The leader and founder of Eastern Union Funding, Ira Zlotowitz, explains practical strategies that business owners can use to build and sustain a high-performing team.
We all know that a good team can make or break a business. But do you ever wish you could simply clone yourself and create a team of people just as motivated, knowledgeable, and passionate about your business as you are? Ira Zlotowitz, the founder and president of Eastern Union Funding, knows a thing or two about building and sustaining high-performing teams; he grew his own business from a four-person office to a company of over 100 people, closing roughly $5 billion in national loan volume in 2019 alone. In this practical, no-nonsense interview, we discuss how to cultivate a culture of excellence (starting from the very first interview); how to hire the right people; how to master the skill of delegation; and how to make your current employees more valuable to your company.
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How to Build and Sustain a High-Performing Team with Ira Zlotowitz [Transcript]
Our guest is Ira Zlotowitz. He is the Founder and President of Eastern Union Funding and founded The Ira Group. Ira took the commercial real estate industry by storm launching the Eastern Union Company at the age of 21. It started with a four-person Brooklyn office and now grown into over 100 people and closing roughly $5 billion in national loan volume in 2019 alone. I’ve known Ira for a couple of years now and I had him have a couple of our events to share his no-nonsense advice to business owners. In this interview, we spoke about the importance of culture and how you could start from the interviewing process. He also shared how he identifies candidates’ weaknesses during the interviewing process. We spoke about how if you want to be able to multiply yourself, you have to learn the art of delegation. We went into details. What is the fear of delegation and how you could overcome it? We spoke about the concept of trust and verify, and we went into details about how an employee could become more and more valuable to the company you work for. We spoke about the importance of technology and so much more. Without further ado, please welcome Ira to the show.
Ira, thank you so much for being on the show.
Thank you, I’m happy to be here.
We have known each other for a long time now. I’ve always admired your approachability. As a leader of a large company or companies at this time, I felt that having you on the show will give our audience some real practical advice. For our audience, share what is Eastern Union?
Eastern Union is a commercial mortgage broker. We pride out ourselves as the most trusted advisor. When a client is buying real estate, looking to refinance real estate and commercial properties, anything but a one to four-family home, they’re doing refinancing, they have an option to go to a bank directly if they have a relationship or they could use a broker. We were fortunate enough to be in the top ten in the country based on transaction volume. We close $3 billion to $12 billion in the last few years. When a client needs a deal, we go shout them out. We closed a couple of hundred different lenders over the last several months and simple time closes up. Opinion is first with trusted advice, sometimes their offers are better than what we could bring them, but then if we think there’s an opportunity or a structure, we go after and work very hard to get them the best deal in the market.
Eastern Union is now the second-largest privately owned mortgage company in America.
I just wanted to interject, it’s based on transaction volumes.
I want you to take us back a little bit. In your bio and knowing you for a while, you started this at the age of 21. Take us back for the audience, maybe they’re at the starting point of starting a company or maybe in their first early years. How did you form the company? What is the idea behind it? What made you go into this industry? Also a little bit of how it evolved from when you started to where it is now.Surround yourself with people whom you'd benefit from. Click To Tweet
I started in the industry at 21. I had this business idea in high school and my dad passed away. He said, “Before you start your own business, why don’t you go to a friend of mine in the real estate field?” I got a job at that point as a small mortgage company doing a few hundred million dollars a year. I went to work there. That was in 1997. I was fortunate enough to be able to, with marketing and technology, start getting involved with helping grow that business. I was number eleven in the firm. A few years later, I was 25, the firm did about $2 billion that year financing. They were purchased by a large bank with a large equity stake and shifted focus. At that time, the company had to sell the bank’s products more important than what the client’s best interest was. At 25 I left, I opened up my own firm, the Eastern Union with a partner, A. Bergman. We went into the market and that’s why we take pride as a trusted advisor. When a client needs any money, they know they can trust us, the banks can trust us.
If you have a deal or you have an opportunity, we advise you first what’s in your best interest. If your best interest is something we could bring you, we would want to be the one to win that assignment. We would never sell to somebody just because we have the ability to sell to somebody. As the company evolved, we started out simple going into the mortgage front. I’ll always remember a great anecdote that somebody told a story that there used to be two train companies. One is no longer in existence and one blossomed to a multinational company. The one that does not exist, their tagline was, “The best in rail transportation.” People travel in multiple ways now. Trains aren’t the big thing and the other company’s tagline was, “Best in transportation.” As transportation evolved, they evolved with it.
We were the trusted advisor to the client and then most of my competition when they grew they tried to focus on not just larger deals and forget the clients who brought them. They also went into different side businesses such as brokering of real estate, buying and selling, potentially leasing. We stayed the course. We said, “What’s in the best interest of the client? The client might not want that. They might want equity.” We have a sister company that provides equity. We never compete with our clients at any level and have a conflict of interest. We stayed with our theme throughout and now as a company, we are able to broker 100% of the capital stock between the equity company and us because it’s different licensing. Clients come to us who get help from $0 to $100.
Let’s elaborate a little bit for our audience and for every business owner out there. What you mentioned is when a person starts a company, they might have a certain vision, but some people will just have that vision. They never change and never adapt. At one point, the company dies because the market changes. If you have a certain vision, as what you’ve shared where it’s customer-centric, the products and services might be tweaked and changed based on the market. You continue building upon that same vision that you started off with but you’re changing or adapting to where the market is.
That reminds me at one point, I had a plane ride and I sat next to a guy who worked for Kodak. He was from the people that were in the board meeting when they discussed getting into digital photography. They got a budget of $10,000 to play around with it. After the second month, the CEO came in and said, “I think we’re taking away valuable resources and you are playing around with some new technology and new stuff that’s coming which will not hit our market.” He paused that project and took away that budget and the rest is history. You could be a great CEO and you could have a passion for the industry and the products or you still have to be able to adapt to the market and the offerings that you are offering.
You go off to that story so I’m going to have to tell you what my business plan was before I opened up the business. I wrote a business plan to open up. There are only three businesses that we deal with that we drop off and pick up: cleaners, shoe repair and film developing. Films only went digital so you still could print that out there. I opened up at the branding and there’s also no market in that area. We ask 100 people where they go grocery shopping, 80% of a certain area will stay in the same store. We ask them where they go for cleaners, we get 80 different answers. I was opening up a brand called CLEASHIM, it’s an acronym for Cleaners, Shoes and Film. It becomes a brand with crazy logistical ideas, one central location. Things now, Uber and delivery could work. I can look back in hindsight, the film part of it would’ve been a little bit different in the name, CLEASHIM, talking about Kodak that moved.
What happened with that venture?
It’s still something I have and people have joked, “When are you going to open it?” I’ll just open it one day.
I think that’s the lesson. It’s not always the first idea that will stick and you will continue to grow. When you have that mindset of, “Let me think about what could I do?” Nothing will help you to be in the world of business other than being in the world of business. That’s an interesting fact. I’ve known you for a few years, I’ve never heard that one. I want to take it a little bit of shift in this conversation and speak about the importance of the hiring process. You have worked with many employees throughout the years in your company and the different businesses you’re involved. I want to specifically ask you a couple of questions. First of all, how do you master the hiring process? At the hiring process, what are you looking for? I hope you would share that with the audience. What do you want to get out of a good hire?
It’s roughly been the same in the beginning, the concept. It’s just that over time, I had experiences when I try to articulate maybe different messages or I saw things online that crystallized things that are maybe subconsciously I was doing. We do sales training. Instead, it’s not that you told me something new, but when you explained to me why certain things work and they go, “Now I get it. That’s why that didn’t work and I could apply it.” That’s the hiring. At the core, this was brought up from my dad as well, is that employees are not an expense, they’re investments, they’re family, they’re people. Remember that they’re coming to work for one purpose to do the job and support their family. Because of that, in general, when I’m hiring somebody, I looked at everybody has an ulterior motive in life.
The key is to surround yourself by people that when they hit their ulterior motive, you’d benefit from it and they benefit from you. The biggest mistake that people have, I found when they hire good people is that they hire someone similar to themselves. They get more of the same. Even if you’re successful, you have weaknesses. It’s better off to hire somebody that’s not exactly the same as you. If you’re a great talker and not great at details, you want to hire someone who could relate to the talking side but their details are off the charts. Together, you could accomplish anything. You could talk and nothing falls through the cracks. In general, when I’m meeting somebody, I learned to ask a lot of questions before I started the interview.
Unlike a lot of things, I talked about pay first. I start at a deal-breaker part. I start off by saying, “Imagine, the job is amazing, what are you looking to make?” If their goal is not something I can reach, it’s not going to work for me. At certain times, I want someone that wants to make millions because then I know that we can grow together in salesforce. In certain positions, I need someone based in that position. They’re just looking for a secure job and wants to go home. Other people will want to take risks. It’s always about paying first. When a guy tells me, “I don’t know, it depends on the job,” I go, “If the job is amazing, what are you going to make now and the long-term?” If those numbers don’t match, you’re wasting your time.
The next thing I talk about and how it gets a little bit easier now. I used to ask people on an interview, I still do it a little bit, it became much more accepted anyway with the lifestyle now. I used to ask people, “If you had a choice to go on vacation with your spouse or your significant other for a few days, but you have to take your cell phone with you. You might have to answer calls, just in case or one day and no cell phone, which one do you pick?” For the nature of my business, if somebody answered one day, they weren’t a match for my firm. I knew that upfront they’re going to get frustrated. If some people want different qualities of life, that are all fine, it’s about the condition. If a certain job in this day and age where someone always has to be available, you need certain people that have a level of availability.
It’s those tougher questions upfront. Are you looking for a full-time career or work day and night? There’s no right or wrong answer to that. Depending on the role, certain roles you need different things. Would you rather work in an office full-time and be shut off after hours or would you rather have flexibility? I’d rather have an executive assistant of mine, I don’t care if she works full-time or she works part-time. I care about being available all the time. They may love it. You get the same pay and a little flexibility under the sun. It’s a matter of matching those ulterior motives. This way you don’t get complaining about conditioning and saying, “I told a friend.” The friend says, “You work as hard.” You told them the flip side, “Yeah, but I make one hour,” or things along those lines.
Starting with that and then after that, depending on their answer, it goes through. The one lesson I learned across the board on a person when I’m talking about pay, is that whatever they say about that previous company is what they’re going to say that you are at another time. You think it will be different, it’s the same. If there’s someone who complains a certain way, that complaint will always be there. If they complement the same way, that will always be there at the same time. The other part about pay is, and this is where I tried to do a lot of coaching of business owners and building up teams and most of the success, we do research on the firm, the biggest negative to Eastern Union is that people talk about the high turnover.
A lot of people went through the door and I say it’s true. I take pride in giving people their first job and give them the first training. Maybe I shouldn’t have given them a shot, but I did. I don’t care about high turnover. I focus on the Olympic swimmers because there are dozens of people that are making millions a year that went to the shotgun. They’re still working here and making the high six figures, at the most seven figures. I look back at it and say, “That area didn’t have a turnover.” When I look back and say a big part of that over the years is it’s better to hire a higher quality. If I have a choice of hiring, we usually hire someone who makes $100,000 to $200,000 and they get nervous, you’re the first to go on the opposite.When synergies keep moving, that’s when your company is going to explode. Click To Tweet
When things get slower, the people making less have more to risk at. I’d rather ride through a storm with a $200,000 person than three $60,000 people, then I’ll come down and not there, or three $25,000 people instead of one $75,000. That one $75,000 makes a bigger difference. If you look at my work as an investor, I meet my staff and say, “If you can figure out how to be worth $200,000, it means I made more money.” Our motives are aligned there. They’re not an expense, they’re an investment.
What I’m hearing is something that’s also very dear to my heart because it starts with culture. Every company has a DNA, which is the culture and this is dictated by the leadership. The first thing is it needs to be a cultural fit. There’s no right and wrong on those answers, but it needs to be the proper fit. I also appreciate the way that you look at giving people the opportunity. Speaking about that topic, there are a lot of people that are great as an employee and if they would be self-employed, they will probably not even make half of what they’re making working for another firm, which has the infrastructure. They do want promotions and stuff. Let’s say if somebody at an interview asks you, “What does my growth look like? How could I advance my career? I know I’m starting at A, how do I advance to B, to C and eventually even to leadership level?”
Every business is a little bit different, but the way that I run the business and I explain it to them. The most someone could make in any company is the amount that the boss is making, that’s the most. When I explained to people that up until about $100,000, your earning is probably about 8% of the time, effort, work you put in and 20% is this Jewish word called oyl. I cannot find an explanation for it in any other language. It’s putting together someone that I could trust and competent. They get it done. You tell them what you need and they take the burden off your shoulders and they get it done. When you start going from $100,000 and the people are earning, and I’ve watched people that are earning salaries like seven figures.
These are the people that you’ll say, “That guy rarely comes into work,” but this person gives his boss or her boss the confidence that they don’t have to focus on this area because they make sure that things get done. I tell somebody, “You work at the office and you want to understand how much you make. I have a foolproof way to figure out someone’s compensation.” When you broke it down to math and said, “I’m hiring you at whatever price, $25 an hour and $20 an hour start,” the person working above you is making more than you. How much work could you take away from the person above you so they can take work from the person above them? If the person above is making $50 an hour, you’re making $25 and I could hire an entry-level person at $15. In theory at the end of the week, how many hours of work did that $15 an hour person could have gotten done and a $50 an hour person or $30?
That’s your blended pay, if you think about it on a rounded basis. You want to know how much you can make, come in here and focus on how much stuff you can take away from the person that you’re working for. Every time you take away work from that person, you build yourself that raise that now every hour you’re worth more than the current hour you’re making. You sit down and then you want to hope that you can take away work for that person. They’re not going to slack off. They are going to take work away from their boss or at a certain point, free up the salesmen at the top to go on and originate more business.
The message is that the more responsibility you take over, which we call the DRI, Direct Response from Individual. If the company could rely on your skill set, your talent to take over this responsibility and now freeing up the other person, automatically, that’s where your value goes up.
Now you’re looking at it from the top down. You run a business. You brought in all your original accounts. As time grew on, you got natural referrals came in and business. As time goes on, people also are bringing business. When you started and you would bring in, just use a number of five accounts a week, you will be bogged down by certain details. If someone would walk over to you and say, “If you had a happy day available, how much business could you bring in?” Based on my success, it goes from five to ten because the next five gets easier.
What would it take to free up your happy day? Your answer is a competent person you could rely on. That person will get paid a lot more money than anyone else in your organization because you’re relying on them and you’re freed up to do business. When that person is not doing their work and they can only take away three hours a day from you to say, “What do you need to do with that more hours? Give me a competent person under me from the top down.” I’m advising someone coming in. You walk into my office and you can stop going to people making more money than you and say, “How can I free you up so you have more stuff you could do before it trickles up and trickles down at the same time?” That’s when you find that right synergies keep moving, that’s how the company is exploding.
That’s a valid point. Speaking about employees, but as leaders, I want to ask you more of a personal question. At this point, your different companies, different ventures, you’re involved in different projects that you’re working on. How do you juggle it all? It’s a twofold question. The first question is at which point are you saying, “My core business is running. I could take away some of my time spending on other projects?” Even a practical point, how do you make sure that you keep the finger on the pulse?
The same message I get out to people. I do that by myself. The first thing is delegation. When I’m training people, I take upon myself is that some people wait until they’re so busy and then they hire some for delegation. I go the other approach and I say anything that I can delegate, even if I have nothing else to do in that time, I’m going to delegate first. I only got involved in other ventures when I started realizing every day I’m waking up and saying, “Based on all the people I’m delegating to, I have half an hour a day, 45 minutes a day, an hour a day on a consistent basis.” What do I want to do best with that hour? I decided to start originating more business at the core. I started to build a vision within the core. In all ventures that I got involved in, all the ventures feedback and forth in my core business. I opened up an entity called The Ira Group. Eastern Union is a mortgage broker where I broker from an owner of a building to a bank. The Ira Group takes that down to a micro-level.
Over the last few years, because of technology and crowdfunding, more and more banks are not traditional banks. There are in fact banks, institutions, that private money, that rich loans and these places that put out money, they raise money from individuals or they take participation in loans. I opened up a new entity called The Ira Group that’s going to match up doctors, lawyers, regular people that would want to participate in these bridge loans. It’s another revenue stream. It’s a brokerage business revenue stream. Also, when I’m helping that lender, now the lender says, “By the way, you helped me do this loan. Let me introduce you to the person that I did a loan to, even if it didn’t come to Eastern.”
The guy directly does bridge loan there and he met Joe the borrower. Joe comes in and now I get introduced to Joe and say, “Joe, because of The Ira Group, your lender was able to deliver your money because I found them a lot of sources. You’re doing this bridge loan, can I do the refund back to Eastern?” I kept all these things and keep going the synergies, moving them back and forth. It started with hiring competent people or gone for better people first. Finding the right person, delegating to them, realizing they have more time and stepping back. For example, we had a meeting. We were averaging a little over $4 billion in brokerage a year and in the meeting, I said, “Based on what we are now as a company and things that thank God are doing very well, we should start hiring the next round of salespeople.” Until now, we used to hire new salespeople maybe a year two experience.
Now we said, “Let’s go bring out the next level.” Salespeople are working maybe in different industries, they’re experienced. They’re earning six figures already now. They could earn more with that tapped out and bring on a team of six figures starting salaries for salespeople. The only thing they have to learn is the mortgage business. I couldn’t do this a few years ago. I didn’t have enough infrastructure and talent and the leverage to make the thing work. It’s a calculated risk. It’s a safer bet when we grow that should help us to grow good business. I keep looking back and I say sometimes I would’ve done this day one, but then maybe I would be making a little bit further off and God will decide what should be. On the other hand, I could say no. When you bring a certain level of talents, they want a higher level of resources around them. Maybe now because I have those resources, they can fit in and build that platform.
This is something that a lot of businesses are struggling with. Sometimes they’re not managing the growth properly, which means they’re bringing in either business or salespeople to bring in businesses but the infrastructure is not prepared. It ends up crashing. I appreciate your thought process that as your infrastructure is growing and as you have more leverage on the top of the funnel, which is the sales. You speak to a lot of business owners, people come to you for advice. What would you say is the reason for a lot of CEOs or leaders not letting go, not delegating? What is in their way?
They’re scared, it’s insecurity. They’re scared that at the end of the day if you don’t appreciate that there’s a level of oyl and things are working, don’t mess with them. This can also get it done, she knows how to get it done from the inside out. They’re nervous that won’t happen if they delegated everything. It could come to the point that all their staff together could walk, “What do you need this guy for?” The board of a company, the owner of the company says, “If the person doing the marketing is my marketing director and for this, what are you doing? Maybe you might need someone to coordinate and not have your pay.” They hold onto things and that becomes a security blanket. I say that’s very good to someone for about a year.
That’s what’s holding back the company. I tell people in the office when I hire a salesperson, “There’s no other firm in my space that trained more people that are earning seven figures a year that we trained them and I train them all from scratch.” People would say, “How do we do it? What’s the key?” I said, “I train them enough that they could leave me and compete with me.” They said, “Why would you do that? Are you not nervous they’re going to beat you by telling them everything?” I said, “Yeah, because if they are good enough to leave and think about what we could do together, why would I want to hold them back?” I don’t have a whole mediocre level. Also, when I meet people in the streets, people who leave companies and things are good, they have a good relationship with the boss and they leave. It’s because they can’t make enough of a little living. You know when people who leave that are making $500,000 or $1 million. Let me figure out how to get each person to weigh the highest number they think they can make and then less likely they’re going to leave anyway. That’s the philosophy I built. It’s insecurity to answer your question. They’re insecure of their position.Leaders who are not delegating fear the job and are insecure. Click To Tweet
There’s a line that I use when I interview candidates and also sometimes when we have to part ways. I remind them on this line, which is, “There’s going to come a time that either the company will outgrow you or you will outgrow the company and it’s perfectly fine. While you’re here, we want you to have a great time.” What would be the first step? Let’s say speaking to a leader and saying, “You have to start letting go.” You mentioned before about the insecurity, your process of starting to delegate to make sure that it’s done in the right way or that I’m not losing control of my company, my project, whatever.
It’s an insecurity issue. How do you deal with insecurity issues? Give the person the security. What I’ve found are two ways. I ask the person, “What are you nervous about?” I bring it up to bring up the elephant in the room and the person told me or I know what they’re nervous about. I would tell them, “Are you’re nervous about your job?” You can sense the senses. I said, “Why don’t l give you the contract now?” No matter what, even if the person is better than you for a period of whatever, a year you had. I gave them those positions. The minute they tasted what they want to do the next day and it frees up a burden of being insecure and then all of a sudden, the world changed there.
You got that security, number one, to deal with their insecurity. The other part of it is a lot of times, you have to show them the greener pastures. You had to show them that, “If you would relinquish, we could do A, B and C together. You’re right, we won’t need it as much over here but that could bring things to you.” The first few times a person comes for a raise, they only come and this will only do more. At a certain point, there’s nothing more they could do. They can’t be more loyal. They can’t be more honest. They can’t put in more hours. They can’t be more devoted. What more could they do? That next raise becomes an expense because they need to live for more than you have to pay them.
I use that time and I sit down and say, “If you had more time in a day, what would you do?” I did the same idea. I said, “What would it take to get them more time?” If I had an assistant or I had someone drive me and I make that investment in that person and say, “I’ll give you a raise of $10,000, at the same time I’m going to hire someone at $25,000. Instead of having $10,000 expense more, now I have $35,000 in investments in you more. I bought many more hours for so cheap per hour between the two and now what more can we do together?” That’s how I bring these things up.
At which point do you decide that it’s not worth investing in a person?
As long as the person is willing to invest in themselves. I also have zero tolerance for people that make mistakes. I can deal if it’s a learning curve but if you do the same thing over and over again. These are fundamental things we’ll never change in certain people, but once that someone’s trying, I’m going to figure out how to make that work at any cost to make it work.
Let’s speak a little bit in general. There are a lot of hot topics and people are speaking about the real estate market in general. I know we’ll get to speak about The Ira Group and your motive behind it. A little bit you shared already, but for our audience, what is your take on the real estate market in general? Is it going upwards, downwards? People are speaking about recessions and new laws. Give us your take.
If I was able to have those answers, I’d be doing different business. The answer is there’s always a level of opportunity in real estates. I’m on transactional business. If the market crashes, God forbid, there would be a lot of people that will lose money. When it crashes, something is buying those deals at the lower pricing and they also need a mortgage. I’m buying notes. The only thing that’s unfortunate is what happened in New York City now is permanent. People are focusing on New York City and the borrowers are a little ahead in saying it’s going to come back. It’s never going to come back to where it was and the reason why it’s never going to come back to where it was. It’s going to get better at this moment. New York City had with it the long saying that it can never go down. It’s never real estate doesn’t go down. It’s like the Titanic when you start having people say never will it ever happen at one point.
As an Orthodox Jew, that’s something God says, when you say never, do you think you have everything in place? Don’t say no, never. New York City is never going to be able to be that to the top simply because people already realized that something’s happening. The things that changed the fundamental is the mindset that the tenants now feel that they have a lot more control. The tenants are empowered. That culture change takes a long time for tenants to go back the other way around. An attitude of this change means that if I meet somebody and invest in New York, we’ll always go up. No, that just happened. That issue is going to be in for a long time. One last thing, as far as the general, on the last many years, the change in real estate went from being bricks and mortar to just about the bricks. How much buildings are worth because it’s a beautiful building, there are many units to how much return does this building throw off? Because of that, the market is going to stay roughly fine out of New York until interest rates start to move up. When interest rates start to move up, that means values will have to go down because it doesn’t have enough money to pay the mortgage. To throw them profits, you have to pay less in order to throw off that right amount of profit. I think we’re pretty good until that point.
Let’s speak about The Ira Group. For those who don’t know what The Ira Group is and the Ira tour where you go out there and educate people about the real estate market, lending and business. What is the motive behind it? How much is it directly related to your business? There’s also a component there which is giving back to the community from what I understand. Share with me what’s your thought process behind it.
It’s 100% related to my business. Part of the business culture and who I am is trying to be able to give back. I was coming on this world and brought up into a Rabbinic and Orthodox family. We’re put on to this world and this is just for the next world. There’s no you all attached to us. You have to take them with you, what you can give back. My metrics was always that, “How do I make the money I need to live?” If God gave you certain talents and skills, try and give that back. I use the company to let people come in. If they say this business is not for them, could they get their first job here and then stand in the next stage?
The tour allows me to go from community to community. Hopefully, it’s going throughout the country on this next few months and go meet people and educate them that there’s a way they can make money in real estate by syndicating bridge loans. If they want a platform to get involve and take it off the ground. I get the benefit to educate people and helping people to make a living to get into the business, even if it’s on their own with the other piece of the puzzle that come into the space and like this book The Go-Giver. With long-term branding, if I help somebody get off the ground, then there might be someone to be made in short-term of they become successful and say, “You opened up my eyes to the space. You came to my city a few years ago and you gave me an education. Because of that, I have an opportunity to push a deal your way.” I think of the business that way. It’s 100% checks all the boxes of what I’d like to accomplish and at the same exact time. It’s 100% connected on the spiritual and as a human side of things as well as on the business itself.
People could find more information on TheIraGroup.com. One more question, which is a topic that not a lot of CEOs and leaders speak about. I know you spoke a lot about it in the earlier days and now everybody’s starting to speak about it, which is technology in your business. How important is it for leaders and business owners to adapt to technology in order to be able to grow their business?
I think it’s everything. Everyone adapts to technology. We have a podcast. Whoever is listening to this is using technology to listen. We’re using Zoom technology. Everyone has an email. Everyone has a level of technology. If they don’t start integrating the technology into their business and stuff and be able to use data to understand where things are coming from in their business, then that’s going to be a death to everyone who does not embrace it.
While in the earlier days people were scared about technology, the notion out there was if I use technology, I’m taking away that personal touch to my relationships. I’m taking away my personal connection to know what’s going on in my business. The real way of looking at technology is it helps you to achieve that. You know when to call, you know your numbers, you know where the data is visually put forward in a way where you couldn’t have done it with a pen and paper so to speak.
I want to come back to your points of why people didn’t embrace it. In the beginning, they didn’t embrace it because this is a change, it’s something new. Number two is the scare too much in public and that part of it was the issue. I say that the biggest change that people in the last few years saw with changes in technology, two things changed that are big game-changers. Number one was the unlimited data. When you’re on the road, you can be as efficient. I don’t have a computer on my desk. I haven’t used a computer in years. I just stay on my phone. To the higher end tour if I have to make a presentation live I have a laptop that I use only for that purpose.Do the best decision that works for today but you won't wake up tomorrow and have to regret it. Click To Tweet
Unlimited data allows everyone in America to have access to everything at one point. The other thing I think was a big change and people have stolen the greatness of Steve Jobs is the AirPods or different equivalents of it. When you can now sit and you could use your phone and you talk. That whole game changer experience has allowed people to sit now and personal touch will still be there. Because I have my technology at my fingertips from anywhere I am, anytime. I have enough intel I can pick up a client and I’m not wasting time. Instead of talking to ten clients, I could talk to twenty. Technology is helping with the prep work and bringing everything to my fingertips so I can get on the phone and spend more time with the client. I can be on the road all day. I don’t have to come back to my office in the middle. I can meet in person more people than I used to meet before.
When you speak about people being able to do their job, if you maybe have a lack of certain skill set and you have the technology that supports you, you’re a better person, a better employee, a better leader. I would like to ask you more of a personal question. Most people might not know your father has been the founder and the visionary behind ArtScroll. If you could leave our audience with one or two pointers that you saw from your father’s vision and how he conducted business and that we could take away for our businesses.
A lot of the things that I’m doing were things from my father. Some of the things my father did push, and I know it was important to me is that employees are coming, they’re workers and we do the job and that’s where they come from. They’re coming to do that job, they go home and get paid. Even during the struggle years of Eastern startup and during different times, make sure that when someone works for you, they get paid that week. They shouldn’t be your creditors. Make sure they get paid every single week. They get paid on time. Never miss a paycheck.
That’s what they count on. It’s the same thing with vendors. People do work with you, pay them for that work and treat them at the human side of things. You have to have a business concept to run. When things are doing better, give a little bit back extra. Let them have a little bit more flexibility to get things going with the human side of things. These are things that stay with me if I go make a list now that I could possibly make. I will say we’re taking a different course on how I go about things and that I could have a different reputation.
I’d rather try to strive. I’m not taking you all with me, what can I use to the best time? I’m sure I could do maybe an extra deal if I didn’t travel and if I stayed local, it’s an extra deal. At the end of the day, when I walk out of those meetings and 50 people come to an event and some of them have changed, that’s the important part. Give somebody hope and confidence. One big thing that I asked my father was that sometimes you think things, you don’t say. Articulate them, you see someone’s doing something successful, something impressive. Open up your mouth and you tell that person something. No one’s going to want to turn down that complement. Try to bring that into your everyday life.
This is such an important lesson for every business owner or human beings in general. We live in such a short life and you have to do business because you need to be able to support your family. How you treat people is what counts. People will always remember you for how you treated them.
I have my shortcomings. I know I have to work on them.
Let’s close with the four rapid-fire questions. What are the books that changed your life?
As an author, it’s not one book. I read a lot. I usually take tidbits and there’s no one that changed.
It’s got to be many books. You start reading. You pick up tidbits from those books. What’s a piece of advice you got that you’ll never forget, we’ve shared a couple of them. Is there anything else you want to add?
A big one is live for today without sacrificing tomorrow. When you’re faced with decisions, do the best decision that works for today, but you won’t wake up tomorrow and have to regret it in case you go down a different path in your career.
Is there anything you wish you could go back and do differently?
I’m sure certain people spoke of them a lot of times, but I’m not individual on a macro level. Earlier on, if I would have gone to the higher quality person. Now I told about hiring higher-level salespeople. I didn’t realize how much better you are when you go to the higher quality person that’s able to demand a certain amount and different way they work and they could affect the company. That’s a big piece that I would’ve gone back for.
The final question. What’s still on your bucket list to achieve?
The one bucket list I would like to try to build the backbone of technology for organizations. There are a lot of nonprofit organizations that are focused on their operations, but there are Uber-like technologies that could help volunteer services. I’d like to try to help build them and give them the technology that they can become more efficient and pull to different organizations. Take the Uber, there’s a bunch of organizations that do volunteer work. We need help here, click it, and someone comes running over. Give these types of technologies over to build that out for nonprofit organizations.
Thank you so much, Ira, for joining us. I know your time is valuable and that is why in the name of our audience, we will forever be grateful for sharing some of your time with us.
- Eastern Union Funding
- The Ira Group
- The Go-Giver
About Ira Zlotowitz
Ira Zlotowitz, the youngest president of any top 10 mortgage brokerage, took the commercial real estate industry by storm at the age of 21. From then on he has continued to establish himself as an innovator who has defined the industry, earning numerous accolades such as Crain’s “Forty Under 40.”
His story starts at Meridian Capital, where he integrated mastery of the cold call into the company’s business model, trained several large teams of callers and was responsible for the launch of new offices nationwide. This campaign, the success of which would repeat itself, accomplished unprecedented growth for the company.
In the year prior to his first at Meridian, the company closed $300 million in loans. Just four years later, in his final year there, the firm had closed over $3 billion. In 2001, Mr. Zlotowitz formed Eastern Union, together with Abraham Bergman, and continued to establish a track record for innovation, grit, and industry-wide disruption.
He has aggressively integrated technology and market data into the company’s business model, sped up the loan submission process by a factor of 10, and developed relationships between the company and over 85 lenders. In the process, Eastern has grown from a four-person Brooklyn office into a 100-person firm closing roughly $4 billion in national loan volume this year.