September 28

Warner Lewis on Leadership


Warner Lewis has received numerous awards and recognition for his achievements throughout his career in real estate and has become a fixture at Brown Harris Stevens. As a regular member of the prestigious Producer’s Council (top 5% of the firm), Sapphire Club, and Gold and Silver Circles at Halstead, Warner offers his clients a rare degree of personal attention and customer service that is unsurpassed.

A native of New York City, Warner is intimately familiar with the intricacies of the Manhattan and Brooklyn real estate landscape and brings extensive expertise and market knowledge to his clientele. His business is based almost exclusively on referrals.

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[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:06
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone, this is Umar Hameed, your host and welcome to the No Limits Selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how to make you better, stronger, faster. Get ready for another episode.

Umar Hameed 0:35
Hello, everyone. Today I have the pleasure of having Warner Lewis with me. Warner, welcome to the program.

Warner Lewis 0:41
Thank you so much for having me today.

Umar Hameed 0:43
Warner, we're going to start this conversation off is you met your partner, Ari in 2009. You heard him speak, what connected you with him whether you went, "Hey, wait a minute, this is a smart Dude, this someone I need to know."

Warner Lewis 0:54
In real estate there, obviously are thousands and thousands of brokers in particular in New York City. And a lot of brokers are maybe good people, people, people, people, great, sorry.

Umar Hameed 1:12
Yeah, they connect well with people.

Warner Lewis 1:13
They connect well with people. But they're very few who you just intrinsically know are good business people. And know that they would succeed, whatever they chose to do. But they just chose to do this field. And having grown up in New York City, having gone to, you know, the the leader of the private schools, private universities, I've met a lot of the people who have become masters of the universe. And then...

Umar Hameed 1:39

Warner Lewis 1:39
...suddenly seeing him and hearing him, I thought that this was one of those people. And so I just filed that away, I was very impressed and didn't really think much of it until I was looking to go away on vacation with my wife to be. And all of a sudden, I got a call from Poland from a client who was coming to town who wanted to go and look at this crazy neighborhood called Williamsburg. And if you want he was interested in buying commercial buildings, and there were very few people other than me, in Halstead that did work on the commercial side. And so I went to the president all said and asked who can handle this? Well, as a way because I, at that point, had learned enough to know that trying to take a vacation and work at the same time men, neither was fun. And I needed to find someone to hand it off to so...

Umar Hameed 2:42
And you're trying to get your wife to marry you. And then...

Warner Lewis 2:44
Yes correct.

Umar Hameed 2:44
doing that on your like, pre engagement would be surefire, get lost Mr. so smart on you for reaching out to Ari.

Warner Lewis 2:52
And actually being present to something I'm not, I'm not very good at all the time. And so anyway, he said, you know, Ari Harkov, and the name, immediately shut my mind from that speech. And I went, I think our speaker was sitting not too far away from where Richard was, I went over to speak with him. And pretty quickly, actually feeling really comfortable handing off a potentially very big deal to someone. And I went away on vacation. He handled that and a few other things better than I think I could have handled it myself. And it later, Colonel for me that, you know, this guy's pretty talented in just someone to think about fast forward.

Umar Hameed 3:40
That's kind of interesting. There's a couple of things that you said there that strike a chord number one that you said, you know, he was a really good business person in real estate is like people, people, then there's business people and finding business people in real estate is really difficult because you can be a solo practitioner and muddle your way through a decent career. But soon as you build a team, if you're not a business person, that's what things go incredibly wrong kind of fear statement, would you say?

Warner Lewis 4:04
Absolutely. I mean, I find that almost all teams in real estate are actually they're to service the main face. And I would call it almost a Ponzi pyramid scheme, where the underlings are paid as little as humanly possible.

Umar Hameed 4:23

Warner Lewis 4:23
There's, they're disposable. And I don't think it's actually very good for the client or for the person who is on the lower rungs. And one of the things that Ari and I have done and I'll give him because I seated CEO responsibilities to him years ago, because he wanted to murder me trying to be a co CEO with me, because that's not i'm not built to be a CEO, is that the one thing that we can choose who we get to work with, and we very much we know we're in a position where we can take advantage of people and for us and Ari learn this Columbia Business School, I think it costs you 1.5 times the amount to replace someone than just...

Umar Hameed 5:06
Their annual salary. Yep.

Warner Lewis 5:07

Umar Hameed 5:07
Definitely. And that's it. They're not skilled. If they're skilled, and real estate has connections, you can't buy that. So the second thing you said in the opening kind of conversation was that you realize that Ari did a better job than you would have done. And a lot of times we're hot wired to, I got this. I'm great. I'm fantastic. And just that ego comes in kind of what made you kind of realize that was that because that's kind of unusual, right? I realize their shortcomings. I think there's a Dirty Harry quote, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Warner Lewis 5:37
Yeah, I am. I so I very much know my limitations. I am someone who I am really good at certain things. I mean, the things that I'm good at, I mean, I can get a T sixth grade teacher of mine said that if he had to pick any student he's ever had to get $30,000. And this was in the 80s, from New York City to San Francisco in three days, without spending any of it, he would choose me to do it. Like, I would just figure out how to do it. If you want me to run a business, it will be a disaster, because...

Umar Hameed 6:10
I can [garbled] 30,000 in three days. I love it.

Warner Lewis 6:13
Eventually. And so you know, with Ari, I just saw the ability to you know that one of my favorite authors is Richard Russo. And in Empire Falls, he describes a mother and a daughter, a mother, who is able to take this gargantuan task, break into 100 little tasks and crush it. And the daughter who gets completely overwhelmed, because all she sees is this big task. It's somewhat minari. That's a little oversimplification, but he is so detail oriented, so smart, so thoughtful, and just incredible at business. That for me, you know, when it came time for looking to go into have a honeymoon and for foreign looking to go to Columbia Business School, we just sat down and thought, there's something here. I mean, our skill sets are polar opposites. We are polar opposites, except in the most important of ways, and that's ethics and morals.

Umar Hameed 7:10
That was one of the reasons that I really wanted to have this conversation was that you said, you know, hey, the common area was integrity, and what's important and what's right, and that's the foundation, and you both get to shine in your areas. So what's that? How many people do you have in your team? How many agents do you have working for you?

Warner Lewis 7:26
We have an accounting admin, we have 13 people right now. So that's includes of also of me and Ari.

Umar Hameed 7:34
So okay...sorry, didn't mean to interrupt but so here's the question I have for you, that you and I are going to your example of the Richard Russo book, like it's mom and dad, which agents kind of come more naturally to you for what things and which ones go to Ari for what things, like how does that work out?

Warner Lewis 7:52
So the way we have it is set up and I don't say we I would say Aria set it up because it's just you know, it's it's part of his his personality is just a process detail guy. Yeah, got the details. That guy is that I think I am there for the agents much more in the arena around emotion and human interactions like things in life are happening. And...

Umar Hameed 8:19

Warner Lewis 8:20
...in there for that touchstone if you have a deal point a deal issue. Not that I'm bad at that. But again, you have Muhammad Ali in Ari.

Umar Hameed 8:28

Warner Lewis 8:28
So if you're about to get into the Thrilla, Manila, you want to get Ari or

Umar Hameed 8:33
That make sense.

Warner Lewis 8:33
Yeah, to me, the point person to speak with before that negotiation or that conversation,

Umar Hameed 8:41
Brilliant. One of the things that I'd like you to highlight, you know, protect the innocent, so don't share their names, but you probably have agents that came in that did a good job that you could clearly see that this person could be phenomenal. So tell me about one of those stories, but change the name that you know this person came in. This was the shortcoming or the hesitation and this is how you or Ari already helped them overcome it so they actually stepped into who they could be.

Warner Lewis 9:06
I think that that in reality that when people join a team, it's you're giving away a chunkiness and a potential upside, or a much more stable income. But it's just math. If you do a deal on your own, and you're not cutting it, except with the house, you're going to make more money. If you do five deals over the year. You know, let's say you get 15 grand per you make 75 great if you work with us in you're involved in 20, but you're able to make much more, you almost need to you really need to make a leap of faith. And that's been the biggest thing with someone joining us is very rarely at this point because we just don't have the time do we take someone on who is brand new, but since they have to have had Spend some time in real estate. And, you know, I think it's very interesting because people sit down with Ari, and they come out of that, like, wow, like that was a business person that wasn't some guy who's like, Hey, I'm trying to, I'm gonna do a photo shoot, I'm gonna look great. The team is all about me, you're just going to do this, I interact with all the clients, you're not gonna learn anything. But you get to be in my aura in through osmosis, maybe your life is better. You meet Ari is, this is how it runs. This is how you're going to learn and pick up this is how you're going to get paid. And then on the flip side, when people meet me, it's it's the softer touch in what you see is what you get. And it's the same with Ari. But because he's such a business person, it's somewhat harder I think, to believe when you meet someone who's very blocking and tackling exes knows dot the i's cross the T's, whereas I am someone who will always put someone else first, to my own detriment. It's just something that that is ingrained in me, I want to take care of everyone. I'm a people pleaser, which I've had to curb somewhat in this industry, because at the end of the day, you just can't always make people happy. But I think that combination of us has made people make a leap, who are doing well on their own to work with us, and then even hit much higher levels of income than they would have gotten on their own.

Umar Hameed 11:24
So tell me if it's okay to share, what's one thing that you've helped Ari understand that made him a better partner, a better leader, and what's one thing he's helped you understand that helped you be a step up into who you are.

Warner Lewis 11:38
So with Ari It was definitely getting into understand that people actually like it when you call them. Ari. Ari, the young Ari was almost bothered by when people call him or calling people he felt like I'm bothering them.

Umar Hameed 11:56

Warner Lewis 11:56
And so there, there was sort of a lack of a, what I what I love about real estate is the connection with people.

Umar Hameed 12:03
Mm hmm.

Warner Lewis 12:04
Absolutely. Like that. For me, I don't think about the dollars and cents, I don't think I'm going to make x If this happens, or why if it doesn't, or it's all about relationships, because my whole upbringing was just the lack of relationships. So for me, it is all about the human touch. Ari was the exact opposite. In the beginning, I think that, that people were almost the problem. And the thing that is he has grown exponentially in is as a person who is a better friend, a better listener. And I think just he was always a very good human being, but he...

Umar Hameed 12:43

Warner Lewis 12:43
...was very outgoing human being. And so for me, even I am not process oriented. I, you know, as, as my brother once put it, wonder what you do is you pick up guys. And I was like, but no, I've got expertise in this as like, you know, you're right. Literally, I'll be on the subway, I'll meet someone see someone reading a book and start a conversation. And all of a sudden, we're friend friends, we're doing business in the end. And so for me, it's taking that ability to create in a spotty nature, and making it more process driven. And making it five to 10 phone calls a day, when you could have meetings, two to three meetings a day. And all these things much like working out where at the end of the week, depending obviously pandemic, no pandemic, I'd have somewhere between 50 touches a week. And so even if nothing happened, I know I,

Umar Hameed 13:37
Have happened. Yeah. You took the see the sun.

Warner Lewis 13:40
Yeah. And and in real estate, people always say you eat what you kill them. I think that's just the worst analogy. And I do think some brokers think that way, they think transactionally I get this done, and I'm done with you. What I love more than anything, is that inclusion in my life in me and there's with my clients that will happen more times than not after deal.

Umar Hameed 14:01
Warner, you've been doing this for a while and you're very successful at it, you've won a lot of awards. So the question to you is this, I'm going to ask this for two groups of people. One would be agents that have been in the business for a while. And sometimes when you've been in the business for a while you kind of lose sight of what you really need to be doing and you just get caught up in your ways. You've probably met agents like that. What are three things you want those agents that have been doing this for a while to kind of focus on that will allow them to just take the game up?

Warner Lewis 14:29
You know, it's so funny because ra always says every new agent whenever Warner does don't do because it for all the good and bad reasons. I just don't do anything in a normal way and I'm able to get away with it. It's sort of like you know if there was a show life's too short with Ricky Gervais, and they in Liam Neeson has this famous scene where he says Well, he doesn't do an accent How does he get away with him like we just don't know. So I will. I will answer high level for all agents because Because, again, my experience I think is so unique. So I think the first thing for anyone is if you don't know yourself, get to know yourself.

Umar Hameed 15:09
Know yourself. Absolutely true.

Warner Lewis 15:10
People want to work with genuine people. There are definitely brokers who are fake and some people are attracted to that. I don't get it. But I've found in my life the most the thing that changed my life exponentially was when I stopped trying to be who I think you might want me to be and start being me because then all of a sudden, if I share about loving science fiction, because I truly do, and someone else does, immediately there's a contact point

Umar Hameed 15:39
There's a bond.

Warner Lewis 15:40
There's Finn...

Umar Hameed 15:41
Babylon Five.

Warner Lewis 15:42
Babylon, Babylon five Firefly, expanse, I will Dune, I can't wait for Dune the movie to come out. But you know, just that ability to connect. That is the biggest thing that gives you a leg up against.

Umar Hameed 15:54
Stop right there for a minute is that you connect the authentic you with them as opposed to when you try and be someone you're not. We try and protect who you are that there's a inauthenticity there that people can sense.

Warner Lewis 16:06
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, you know, I just I had so many years of trust of just you know, you like Dave Matthews, I like Dave Matthews you wear that I'm gonna wear that in just a finally just everything spiraled fell apart, just when I, I think it was probably just when I got into real estate, and I completely collapsed, it was just too tiring. And it was really a journey to Okay, who am I? And and how do I look in the mirror and and I didn't realize it till the pandemic happen that it really was a search for wisdom and virtue over [garbled]

Umar Hameed 16:44
I think we all have three faces does one face that we show the outside world, Look at me, I'm pretty or smart, or I'm broken or whatever that is. That's called the illusion. And then we have the delusion. This is who we think we are, then these the authentic self. And we have to most people don't know the authentic self. So we feel ill at ease. But we're trying to balance these two other things that are not real either. So what you just described as when you know yourself, and you're brave enough, that's who show the outside world, it takes a lot of stress, a lot of posturing, all that bullshit goes away, and you show up and there's gonna be lots of people that love you. And some people think you're an idiot, but that's okay. Because not everyone's going to love us. But when you're inauthentic, nobody knows who you really are. So number one piece of advice, Know yourself, be yourself. What's advice number two, for seasoned realtors?

Warner Lewis 17:30
So I would say it goes along with number one, if there's something that you love doing, that you can shine, and again, I'll give the example of you love sci fi, okay? Join a book club with other people like sci fi, because immediately you're meeting people who you share a commonality with and a bond and who you have, then if you are not someone who's wildly gregarious, you're in a comfortable situation. So you're out there in finding your tribe. And so it's it's been, again, follow your heart, follow what you like being as many rooms with people who love the same things that you love. So that'd be number two.

Umar Hameed 18:10
One of the things that you kind of said was, you know, being a shine and certainly what you talked about finding your people is important. The other part is I meet a lot of people that is like, you know, if I really shine the way I want to people gonna think I'm like a show off, and they actually hold themselves back from the world. Like there's some people are like Posers, look at me, I'm fantastic. But there's a lot of people that feel uncomfortable letting their brilliance shine. And I think once you know, your authentic self, you have that grounding, and that gives you permission to shine in whatever that thing is that you do. So brilliant. So that's advice number two, what's advice number three, for people that are out there?

Warner Lewis 18:47
I think that the third one, which is one that already hammers me on all the time is get uncomfortable, get uncomfortable, and on being uncomfortable equals growth. And it is whatever that is for me. There's a litany of things I grew up in New York City even just I have such a bad sense of direction even though I'm a is close to,

Umar Hameed 19:08
Me too.

Warner Lewis 19:10
close to descended from Lois, Lois and Clark, then you can have and I have no sense of direction. So driving a car to me, for me was terrifying because I got lost all the time. I finally now that I have children in particular, one who loves baseball and I love baseball, have found for the last four years, I'm driving all over the place to get into baseball, because baseball in New York City is tough to get to. And I used to have dreams when I was younger. I panic dreams about driving. But now because I've done it so much that's gone. And...

Umar Hameed 19:40

Warner Lewis 19:40
...a small thing, but I did something I didn't like and now that fear is gone away. It's funny because people who know me would say you shouldn't have been told when I started the podcast, like you are charismatic, you're gregarious, you have to be out there. I hate public speaking, I hate being on a podcast. But the more I do it, the better. I feel For you, and each time I come out of it, I feel like I've, I feel like a million bucks, even if it's, it's not going to always be a plus, but I've done it. And so it's getting the call, I don't want to make the room I don't want to show up in. Every time I do it, I feel better. And I look back at my life. And there's so many times my greatest regrets have been things that I've skipped out of fear.

Umar Hameed 20:24
That's what they say. And what's kind of interesting is this is biologically, when we become afraid we are at the height of our powers, but we have labeled it that oh, we must run away or just curl up. But think about it, when you have fear your strength is you have the strongest are ever going to be your ability to have reflexes fastest is ever going to be your ability to focus on what you need to do. And we've been trained in this society that when fear comes up, we shut down when our body's telling us fear is the energy to frickin' do it wonder if this has been such a great conversation. Any last words of wisdom you want to share with the listeners?

Warner Lewis 21:00
I think right now more than anything, is just try in all your interactions to put yourself and whoever you're dealing with shoes. Everyone right now can use a smile. Everyone can use a well wish. There are so many people out there who are hurting. And I've learned the dichotomy for me in the last six months of growing as a human being as I had the worst week of my life, the beginning of pandemic. And I immediately knew so many people who were really doing badly that I ran, I remember running across the Windsor bridge to give $100 to a busboy who is a refugee who I knew was going to be hurting, and he wasn't there. And I left the money with a note. And he called me and just said, no one's ever done this for me in my life, like ever. And it made me feel incredible. And I didn't do it for myself. But I was like, wow, I feel really good. And so I've done a lot as much as I can help other people. But also to realize that I need to be there for myself in the way that I'm trying to be for other people because other people can't be there for me in the same way. You do have to put up your hand when you're hurting, but try to treat myself like I do other people instead of being wildly hard on myself where I am not with other people, except my wife and my and my kids might disagree a little bit but you know, just try to be a good human being because, boy, do we need it right now.

Umar Hameed 22:20
Words to live by and I'll share one last thing before we end today, it's a friend of mine. He never gives money to homeless people unless he knows their name. And he's got his kids in the car and somebody will come up and before he hands up with the money, he goes, Hey, how you doing, man? What's your name? And the person says, you know, my name is john. It says, How did you get here and have a conversation, that human to human connection, and then he gives the money. And I think what he's teaching his kids is just giving money is not enough. Connecting to another human being and acknowledging them is huge one or this was an amazing conversation. Thanks so much for the interview today, and I can't wait for our next conversation.

Warner Lewis 22:58
Thank you so much for having me. Have a great rest of your day. And thank you again.

Umar Hameed 23:08
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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