In 2015, after more than 26 years of working in Miami as a real estate company broker/owner and selling agent, I took the unusual step of taking on a new partner in my selling agency. While adding a partner is not unusual in real estate, it certainly was for me in two respects: I had never had one before, and my partner was 25 years younger than me.
Why would an experienced and successful agent take on such a young collaborator? I found myself approaching 50, full of energy and passion for the industry, and eager to pass on what I had learned. While my own three daughters all had different career and educational pursuits outside of real estate, I had seen some of my contemporaries take on their own adult children as partners with great success. This inspired my vision of taking on a junior partner with whom I could share my significant experience and knowledge, while also tapping into their creativity and tech savvy.
My search led me to Vachi Udolkin, who at 23 was already a successful entrepreneur looking to break into real estate. I taught him the basics of the business over a year, and six months after that, we became partners. The results have been phenomenal: We ended 2018 as a top-15 RE/MAX team in Florida, and secured high-level speaking engagements at industry conferences in New York, Las Vegas and Wisconsin. We come to work every day vibrant and refreshed, and constantly challenge each other with new and exciting ways to help our clients sell their homes.
For professionals who may be in the same places in their careers as we were a few years ago, I would highly recommend considering a “cross-generational” partnership to help compliment your respective strengths. What follows is some advice from the lessons we have learned during this time.
My role in the partnership is to deliver patience, long-term perspective, negotiations, organizational skills, contract expertise, and continue teaching lessons learned over a 30-year career. Most of these have to do with the operating of a business, managing employees, and building relationships with people — clients, prospects, colleagues, vendors, etc. — that last far beyond the transaction. This provides Vachi with an invaluable, fast-tracked knowledge base that would take most professionals at his age and relative experience years to build.
Beyond the aforementioned energy and ideas, he brings a comprehensive array of technical and promotional practices to the table, driving us to the cutting edge of our industry. Long before it was de rigueur with online real estate listings, we created sophisticated videos with drones, music, and stabilizers that were easily shared on cell phones, text messages, and of course, social media. Today, Vachi has mapped out every touchpoint throughout our clients’ consumer journey, redesigned our marketing department to be neuro and data-driven, and streamlined our efficiency by ways of automation. These concepts and strategies that come naturally to him would have taken me considerable time and expense to figure out. (He has also sharpened my style game by banning all pleated pants from my wardrobe!)
Mind the (Generation) Gap
As with any new relationship, ours had challenges to overcome, many of them specific to our differences in age and experience. For example, it has taken time for me to accept my place as the “senior” partner, and how that reflects on my actual life now. (It wasn’t so long ago that I was the hot up-and-comer, and my partner’s presence quickly forced me into the role of wise and sage veteran. Alternatively, to certain clients Vachi will always be the “junior” partner, even when we are discussing issues about which he has much more knowledge.) I have also learned how to offer criticism in a way that is not patronizing, and to accept fair and reasonable criticism from someone less experienced.
Our other challenges revolve around our different work schedules, paces, practices and communication methods. (You may be shocked to learn that a married 52-year-old father of three keeps a very different schedule and personal life than a 27-year-old bachelor.) I am a talker, while Vachi is more comfortable with texting and email. I am at my desk early in the day, while he locks himself in the office and burns the midnight oil. Time and patience have brought us in synch, along with a healthy dose of mutual respect: I play tennis very often and have no problem keeping up with his rapid pace, while he has a stronger work ethic than many I know — regardless of age. Having close relationships with my own adult children has also helped to bridge some of our differences.
Putting It Together
Far too often, we read and hear things about the difficulties millennials have communicating and working with other generations. While these stories may have kernels of truth to them, they are usually told from one perspective (you can guess which) and are rarely presented with an open mind. For me, taking on a partner in his twenties has rewarded and re-energized my career in ways I never imagined, and reinforced the value of challenging the status quo — a useful attitude for any endeavor in life.
Anthony Askowitz is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, where he leads the activities of more than 165 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 125 homes a year. In 2018, he was named “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine. He can be reached at 305-807-9079 and/or email@example.com.
▪ This column, written for the Broker’s View space in Business Monday in the Miami Herald, is an opinion piece representing the view of the writer. It does not necessarily represent the newspaper’s view.
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