Local Spotlight- Bert Rosenblatt, Founder of Vicus Partners

Bert Rosenblatt is the co-founder of the commercial real estate firm, Vicus Partners. Started in 2007 with a former colleague, Andrew Stein, Vicus Partners now has more than 20 employees and its clients include Mount Sinai Hospital, General Assembly, and Carnegie Mellon University. Rosenblatt lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn with his family and is active in Brooklyn’s entrepreneurial community. He is the head of membership for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization of Brooklyn.

How would you describe the entrepreneurial community in Brooklyn? And how is it unique?

I think the entrepreneurial community in Brooklyn is booming, I think there’s no two ways about it. I mean, it’s absolutely its own city and there are lots of people that don’t even want to go to Manhattan. There’s an incredible amount of founders there. We did some research on this [and there are] 6,500 businesses in Brooklyn that are between two and $20 million. And there’s some that are obviously massive like Etsy and Kickstarter and Vice Media, just to name a few. Brooklyn Brewery, Steiner Studios, which is a movie studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There’s some massive, massive businesses in Brooklyn.

I think the basic difference between the Brooklyn and Manhattan businesses is that [Brooklyn businesses] tend to be more creative. It’s more of a creative group of people. I think that they’re just more down to earth. But I think they’re every bit as smart and …[have] the potential to be enormous. In some ways I think they’re really sort of ahead of the curve.

Why do you live in Brooklyn as opposed to New York City?

I do a lot of business in Manhattan, but whenever I get off the train and I’m in Brooklyn, I just feel like I’m with my people and I can relax a little bit. The other thing is, it’s an amazing place to have a family. I’ve got two little kids and the part of Brooklyn that we live is literally like you can’t walk down the street without getting run over by a stroller or somebody with a kid. I think it’s a great place to have kids.

What are some qualities or attitudes you think that make for a really successful entrepreneur?

I think the most important thing honestly is resiliency. Everybody talks about this, but you just have to be willing to hang in there. You’re going to have some hard times and you’ve got to just be willing to weather the storm. I just think the truth is most people can’t do that. I think it gets hard and they just want to tap out. I think you just have to really hang in there. And I think you have to be an optimist. I think you have to really look at the glass as half full. If you’re not feeling optimistic, I think it’s really bad. [Also,] I think that you need to be a batteries included person. If your batteries are not included, I don’t think you’re going to be a great entrepreneur because you need somebody else to pump you up. I mean, you’re the guy that’s got to be pumping other people up, and giving them hope, and giving them a reason to keep fighting. I think that’s probably the most important quality.

I think that maybe another quality is just…being willing to take a hard look at yourself and make necessary changes…I know with our business, it’s like they have this saying of, “What got you here ain’t gonna get you there.” You may have gotten to a certain level of success, but if you want to get to that next level of success, you’re going to have to change some things about yourself. You’re going to have to change some behaviors.

[For instance…], I’ve always hated meetings of any kind…I was sort of like always BS-ing myself, “Oh, we don’t need meetings if we have the right people on the bus.” [But] that’s wrong. You do have to have meetings. Even though I don’t like meetings generally. I was like, “So, make a meeting that you do like, make a meeting that is productive.”

You have to have some structure as the business gets bigger. That was one thing that attracted me to being an entrepreneur is I can just do my thing, I don’t have to worry about all this red tape and BS. But as you get bigger, you have to create structures and you have to either become more structured yourself or you have to hire the right people that can help you get there.

Do you think that being a real estate agent is being an entrepreneur?

Yeah, I think the best real estate agents are entrepreneurs because in essence what they are is they’re connectors and they’re deal makers. They’re able to creatively get things over the finish line. I think that a lot of them don’t see themselves that way, and I think it’s probably a negative for them. But I think that the best ones, the ones that make the most money and are really the most successful, I think you’ll invariably find, even if they’re working at big firms, I think you’ll find that they are very entrepreneurial.

Do you have any advice for someone getting into commercial real estate?

Yeah, I would say the two most important things really are, one, you need a good mentor…I’ve been blessed over the years to have a lot of really good mentors. I think whenever you get into an industry you need a good mentor. You need somebody that you really do like and you really would want to have a beer with. You want that person to be wiser and more successful than you in the industry. They used to call it a Rabbi. You need a Rabbi.

I think that’s number one. And then I think number two is you really need to be okay with the fact that you’re getting in every day and you’re unemployed. That’s really scary. Again, you come in every morning and you have nothing and you’ve got to create something from nothing. You’ve got to be the kind of person that is okay with that and that’s not easy.

 

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