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Recently I had the opportunity to speak with real estate and small business expert Ryan Serhant. Below is a transcript of our conversation. Learn what drives his desire to do great things, and the key ingredients he believes all small businesses need to achieve success.
David Meltzer: I have Ryan Serhant here, best-selling author and real estate expert, as well as the star of Million Dollar Listing New York and Sell It Like Serhant. Ryan, you and I are from different generations. I’m kind of the “old guy” on the internet, and the one thing that I know about you is you are one of the best closers I’ve ever interviewed or met. It was so surprising the first time that I interviewed you for Entrepreneur, I thought maybe you were just a big TV star I was dead wrong. You are a closer that turned into a TV star. Regardless, I wanted to reach out because there’s a new survey by HP that was just published which talks about the values of small business owners, and it compares Gen Z to all the other generations. I wanted to get your thoughts on the results of the survey and whether there was anything that you learned.
Ryan Serhant: That’s a great question. As you mentioned, HP did a worldwide survey of over 4,300 small businesses, and what they found was that Gen Z, more than any other generation, cared the most about their small businesses affecting positive social change. So, the generation that we all know as the selfie generation or the social media generation, they actually care more than their parents about affecting positive social change, helping the community, and helping the environment. It’s actually pretty surprising, but it makes sense when you really start to think about it, and it’s refreshing to know that we are moving forward in a positive direction that way.
David: Yeah, it is super surprising. As a leader, I’ve built my career and business from a platform of service and providing value in everything I do, but the cornerstone of America is the small business. With that in mind, are there any tips that you can give for entrepreneurs who run small businesses right now?
Ryan: I would say first off, that I consider myself a small business. I’m a real estate agent in New York City, I lead a large team underneath me, I’ve got a good admin staff, but my first tip to anybody who’s looking to start a small business or looking to increase profitability in a small business that they’ve had for a little while, is to really take the time, which most people don’t do, and write down why you started that small business and who you started it for. Don’t just say "Well, I make cool bracelets and I’m going to sell it on Instagram." That’s not a good answer. Don’t just say, "Oh, well, you know, I run an autobody shop, and people have cars." That’s a bad answer. Who is your customer that you’re going to go after? Figure out who that niche audience is, figure out how you’re going to market to them, how you’re going to cater to their needs, to their price points, to their concerns, to their seasonalities. Be successful with them, grow, then branch out. Use word of mouth and the power of referrals to then build your business. Start small and grow from there. You try to bite off more than you can chew, then you’ll be just another small business that failed.
My second piece of advice to any other small business out there would be to leverage and use the power of people. Being too small is not honorable anymore. Use the money that you’re making on some clients to invest back and pay other people to work with you so that you can do more business. Too many people take too much money off the table too early, and they worry too much about profitability to start. For the first couple of years, you are a grad student with your new small business. You are not expected or supposed to make any money. You are supposed to spend money, you are supposed to build and grow, and you do that by using other people. Those are my two best pieces of advice I can give to anybody running a small business.
David: Those are great, and I continue to do that even throughout my career my company grows. I believe that you never can be too humble to ask for help, so I also wanted to get your thoughts on how to help small business dedicate their time and resources. You and I both preach, teach, and give tips on time. We get bogged down in so many things that don’t make money. I always tell people, "Don’t get busy working if you’re not going to make money." What tips can you give to a small business owner about utilizing their time to close deals and make money?
Ryan: I think that boils down to what I was just talking about, which is leveraging yourself with other people and also leveraging technology to be successful today because there are so many other businesses, so much competition. There’s so much going on at all times, including a 24-hour news cycle, so you need to work smarter and not harder. And I know everyone says that, but putting that into action is part of the reason that I’m actually here, right now. With HP, who I’ve partnered with for Small Business Week, I’m more efficient because I use their products. I believe in them and it’s not just a sales pitch; I have an app in my phone that connects me to my HP Officejet Pro printer back in my office so I don’t have to focus on the admins and I don’t have to get back to my computer to print something out. By the time I get to my office or get to my home office, that contract or document I need is already printed. It’s there, ready to get signed. That way I can focus more on actually getting business done. I use one of their computers, the HP ProBook because it is a real computer, it’s not like a toy computer. It’s lightweight, it’s durable, plus it’s got amazing security features. In a day and age where there are digital security concerns all over the place, those features actually really really important. So those are two pieces of advice and two products that you can use to be more effective in your small business today right now.
David: That is awesome. I’m going to add that to one of my favorite pieces of advice you gave me, which was "People don’t like to be sold, they like to go shopping with friends." I use that tip all the time and look forward to utilizing the tidbits from today’s discussion, as well. But moreover, where can people go to learn more?
Ryan: Two places. One, if you want to read the survey that HP did, which is actually really enlightening and awesome, go to hp.com. It’s really important, and everybody should read it. And if you want to hear more from me, the best place is Million Dollar Listing New York, which comes back this summer on Bravo, or you can go watch my vlog on YouTube. I also put out a new vlog every week and I may be biased, but I think it’s the greatest piece of content on YouTube that YouTube’s ever had ever in the history of the world. You can follow me across social media @ryanserhant, and you’ll be set to go with life.
David: I follow you and it certainly has helped me to continue building my business and achieve more success, so I encourage everyone to do it. As always man, you are incredible, I’m a huge fan, and thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me during Small Business Week.
Ryan: Thanks, David, have a good day.
Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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