Columns Mann Report

Commercial Real Estate Women Should Still Have Faith!

Portrait of four successful young businesswomen together in office. Group of multi-ethnic businesswomen looking at camera.

Recently, I read a New York Times article regarding one of New York’s legendary commercial real estate brokers, Faith Consolo. The author shared details related to Faith’s misrepresentation of her upbringing, family and childhood. Faith, who passed away from a heart attack a little over a year ago, was one of the people I wrote about in my first book, Brokers Who Dominate. Her story, at least the one she had shared with me, was one of perseverance and inspiration.

My focus on Faith was not for her brokerage production but for her ability to create a market presence. She carved a niche in the most competitive market in the world before there were tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. She made the most of conferences, food and drink opportunities and, yes, gift giving. I still have a beautiful tie, and my wife a nice pink pen, both from Faith.

I spoke with Faith every year since the launch of the book in 2012. She always asked how she could help sell more books, and was the closest thing to Zsa Zsa Gabor I ever met. She simply made me smile. Regardless of her shortcomings, I will always remember her for her spirit, whether it was natural or contrived. In her own words, she had “Shoptimisim,” a positive outlook and uplifting spirit. She was always quick to tell you, “My passion is fashion.” During the Great Recession she would tell everyone, “You Still Need Faith!” Here are some highlights of an interview I conducted with Faith about her approach to success, which, in many ways, is timeless.

What do you think is your “secret” to success?
Beyond the obvious credos, i.e., service, tenacity, determination, staying on top of the marketplace, which in my case is retail real estate, and implementing endless global outreach to prospective clients, the most important tool any consultant or broker can have is the “silver lining” mentality.

Please share a story that reflects the value you bring to your clients.
In 2009, we were given the exclusive agency for the multilevel retail portion of a gorgeous brownstone on Madison Avenue’s Jewel Coast between 63rd and 64th Streets. The market was abysmal at the time, but we came up with a broad-based marketing strategy that brought millions of eyeballs to the space from around the world. We offered a Mini Cooper as a prize to any broker who could lease the space — in addition to full commission. The slogan, “You Give Us Your Maxi, We’ll Give You a Mini,” was featured in direct marketing, advertising and public relations campaigns and went viral around the world.

Tell me about your team.
I have been fortunate to work with some of the best people in the business who share the same dedication to our work. I may be the face of the brand, but it’s an entire group that makes the magic by working together tirelessly to maintain the highest standards and service to our clients. Both seasoned and junior brokers in our group put in many long hours to grow their careers. We love what we do and, I like to think, inspire each other.

What advice would you give to a broker just starting out?
Walk the streets of New York or your designated market until you are intimately familiar with every block, every building and the names of every building owner. Read a variety of newspapers daily to know what’s going on in the world. Most importantly, focus on developing a good rapport with both landlords and tenants by providing the best possible service, and always keep them in the loop on your progress on representing them and what you are doing on their behalf.

What tips do you have about prospecting effectively?
Provide the very best service, always be accessible (constant contact is key), toss a wide net and maintain your stature. Learn from experience — knowledge from the past becomes precious pearls of wisdom in the [here and] now.

We all lost a little Faith when she passed. Regardless of her past, or what you may think of her today, she paved the way for many commercial real estate women.

Rod Santomassimo
The Massimo Group