If Abe would have let me, I would have turned my interview with him into a business strategy planning session. Meeting with Abe Rabah, Chicago’s REO King, was powerful, informative and very entertaining. I’m not sure what part was most entertaining: the wise words coming from one of the biggest names in Chicago real estate, or the jams playing in the office during our meeting. I also couldn’t help but let my eyes wander around Abe’s office, since it is filled with interesting memorabilia and awards re-acknowledging that I was sitting in the room with a titan of the industry.
When I calmed down my ADD and focused on the task at hand, my interview with Abe proved to be enlightening.
Abe has been a licensed Illinois REALTOR® since 2003 and is also licensed to practice in Indiana and California. Since that time he has listed 1,530 properties and his sales have amounted to more than $150 million. One of the most interesting aspects of his work is that Abe has found a successful strategy for operating in Chicago and California. Imagine creating a powerful business strategy that would also enable you to go to California during a Chicago winter. Since a dream of mine is to do just that, I grabbed a few bits of juicy information on how he has been able to do so. I also got a scoop on how he became Chicago’s REO King. Hopefully you will find his interview as informative and useful as I did!
Me: How did you become so effective in the REO side of the business?
Abe: It was the case of “the right place at the right time.” When I started doing REO listings, it was not such a hot topic as it is today. This allowed me to establish relationships early on; I was able to plant the seed. When the market turned I was the first one in line to get the business. I saw a need for proper REO representation, for which back then there were not many options.
(Greg’s side note: Abe’s approach is to take the road less traveled. Find a niche that you are good at and not many people are focusing on and become the best at it!)
Me: When starting your company Great Street Properties, what were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Abe: As a business owner I sometimes feel like that guy in the circus who is spinning all of those plates at once and you can’t let any of them fall. At the same time as trying to grow my client base I also had to assume the responsibilities of a business owner. I’m responsible for everything, including HR, accounting, marketing, office repair work and hiring. I have always been one to seek advice from mentors. That is what I did; I got together with more established business owners and sought their guidance. I also found mentors to bounce ideas off of. I didn’t know everything there is to know about running a successful business. None of us starting out do. Seek guidance and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Long hours and hard work are essential.
Me: Your company now has branches in Chicago, Schaumburg, San Diego, Calif., and Highland, Ind. What are your tricks for staying organized and using your time wisely?
Abe: Leverage the right technology, hire the right people and work hard! It is not difficult to be successful; the recipe for success is focus and hard work. I was working 100 hours a week. I came to the office at 6 a.m. because I knew no other REALTORS® would be up at that hour. I can get a lot of work done when other people are sleeping and not calling or e-mailing me. I also divide my hours appropriately for maximum effective output.
Me: For an agent interested in getting into the REO side of the business, what are some key points for creating an effective strategy?
Abe: The REO business is a mature niche now. Experience is critical! It’s always good to put the fundamentals and academia behind it, but nothing beats real-life experience. Work for an REO broker and learn the ropes. Also, be prepared with capital to back your business. Study where the most REO listings are, and where you enjoy spending your time. I have an office out of San Diego not only because there are many REOs but because I enjoy being there. I am more productive if I like where I am working and you will be, too! Simplify and automate as much as possible. Diminish the learning curve so that you can train quickly and get your staff up and running in as little time as possible
Me: What separates the best from the average in our business?
Grigory Pekarsky, 2011 C.A.R. YPN Chair and Managing Broker/Partner, Vesta Preferred Realty