ARIK LIFSHITZ Blog CCR CITY CONNECTIONS REALTY David Schlamm featured Residential

What does it take to be a winner in this business? Blind faith, says CCR boss

When David Schlamm will get fed up, he thinks of the blind individuals he meets on his office block at 23rd and Sixth.

“There’s a home for the blind further up the block and I often find people trying to cross the street,” stated Schlamm. “If I’m having a bad day, I just need to remember the blind people I help cross the street. They are always very thankful as they head on their way with a positive attitude. In all the years I’ve been doing it, I’ve never heard one person complain about being blind. It really puts things in perspective.”

Celebrating 30 years at the helm of his City Connection Realty, Schlamm has had a lot to be fed up about. Over the years, he’s opened and then closed two storefront places, he’s tried to launch the first brokerage EB5 division, he’s funded a start-up that stopped and he’s watched his star brokers being poached by different companies.


“What do you say when it’s a young dad working to support his family? You tell him to take the big sign-on bonus and wish him the best,” stated Schlamm. “Maybe he’ll come back when the bonus runs out and the splits get lowered, maybe he won’t, but you can’t stand in the way of someone who is trying to do their best for themselves and their family.”

It’s that type of laissez-faire angle that has made Schlamm one thing of an enigma in the cruel Manhattan real property scene. Despite being on the surface of the in crowd, he was elected to the Real Estate Board of New York’s board of administrators in 2016 and named to the arbitration panel on 2018. He has cultivated one of the crucial esteemed boutique companies in the town and he’s completed it, he stated, by following a few simple rules:

“The secret to success is hard work, it’s the number one thing. My first couple of years on my own, I worked seven days a week and lived very frugally,” he stated. “Honesty is the other key to success. I became friendly with many landlords in the city and got whole portfolios on an exclusive basis because the owners trusted me. In 30 years, not one person has ever said I haven’t kept my word. I think my reputation is my strongest asset. It’s also difficult to work with a lot of individual clients when you are a one-man operation, as I was in the beginning.”

The beginning started for actual in 1990 when Schlamm, who has made no secret of the drug, alcohol and playing demons that haunted his adolescence, acquired sober.

He’d been working as a rental agent on the Greenwich Village firm Leonard Martin after turning into disillusioned together with his position in the household attire enterprise. With his new broker’s license in hand, he set up store in a 300 s/f office with a window dealing with a brick wall at 80 Fifth Avenue. “I learned pretty quickly that it was both important and more practical to be a listing broker as well as to secure exclusive rental portfolios and I worked around the clock to do that,” he recalled.

By the top of the yr, he had four agents working for him and a probability name from a shopper led to the subsequent huge change in his life. “I picked up the telephone and spoke to a lady who was on the lookout for an condominium. We chatted for a whereas and after she went out to see flats with one in every of my brokers and rented a unit – and she or he did pay a payment – I requested her out on a date.

That lady was Jill and she or he’s now been my spouse for 27 years and we’ve got two superb daughters, Emma and Maggie.”

The two obtained married in 1992, the identical yr Schlamm opened a new 1,500 s/f loft office at 18 East 16th Street.


“We were still only doing rentals and had grown to about a dozen agents. And that’s around the time I met my second wife, Kathy Dourigan. She’s what’s known around here as my office wife. Kathy joined the firm as a listing agent in 1995 and today she’s second in command, having put up with me for 24 years.”

With his real estate enterprise going properly and Jill at residence all day with two toddlers, Schlamm put his cash into a venture his spouse dreamed up. “Jill invented Tip Me Not,” explained the CEO. “It’s a weight that wraps around the front wheels of a stroller with Velcro and acts as a counterbalance for all the baggage moms always have on their stroller. The Tip Me Not stops the stroller tipping over from that extra baggage weight.”

The New York Times voted the contraption a hit when it test-stollered it in 1999 and the product was a success in Manhattan, but it failed to seize any market share outdoors of the town. Recalled Schlamm, “The retail price was $16 and that was fine for New Yorker’s who bought expensive strollers. Outside of New York City, though, umbrella strollers were more common and they could be bought for under $30.”

When it turned obvious that Tip Me Not wasn’t the golden goose they’d imagined, Schlamm took what he considers to be the most important danger of his skilled career. With their $225,000 life financial savings, he launched City Connections Realty from his present 6,400 s/f workplace at 71 West 23rd Street and launched the first high cut up brokerage mannequin to Manhattan.

“Here I’m introducing Manhattan’s first high cut up firm. I had only seven brokers and six individuals on employees, a wife and two younger daughters. I look again and assume, that’s kinda scary what I did. No-one gave me a dime and I had to take out a few house fairness loans the primary two or three years to maintain the business afloat, however I wasn’t scared. I believed in myself. I knew I had a win-win system that might let producing brokers maintain extra of their commissions.

“We have tweaked the business model over the years and I still think we are the gold standard of a high split firm in Manhattan. Even though we don’t have 500 agents, we have 100 who are all doing business. There aren’t too many of us successful boutiques around, so I know we’re doing something right.”


What makes it right is something he has given plenty of thought to.

“When I look back over the 30 years CCR has been in business, I realize that everything that I tried to do outside of my core business failed and I think it failed because I did it for the wrong reason. I was chasing the shiny penny and it ended up costing me a lot of money.”


With his 23rd Street workplace bulging on the seams with 130 brokers – including a new business division led by Herb Goldberg, Barry Fields and Israel Jungreis and a retail division run by former New Spectrum powerhouse Steve Asch – Schlamm joined the storefront rush around 2011 and opened to new street-level outposts. Each office – at 311 East 76th Street near Second Avenue and 510 Amsterdam Avenue between 84th and 85th Street – was to be used primarily by the firm’s “virtual agents” and housed a “concierge” to assist brokers and shoppers.


While he had all the excitement words of the time, the endeavor was a dud and both workplaces have been shuttered within two years. “It just wasn’t profitable,” stated Schlamm. “I’d hired a design firm to create high-end, modern spaces. We had window monitors with live postings and even a cappuccino bar, but the expense of creating the storefronts didn’t add up to good business and I shut them down.”

In 2015, he opened a short-lived EB5 Regional Center with a group that may specialize in working with smaller builders, worldwide shoppers and reasonably priced housing packages. He launched a new web site in China that might permit shoppers there to communicate immediately together with his brokers and a name middle in Beijing to drive enterprise.


“It didn’t turn out as I hoped and it cost me more money,” stated Schlamm of the enterprise. “But when you look at really successful people, most have had some failures. I believe that the difference between failure and success is the entrepreneurial thinking that gets you back up and back out there ready to try something else. Sometimes when people fail, they stay down permanently.”

After licking his wounds from the EB5 debacle, Schlamm was back on his horse and, in 2015, hit pay filth by focusing, as soon as again, on his core business.

“In 2016, I merged with Arik Lifshitz and it is one of the best things that I’ve done with the business in my 30 years,” stated Schlamm, noting that the veteran investor brought 35 brokers from his DSA Realty to the firm together with over 128 unique rental buildings, including to the over 130 buildings already underneath the CCR umbrella.

“I had worked with Arik often over the years and his values are very much aligned with mine,” stated Schlamm, who added that the transfer not only expanded CCR’s core portfolio however gave agents a doorway into new opportunities to increase their enterprise.

“Residential rentals are still our biggest revenue driver, but we have a nice balance of commercial, retail and sales ,” he stated. “In right now’s market, a lot of companies are promoting sizzle. They have a huge model identify and fancy advertising materials however, the truth of the matter is that it is often for the seller. Why do individuals buy $200 jeans once they can purchase the same high quality denims, in all probability made in the identical manufacturing unit even, for $50? It’s branding, branding, advertising, advertising and the general public buys into it more than the brokerage group. If 90 % of all resales of co-op and condos are completed with two brokers, it doesn’t make that a lot of a difference. It’s not the corporate, it’s the agent – all of us just about do the same thing.

“I take a look at the speedy rise of enterprise capital backed corporations which are getting billions – I don’t know what’s going to happen with them because you possibly can’t have excessive splits, large advertising budgets, gigantic overheads, signing bonuses and nonetheless make a profit. At the top of the day, the company needs to become profitable to survive and, after a while, these VC-backed companied gained’t be offering brokers what they initially provided and we’ll see agents probably going again to their previous companies or staying for decrease splits and fewer perks.

“These guys are buying the competition with the thought of rising market share. When they go public and buyers and trophy brokers their have stock choices, let’s see what happens then. I’m amazed by what they have finished and it will be fascinating to see what happens, but I am going to keep in my sandbox, keep profitable. My brokers are joyful, they are making a living and we’ve a good collaborative environment. It’s nonetheless actually a mother and pop really feel and a completely totally different model from the large brands.

“Just like getting involved with getting an EB5 Regional Center and opening up and closing additional offices, I have learned not to chase the shiny new penny. I have no regrets, but as I have gotten older, I have become more risk averse.”


Indeed, his outlook on maintaining the proper stability in life has never been extra targeted. Every Friday, he and Jill pack up the automotive and take their Golden Doodle Oliver to their house in upstate Olivebridge. It’s close to Woodstock and keeps him related to two of his favourite issues – the good outside and the Grateful Dead.

“I nonetheless love going to see my favorite band, Dark Star Orchestra. They recreate Grateful Dead live shows and I’ve seen them everywhere in the country about 50 occasions. But I also benefit from the quiet life in Olivebridge, driving my bike on the rail trails, cruising on my boat

I’m not spiritual, but I’ve found a temple where I’m going on Saturday mornings, and we go pay attention to stay music at a few of the festivals they’ve up there.
“During the week I have a trainer that comes to my building’s gym and lately I have been trying to meditate and learn more about Buddhism, which I find interesting. My nights would not be complete without taking Oliver for a walk and I text and Facetime with my two daughters all the time.”

Every weekday morning as he arrives at the office, Schlamm contemplates his objectives for both his life and his enterprise. On one among two plaques perched on his desk, his personal chart reminds him “Do a Paulie.”

Doing a Paulie is a movement Schlamm started in 2012 following the sudden dying of his longtime good friend Paul Badome Jr. in a boating accident.

“Paulie was the nicest, kindest individual I ever knew and he would all the time exit of his method to help individuals, never anticipating something in return. I launched www.doingapaulie.internet in his honor to encourage individuals to do random acts of kindness, to contribute something constructive to the world. The world can be fairly shitty – we should always be good to one another. When you’re nice and help individuals, it feels good.

“Maybe I am an uncommon CEO, but I put my heart into this enterprise and I care concerning the individuals right here and the individuals we work with. My advice to anybody wanting to develop their business is to do the same. Be prepared for setbacks and mentally handle them in your head, but all the time consider in your self and know that there’s mild at the end of the tunnel.

“Of course, there is an element of luck concerned, however it is all the time good to have the wind at your again and that comes with being trustworthy and true to yourself.