More Forum on Real Estate in NYC – Part 2

There was much to learn in the morning session of the NYC Real Estate Women’s Forum on February 16, 2017, as I highlighted in part one of this series.  The late morning and afternoon provided just as much insight and education, punctuated with personality and storytelling with the closing key note conversation.

The session before a late lunch was very informative, with panelists from organizations with varying approaches and level of resources. I won’t go into the philosophies of any particular firm, but rather the general advice they offered for being in real estate for the long haul.

Current Affairs: Financing and Investment in Today’s Market

Moderated by Kristen Lonergan, Partner at Greenberg Traurig

Panelists were Ruth Ann Blankenheim, Co-Founder & Principal at Harbor Road Holdings; Beth Linn, Principal at Wrightwood Financial; Sherry Rexroad, Managing Director & CIO at BlackRock; Ashley Rissolo, Portfolio Manager at Ceruzzi Properties; and Sondra Wenger, Managing Director at CIM Group

  • When times change in the market, don’t leave the market but change your strategy there
  • Through periods of uncertainty, ensure foundation is solid
  • Extend the runway (of what is available)
  • Neutralize your portfolio from the risks of exposure; Need to have some sense and inclusion of underwriting for the unknowns
  • Some development firms, particularly the smaller ones, can be more affected by state and local elections than would other companies by federal and other global elections.
  • A recommendation to beginners was to get a stabilized asset to start – the idea is that the bank can take it over in case of failure and it already has income associated with it.
  • Crowdfunding might be perceived by some as a representation of pent up demand for private equity

The final panel of the day was immediately following lunch break. Though probably the “least technical” session of the day, it might have been the most interesting. Titled “Women at the Helm”, the panel focused on reaching pinnacle positions and experiences in a real estate career.

Moderated by Andrea Kretchmer, Principal at Xenolith Partners

Panelists were Roberta Axelrod, Director at Time Equities; Lisa Brill, Partner at Shearman & Sterling; Alison Novack, Principal at Hudson Companies; Onay Payne, Director at Clarion Partners, and Daria Salusbury, President & CEO at Salusbury & Co.

  • Pursue what makes you smile
  • Mentors can help you develop and find positions, but you must put yourself forward for opportunities
  • Don’t limit yourself – allow yourself to figure things out when you don’t have 100% of the experience required. If you don’t go for it, the guys will.
  • Lessons to younger selves include the importance of building relationships and laying the foundation of where you want to be
  • Even today, women must still work harder for their opportunities. Be present everyday.
  • Younger women should have more confidence because they have voices that need to be heard; they must get past the feeling of being small
  • Make room for yourselves at the table with your elbows
  • To attract women to real estate:
    • Be invested early on with successes – you are more likely to stick with it
    • Give opportunities consciously to younger women
    • Don’t close off – the better you do the more opportunities you have. Keep learning.
    • Re-evaluate where you are every few years
  • On pivoting, one must factor out fear as there is always risk.
  • Figure out strategy and tactics as you go, nothing needs to be figured out fully at the start
  • Don’t be weighed down by negative messages in developing your plans
  • Go to events, speakers, and networking events – and be an active participant. There are many organizations to join. Every nugget of knowledge or connection you make can be helpful

The afternoon keynote was full of punches of personality, accompanied by star-filled stories and great advice from one of the premier brokers in New York, Dolly Lenz of Lenz Real Estate. She was interviewed by Good Day New York Anchor Rosanna Scotto.

  • Be willing to do what no one else wants to do – this allows you to differentiate yourself.
  • Use your assets creatively (Dolly’s ability to speak Spanish literally opened doors for her)
  • View each failure as an opportunity to get onto what is “next!”
  • Meticulous developers have buildings that don’t leak
  • Make you difference in someone else’s life. Always be willing to help people.
  • Today everyone needs to be able to add value to what they do, particularly with the pervasive technology that can be used by anyone.
  • Regarding ethics, we need to raise the bar for standards in the industry. We need to police ourselves as an industry
  • Enthusiasm, respect, and finding what motivates you will help you be successful.
  • Document everything and show how you are different. Be ready to do heavy lifting
  • Invest well in who you invest in as a mate – pick the best guy in the world
  • Find something that connects you with people
  • When the door opens, knock it down
  • You don’t get what you don’t ask for. The person who gets asked for a project or business is likely the person you talked to last about it

One of the strange themes throughout the day was commentary on the current President of the United States, Donald Trump.  While each woman who mentioned his name clarified her neutrality toward him politically (or seemingly provided some degree of distance), those who had worked with him heavily praised the President for his “genius” as a developer, particularly within New York City.

All in all, there was a lot to take away from the conference.  I was fortunate to be able to attend with my manager and many of my colleagues from the New York region and build the network with them in addition to others outside the company.

Have you been to any good conferences lately? What have you learned about what is different in being a woman in real estate?


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