site in the same year: Melbourne, Paris, London, and New York. When not circling the globe, Chris is a full-time resident of Reno, Nevada but enjoys spending time in San Francisco, Truckee, and Palms Springs.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path.

It took me many years to find my true calling — a career in real estate. For a variety of different reasons — some cultural, some based out of fear — I did what I thought my parents and that of society held for me, like my first career in finance on Wall Street. After working at various jobs on Wall Street, in advertising and management consulting, I finally had the courage to follow my entrepreneurial dream of running my own business as a real estate agent. Once I decided to do what I really was passionate about, the rest happened naturally.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Starting a real estate brokerage after the greatest financial downturn in my lifetime was a great challenge. Despite what seemed like unfavorable circumstances, I knew that real estate buyers and sellers needed a different consumer experience. And that real estate agents needed a brokerage that helped them live exceptional lives.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Failure was and is never an option for me. So you find a way to make success — even if it’s not initially how you intended it to be. I think my drive comes from a sense of scarcity. Growing up in a real estate family, you know that you’re only as good as your last deal and that at any moment, the market can shift. Having that experience has made me a better real estate agent, investor and entrepreneur. I take nothing for granted.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

For me, I attribute my success to grit. I am hard working and tenacious when it comes to pursuing my craft. It was through grit and belief that led to my eventual success. It may have taken me longer, but I would have it no other way.

So, how are things going today?

I have a tremendous amount of pride in what our team has accomplished. From growing a small real estate team into an independent brokerage in 2010, to being acquired in 2016 by NRT as part of their private label strategy and two years later, being nationally franchised by Realogy, the largest residential real estate company in the U.S. It’s truly amazing to see what was started in my loft will now be a national franchise.

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

I am extremely grateful to my late mother, Viola Lim, who was a real estate agent while being a full-time mother raising three children. As I’ve faced challenges throughout my real estate career, she told me then that everything happens for a reason, even if I didn’t know it at the time. While all mothers are special, I feel mine was the best. Her belief in me helped me when things were at its hardest and my critics were the loudest. She gave me the confidence to start my brokerage, which was an unfamiliar and daunting path.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My success has given me the opportunity to run my company in a way that prides itself on diversity and inclusion. I can make business decisions not because it’s just good for business, but because it’s the right thing to do. Moreover, my success has allowed me to generously give to causes I believe in and the financial security to come from a place of abundance rather than lacking.

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

I’m very excited to be working on the launch of Climb Real Estate as a national franchise. While we’ll have a franchise system that will help real estate agents live extraordinary lives, I’m also excited to further grow our dedication in helping other underserved groups in need.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

You need to follow you heart. Your gut will never let you down. Time is precious and one needs to have a career and a purpose that instills personal passion and excitement. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time.

You are a person of great influence. 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.

We are living in one of the most turbulent times full of social change. I think the there is an exciting movement that we are just seeing the very beginning of around empowering women. At Climb Real Estate, I was very proud to have my successor, Christine Kim, become one of the first Asian- American president in Realogy’s history. At Climb, we are part of influencing the fundamental social changes taking place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is nothing more valuable than loyalty. Like many industries, we’ve seen great disruption. In real estate, we’re seeing a lot of innovators and disruptors, many offering cash and promises. In a business based on relationships, loyalty and trust is what has helped Climb grow and succeed.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Instagram: @myclimblife, and follow Climb @climbrealestate

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