Frederick Warburg Peters is president of Warburg Realty Partnership.
Degree, school: Bachelor of Arts from Yale, Master of Arts from CUNY
Location: New York City
What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why?
I am a big lover of going to new opera and instrumental works written since World War II. I was a composer in my former life, so this is a big passion for me.
What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why?
No one of any intelligence has a favorite book — books are way too diverse to be able to select one over another. But I can give a few answers: My favorite novel is probably Dickens’ “Bleak House,” with George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” and Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping” also way up there.
Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?
No, but I am probably the first entrepreneur in a few generations. I had two great-great-grandfathers who were entrepreneurs — one opened a department store and one built an investment bank.
Why’d you decide to join your company?
I joined Albert Ashforth in 1986 because there was an opportunity for me to go into sales management, which looked interesting to me. Then after a few eventful years, which included the 1988 crash, I bought the company from the then-owners in 1991.
Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company. How did you bounce back?
The most recent recession was very stressful. During the second half of 2008, we made almost no money. Nobody wanted to buy anything. So early in 2009, I closed two of my offices, one in Harlem and one in the West Village. The savings from those decisions enabled us to weather that storm without too much difficulty, but shuttering those offices and letting go of people in that environment was really tough.
What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since you joined it?
Seeing my agents cross the seven-figure threshold in earnings creates enormous pleasure for me. As more of them do it, I feel better and better. Clearly the money is nice, but for me it is more about feeling like a facilitator to a talented performer moving to the top of his or her game.
What’s been the biggest obstacle your business has encountered, and how have you dealt with it?
We are in an industry in which people switch around from firm to firm. It happens to everyone. But it tends to be an enormous challenge for me to not take these departures personally. I always feel like it is my job to make certain everyone is thriving, and so I experience the departures of my agents, even when the reasons for their decisions are completely rational, as personal failures.
What puzzles you most about the industry?
The new paradigm in which firms make completely unsustainable deals with agents, giving away so much that it is impossible for the brokerage to make money. We are seeing more and more of that and it really puzzles me!
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business?
Standing still is moving backwards. You must keep pushing ahead.
What’s the most overrated real estate technology?
It’s an idea more than a technology — the notion that technology itself can disintermediate the real estate agent. While tech tools have become far more sophisticated, and information has become much more of a wholesale commodity, our advisory function and the knowledge we can bring to bear on picking, negotiating and closing your purchase cannot be replaced by an algorithm.
How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years?
I think it will continue to evolve in the way it is already going — towards greater reliance on technology for information and requiring a clearer definition of the value added to each transaction by our knowledge and expertise. I think easy access to listings, comps, etc., clarifies the distinct difference between information and knowledge.
What motivates you more: power or money?
I like both, but I would say respect and reputation are my primary motivators.
What is your biggest professional fear?
Somehow running the business into the ground (you didn’t say it has to be a RATIONAL fear!)
What is your biggest personal fear?
Loss of my wife, one of my kids, or one of my grandchildren.
Whom do you respect most in the industry?
Elizabeth Stribling. She has built a powerhouse firm while maintaining the high professional and ethical standards, which show our industry in New York to its best advantage.
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