From $8,500 to $3.5 billion

The billion dollar performer who gets embarrassed talking about money when the first thing she has to do is ask about money.

Topic – Find the real you

Mentor – Louise Phillips Forbes


Kevin:   This morning we top off a great week. It’s been brilliant this week, just featuring so many of the great people we spoke to when we were at Inman Connect in New York. Thanks to Sherrie Storor and Kylie Davis who’ve carried a lot of the interviews this week. We had an absolute ball. This morning I’m going to talk to Louise Phillips Forbes. Wait till you hear this. She is a powerhouse.

Kevin:   Right now, I’m talking to Manhattan’s most powerful broker. She is a powerhouse. That’s correct, isn’t it? Louise Phillips Forbes, welcome to the show.

Louise:   Hi, thanks so much, Kevin. Great to be here.

Kevin:   I’ve really got so much to dig into, so I don’t want a big intro, but $3.5 billion in sales, and that’s not counting this last year, so that’s a huge number. Of course, Manhattan, we expect big figures, but still, that’s a lot of property.

Louise:   Truthfully, that’s one deal at a time, over … this’ll be my 30th year in the business.

Kevin:   30 years? What were you doing before property, before real estate?

Louise:   I came to New York, I was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and I came to New York to find the lights of Broadway as a dancer. I injured myself after about a year, just shy of a year, but I do what all New Yorkers do when they try to be a New Yorker, is, I had a million jobs. I bar tended, and I modelled, and I did industrial for dance companies, but somebody said I would be great real estate and gave me their business card of a friend of theirs. I went to go meet this guy and he’s like, “You want a job?” I had no idea that it was commission only, first of all, and my first year in real estate, I made $8,400, so there’s hope out there for all those-

Kevin:   So how did that change, that first year? I mean, you obviously had a view from the outside, you’d been told what real estate was all about, then you got into it. How did it change?

Louise:   Well, the truth is, I thought I was getting a job that was built around brick and mortar and architecture-

Kevin:   I see.

Louise:   … but it’s the business of people.

Kevin:   It’s people.

Louise:   I do people. I do that very well.

Kevin:   Yeah. So did it take you a year to understand that?

Louise:   I think that it took me a year to really own who I was-

Kevin:   Interesting.

Louise:   … and not try to be something I wasn’t.

Kevin:   Interesting, yeah.

Louise:   You know, I’m Southern, and we talked about that, and I find it so interesting. We’re raised, my whole life I was raised to never talk about money, and the first thing I do is, “Hi, how are you? What do you want to spend? What do you do? How much have you got?”

Kevin:   How much money have you got?

Louise:   30 years later, it’s the strangest thing, I still do, but whenever I talk about money my accent comes back because it’s not comfortable for me. So for myself, I needed to figure out what made me tick, own it, and part of it was not to be a salesperson. I wanted to be an educator. I wanted to be of service. I didn’t want to focus on billion-dollar deals. I wanted to be with the regular person, and understand for myself that my home is really where the rest of my life is built from, and to be a part of that for somebody is really powerful.

Kevin:   How important is it for you to have empathy, to empathise with the person you’re dealing with, and do you think that’s a great skill set that every broker should have?

Louise:   It’s interesting that you use that word because I, my mother used to tell me when I was a little girl I had a tremendous amount of empathy. I don’t have it for myself so much. That’s part of the drive, which-

Kevin:   But do you need it for yourself?

Louise:   I think so. I think, you know, I’m an overachiever, I’m a perfectionist, I’m never where I should be, and the truth is, I’m fine.

Kevin:   Yeah, but so many overachievers, so many actors, people who are just brilliant at what they do, they have a lot of difficulty coming to terms with who they are, what they are, accepting that as a success. In other words, almost waiting to fail.

Louise:   Well, I think also-

Kevin:   They’re fragile.

Louise:   … another little fragment of my background is that I was undiagnosed dyslexic until 6th grade, with a 45% reading comprehension, and what is amazing about that is that my spatial memory is like Rain Man, so I’m in the right place.

Kevin:   Yeah, you are.

Louise:   Yes, empathy, compassion, patience. There’s a reason, I heard somebody say on the stage, there’s a reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth, because listening skills is something that we really have to hone, and we have to exercise that muscle. I think the compassion of it, you know, I really only cared about the right deal, and if you come from that premise, then you will attract business.

Kevin:   Yeah. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. One-fifth of everything we should be, should be talking.

Louise:   Yes.

Kevin:   But so often, we want to dominate the conversation or direct it, but I think with empathy you need to be really skilled at listening and understanding where the person you’re talking to, or trying to help, is going, or needs to go.

Louise:   Absolutely, and not be afraid to ask questions, and not … I also take this position of not … You know, every no I get is a data point, and that is how I back into what’s right. I almost don’t care if the piece of property that I believe, once I understand my buyers, I don’t care if it’s even on the market, because once I understand what makes you tick, I wait for it. I know the inventory because I’ve sold some of them six or seven times.

Kevin:   In some ways a no is very positive because it means they just want a bit more information, and that’s your role, to give them the information and try and help them.

Louise:   That’s as an educator.

Kevin:   Yeah, that’s right.

Louise:   So if you come and you … everybody picks up on that salesmanship, and I’m grateful that I built my business one deal at a time. I had no Rolodex when I came here, and through just connecting and just being myself, you attract business, as opposed to trying to promote it.

Kevin:   Yeah. You’ve probably answered my question, but I’ll ask it anyway. How do you break into the New York market? How do you break in and become one of the best brokers in Manhattan? How do you do that?

Louise:   I had this conversation with my son, he was like, “Well, why were you onstage last night?” I was like, “Well, I kind of have a pretty successful business in one of the most difficult markets in the country.”

Kevin:   Yeah, in the world.

Louise:   And I think that I learned early on that buyers are here today, sellers are here today, they’re gone tomorrow. Our industry people are with us for the next decade, two decades, three decades. So generosity with knowledge, accommodating, treating your colleagues as you want to be treated. Being happy when you lose a piece of business to somebody you respect, that takes, like, it takes the pressure off of having to be fighting for-

Kevin:   To win all the time.

Louise:   Yeah. It’s not about losing, it’s just not the right time, and when I tell sellers, “Do you mind me asking who you chose and why you made the choice you made?” first of all, I get feedback, so I could learn from it, and second of all, it’s great when I say, “You know what? I love that person, and if I’m going to lose business, I’m grateful I’m losing it to that kind of individual.”

Kevin:   Yeah. So you ask the question when you lose the business, why did I lose it? Is that the question you ask?

Louise:   Absolutely.

Kevin:   Yeah.

Louise:   No, I don’t say, “Why did I lose it?” I say, “Tell me how you made that choice?”

Kevin:   Okay, yes.

Louise:   Because I don’t want them to feel on the defence. Because to me, I think that how we leave somebody feeling is one of the most important things. In other words, I want that respect and I want to give them the respect of their choice.

Kevin:   Brand, let’s talk about that. We’ve got a minute of two to go. Tell me about your brand. How do you create it, how do you protect it?

Louise:   I think that that starts with every action. I carry a coin around that has Latin words that says, “If you go today, if you leave today, you … ” It’s a momentum mori. I’m clearly not Latin, but it’s a memento mori, and what that means is that if you were to leave today-

Kevin:   What would you leave?

Louise:   … you would leave in a good spot.

Kevin:   Okay.

Louise:   So every action one takes, you have no regrets. So I think part of that, how I choose to live in the industry, and in my own life, and how I treat my customers, whether they’re future clients, is part of that action, and letting people know and own who you are.

Kevin:   I’m going to leave it there because that’s the perfect spot to leave it. You are fabulous and I’ve so enjoyed talked to you.

Louise:   Thank you. Next time.

Kevin:   Thank you-

Louise:   Thank you.

Kevin:   … very much for your time. What a thrill, talking to one of the best brokers, probably in the world, arguably, working in the most difficult market in the world, in Manhattan, in New York. It’s been my pleasure talking to you.

Louise:   Thank you, Kevin.

Kevin:   Yes, as I said at the start of today’s show, it was just phenomenal catching up. We did about 60 interviews. We’ve featured them over the last few weeks, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it, too. But thanks to all of the contributors, the people who helped us put all this together, and the team that we took to New York. It was a great experience.

Kevin:   Over the next few weeks, we’re going to tell you about some really exciting developments happening right here at RE Uncut. After well over 10, even 11 years, we’re about to strike 2,500 shows and we’ve got a special way to celebrate it. That’s coming up in a couple of weeks’ time, so stick around, we’ll tell you more about that. Have a great weekend. Thanks for your company. Look forward to talking to you again on Monday.


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