Vitals: Ideal Properties Group
Years in business: 14
Size: 2 offices, 180 agents
Regions served: New York City
Aleksandra Scepanovic is co-founder and managing director of Ideal Properties Group, a leading real estate firm in Brooklyn, N.Y., which she founded in 2007 with Erik Serras.
From a war correspondent turned media analyst turned freshly graduated interior designer, Scepanovic felt the real estate brokerage business was the natural next step.
“The eternally elevated levels of adrenaline; the sense of the planet always being on the brink of forever spinning out of control…the industry checked off all the boxes,” she says. “I’ve grown up harboring a wariness of working for others, and after the war in Bosnia, I have not only discovered that, professionally, I love being left to my own devices and decision-making skills and conundrums, but that I also possess no fear of starting anew and of pushing hard and against odds.”
How did COVID-19 impact the firm?
Aleksandra Scepanovic: Just like droves of our colleagues and endless businesses in New York City, we have discovered that we lack the emotional and economic immunity to the virus. As the virus raged through the city, we busied ourselves building a digital platform to move our entire rental procedure online. In anticipation of a slow return to the pre-COVID “normal” in the months—and possibly years—ahead, we have come to the realization that even though we’re open for business, our brokers could decide not to return to doing business “as usual.”
Essentially, we are circling our wagons and tightening our reins. Ideal started its journey into the world of NYC real estate, more than a decade ago, as an online broker. In a way, being forced to physically shut down for a period of time brought us back home and proved to be an invigorating and exciting chance to pivot.
How has the pandemic impacted business overall?
AS: Some businesses have shuttered for good, others have slowed down, some are digging through their last savings and others are still aggressively pursuing loans. Personally, I feel and strongly believe that this is a time to dig deep for strength, to re-evaluate obstacles and turn them into opportunities for long-term growth. For some, it is also a time for honesty and a time to curb the “hope against hope”—to take a long, hard look at the hard numbers and make difficult decisions. This may just be the right time to cut the caboose to save the train. We entrepreneurs know that without the difficult decisions, the future hangs in the air.
What sort of strategy have you put in place for the remaining months of 2020 in order to start recovering?
AS: Our strategy is simple—shed fear, hunker down and do the hard work, without a moment to waste. Our strategy is to pursue opportunities and turn them into vigorous and sensible action. Good plans, followed by good actions, are bound to produce upturn. It’s a very simple blueprint to success. Sow in order to reap.
How are you motivating agents through this time?
AS: By being and staying in the same boat with them, and by telling them the truth. By reminding them that this is but a speck in time and that current actions will define what comes next. We run weekly “state of the COVID-19” meetings. As an organization, we are optimistic by nature, and we always aim to have the optimism rub off on our team members, clients and customers. We have done this in the past. For instance, Ideal prospered and saw tremendous growth throughout the 2008 market collapse and the aftermath.
What is your firm’s unique value proposition in your market?
AS: We are nimble and ethical. We play fair, and we will outwork most competitors. We will not stop until we get you what you seek.
Finally, how do you maintain a work/life balance?
AS: Right now, I don’t! I’m a mom, I’m a partner, I’m a teacher, I’m a broker, I’m a designer, I’m a dog owner, I’m a daughter, I’m a daughter-in-law, I’m a chef, I’m a janitor, I’m a handy(wo)man. I’m… “fill in the blank” and I will probably be that, too, at some point in 2020. COVID-19 has obliterated the balance, if it ever really existed. It feels like the two freely flow in and out of one another.
Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.