Real estate tycoon thrives on a challenge
ABR: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
LG: I’m a born and bred Johannesburger.
ABR: Where were you educated and what qualifications do you have?
LG: University of Ramat Aviv Tel Aviv Israel majored in Economics
ABR: Tell us about your career and how you got to your current position?
LG: Real estate is in my blood; I’ve been involved in the industry since 1972; first in the family company Aida Real Estate, which my parents, started in 1958. I went out on my own about 10 years later, though, and started Lew Geffen Estates. I grew the company in Johannesburg which accumulated 200 agents and was a market leader in Johannesburg until 2000 when I, in conjunction with my son Barak, acquired the Master Franchise for Sotheby’s International Realty in South Africa.
Since then we have created 60 niche offices across the length and breadth of South Africa and today are one of the leading Real Estate Brands in the country with over 900 agents in our employ.
ABR: What influence did your parents have on your career choices?
LG: My mother taught me to have courage and I learnt the selling business from my father. He was one of the best salesman I have ever come across.
ABR: Who in your career has been your biggest influence?
LG: No question about it; that would be my father.
ABR: What and where was the most expensive property your company ever sold?
LG: The most expensive property ever sold would be in Sandhurst, Johannesburg for R150 Million
ABR: What does success mean to you?
LG: Success to me is building infrastructure and people that are happy and proud to work in a company that has recognition.
ABR: If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
LG: I am very happy to live between Cape Town and Johannesburg which I do at present and would not want to change it.
ABR: What sort of house do you live in now?
LG: I commute twice a week between Cape Town and Johannesburg and have a sizable family home in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. Our beautiful little dogs live in our big house in Johannesburg and we have children and grandchildren at both ends.
ABR: What motivates you?
LG: I absolutely thrive on challenges. I really enjoy the marketing side of Real Estate - when I have created a campaign from the top of my head and implement it, I enjoy watching and experiencing the success that is derived from such a campaign. I also enjoy all the people who work in my company and am motivated to bring out the best in them.
ABR: What do you prefer and why - a city condo or beach house? LG: I am happy where I am which is combination of family home and pied-à-terre
ABR: What do you consider are the main ingredients for business success?
LG: Having a vision of what you want, and sticking to it no matter what. But every business has to be built on a foundation of respect and ethics. If these are not present you can never make it in the long term. I’m also sure you need ability.
ABR: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
LG: It was from my Dad, who told me that one has to build infrastructure layer upon layer.
ABR: What was the worst?
LG: To go into the auction business.
ABR: What do you do in your free time?
LG: I’m an avid golfer and I love hiking. I also spend a fair amount of time at the gym, but in terms of relaxation, travel and listening to jazz are right up at the top of the list including snow skiing.
ABR: What advice would you give a budding property tycoon?
LG: You have to roll with the punches and get up off the canvas often bloody and exhausted but you have to get up nevertheless.
ABR: If you could it all again, would you have followed the same path or done it differently?
LG: Everyone would like to go back and rewrite some of their history because people are human and we all make mistakes, but on the whole I think if I had my “groundhog day” do-over, there’s very little I’d change. I’ve been married for 42 years, have wonderful children and grandchildren and a business that makes me excited about going to work every day. You can’t ask for better than that.