Starting Your Business Right: How to Open a Successful Business

Getting from Outstanding Idea to Opening Day

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Michael Rao, President, New York Commercial Realty Group Robert Wyker: Social media is very important today, and it is going to be ten times more important in a few years. So if you are not there yet, you darn well better get there because that is where the world is going.

Carolyn Mandelker: Your ads also need to drive your audience to your website. You don’t need a vast website. You can have a micro-site—as long as it is effective, as long as the design is good, the navigation is good, the message is good. And make sure whoever is designing your website uses software so it can be converted to a mobile phone or an iPad.

Ben Brody: Carolyn and Michael, you both started your own business. Can you talk about your experience?

Michael Rao: When I first started my business, I was twenty-three, and I left a very large brokerage firm, Cushman & Wakefield. Everyone thought it was a big joke when I left. So when I would call a big landlord at such a young age, they would never take me seriously. And that was the hardest part—proving myself, that I knew the market, I knew the tenants, I knew the owners, I knew how to make deals. And little by little, the smaller deals led me to the bigger deals. But it took a good two to three years to show people, ‘I am here, I am doing this for life.’

Robert Schork: Did you have trouble being taken seriously in terms of getting initial financing as well?

Michael Rao: When I started my business, obviously, I needed startup money. I took seventeen thousand dollars out of my savings account, and that was the last time I took money out of my personal savings account. [But before that,] I made sure my personal money was secure. I gave myself a two-year bracket not to earn one dollar out of the gate, meaning if I didn’t make a dollar, I would still be okay to pay my bills.

Jeanne Goulet: That is smart.

Michael Rao: When I was twenty-three, I lived at home. I knew I was going to be leaving Cushman, so I went to my parents and I said, ‘I’m starting my own company,’ and they said, ‘Go for it.’ They knew my work ethic. That is all it takes. If you have good work ethic, everything else comes into place.

Robert Wyker: Mike, I think you’re downplaying yourself. It takes a work ethic for sure, but it takes a lot more than that.

Michael Rao: Sure, but I think in order to get where you need to be, you just gotta keep moving. You gotta struggle. One of the hardest things, something that took me a very long time to get accustomed to, is failure. You really have to build a tolerance level for failure, and, the bigger you get, the bigger deals you lose, so your tolerance level has to get that much bigger.



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