TAKING RISKS – Dottie Herman


March 18, 2018

I’ll never forget the first time I met Frederik Eklund. It was 7 years ago at my office.

If you had met Frederik when he was 25, you would never have guessed that he would soon be a top real estate broker in New York and the star of the very popular television show, Bravo's Million Dollar Listing.

But I had a hunch about him. A gut feeling he had what it takes to be successful in real estate.

After dropping out of business school in Stockholm in 2004, Eklund arrived in Manhattan with little more than a pair of beat-up sneakers to his name. He then moved into a one-bedroom apartment with three fellow Swedes and sold paninis to tourists, squeaking by on just $40 a day.

When a friend mentioned that he thought Eklund had the right personality for the real estate business, Eklund took the advice to heart and enrolled in a real estate licensing class at NYU.

After completing the course and earning his license, his first impression of the market was that it yielded "an obscene amount of money for something this fun." That first year, he sold more than $50 million worth of property.

Since then, Eklund has become the top producer at Douglas Elliman New York, started his own firm in Sweden, and inked deals for a total of $3.5 billion in apartment sales. This past January alone, he closed more than $200 million. He's become one of New York's brokers of choice for celebrities, closing deals for the likes of Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Timberlake. His background also includes appearing in adult films, which despite some people believing it would have an impact on his career, it has not.

When it comes to taking risks, there's great value in trusting you gut. But often, people confuse a gut instinct with fear and it hold them back from great possibility. They automatically interpret their discomfort as their gut telling them not to proceed. So rather than step outside their comfort zone, they avoid the risks that could actually propel them forward.

I took a lot of chances in life. Still do. Not stupid chances. I mean, I am not going to Las Vegas and betting my life savings on 22 black. However I am willing to take evaluated risks that usually pay off. I suppose that makes me a calculated gambler willing to seize opportunities.

Whether you’re stuck in a job you don't like or thinking about getting involved with a new business opportunity, many people struggle to calculate risk. They assume if something feels scary, it must be really risky. But that's not the most efficient way to measure risk.

Think about it.

Your level of fear usually has nothing to do with the actual level of risk you face. Take, for example, public speaking. It's often cited as the No. 1 fear most people have.

But public speaking isn't actually risky. Sure, there's some social risk involved--people may judge your speaking ability or find your message boring. But their judgment won't kill you. Still, because public speaking feels risky, many people won't do it.

On the other hand, most people don't think twice about jumping into a car and going for a drive. For the average person, that doesn't feel risky. Yet car crashes kill people every day.

Mentally strong people don't fear taking calculated risks. They know taking the right risks could be the difference between living an ordinary life and living an extraordinary life.

Unfortunately, when it comes to hiring, a lot of larger companies tend to avoid taking risks on people. They focus on trying to find that “proven” individual — somebody who already knows everything about their field or who has whatever skill set they're hiring for — but then wonder why they have a problem with retention, employee satisfaction, and team dynamics. It turns out that hiring for skills doesn't work. Hiring for potential does. I've been very fortunate to have attracted many talented people in my career, but most of the time it was because I was willing to take a risk on a person instead of the caliber of their responses to an interview question, their track record and or history. People accomplish great things when they have something to prove. And when you take a chance on somebody, more often than not, they're going to want to prove you right, make you look like a genius. That's the kind of person you need on a team. I always emphasize spending time getting to know applicants. Take them to dinner, lunch or have them attend a company event. I try to look for the most compatible person for our company's culture more than I do skill, and the candidate's ability to learn, rather than any pre-existing skill set or resume keywords.

Companies are rapidly changing as is the client or customer base of an organization. Creating a more broad and diverse team widens your circle of possibility far more than only hiring people just like you. When it comes to taking risks in business, Richard Branson said it best; “You cannot run a company without taking risks. The brave may not live forever—but the cautious do not live at all.”

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