Howard Shwiff

Refine the model and adjust course.


Howard Shwiff is the co-founder of Shwiff, Levy and Polo, a CPA tax and financial services firm that began operations in 1996. He is also a real estate advisor and investment manager. Howard studied for a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He then went on to study for a Master of Business Administration, Real Estate and Urban Development, at Georgia State University. Howard also holds several professional certifications. He is a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), Certified Property Manager (CPM) and holds a California Real Estate Brokers License. With his wife, they have managed to grow Shwiff, Levy & Polo LLP into a respectable brand in tax and business consultancy. Recently, the firm celebrated the anniversary of Radhaus Restaurant, one of Howard’s successful development deals located in Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA. Prior to moving to San Francisco, Howard managed investments nationwide at the Asset and Portfolio Management level at Johnstown/Consolidated Capital, The Landsing Corporation, and Fox & Carskadon Financial Corp. In all these firms, he was in C-level management and handled tasks that required a high degree of responsibility. For instance, at Johnstown/Consolidated Capital, he worked as the Senior Vice President in charge of 18 REITS and public limited partnerships with in excess of $1 billion in assets nationwide. As a Broker Howard founded Shwiff Real Estate Management Consulting to manage multi-family properties in Atlanta, Georgia, and later built a niche’ brokerage of medical office buildings inside TRI Commercial Real Estate Services and Feher Young and Associates (FYA). When not handling business deals, Howard enjoys spending time with his wife, who also happens to be his business partner. They are avid sailors and modest philanthropists. The two met in 1989 through the Jewish Federation & Endowment Fund where they are both members, and the rest, as they say, is history. Both served on the Board of Hebrew Free Loan where Howard was the Treasurer for a record 9 years. Together, they have scaled the heights of business and community success, and continue to contribute in helping the overall community grow.

Where did the idea for Shwiff, Levy & Polo come from?

The idea for my role in Shwiff, Levy & Polo, CPAs came from my years as a real estate portfolio and asset manager. I was ready to start my own real estate brokerage firm and figured with Elizabeth that it would work nicely to blend my real estate services into the financial services side of the practice because SLP had plenty of clients who were real estate investors who wanted to buy, sell or trade. These clients needed a trustworthy “quarterback” to get the deals done. We also recognized that the clients really needed guidance on managing their real estate portfolios to complement their overall personal financial plan, so I could generate a steady flow of fees from management and advisory services to compliment commissions. An entrepreneurial story:

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day goes something like this: coffee & email to schedule the day; water aerobics; breakfast, the WSJ & local news; calls to move things forward and coordinate; processing new information through my various software analytics and onto the project dashboards; more calls, meetings and discussions to organize and control; and advice to clients on how to improve course; time with my dog; business & personal life administration; creative outlet on the guitar; jotting down idea notes for tomorrow over a glass of Pinot Noir.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I plan, organize, and control. Ideas sift well during water aerobics. Excel analytics paint an excellent financial reflection of the outcome that real world actions will result in. All I need to do is tweak the reflection to the client’s ideal outcome and settle on the assignments of who will do what.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m excited by Biotech and High Tech trends. Biotech should enable me to live long enough to reap the rewards of High Tech. I’m watching the 2 techs make my hometown San Francisco the number 1 metropolitan area on Planet Earth.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

POC (from Management 101 at Georgia Tech): I Plan, Organize, and Control.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Spend less time on POC. Act; Don’t hesitate; Pull the trigger; Don’t hesitate; Take more (calculated) risk.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The increase in pedestrian traffic is the root cause of traffic gridlock in San Francisco.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I refine the model and adjust course.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I’m strategically honest; I tell people the truth, and advise accordingly. I am confident in “selling” myself to the next client, and the next, because I’m not carrying any luggage of untruths.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

As a Broker, I failed at “dialing for dollars” (prospecting). So I built a team of Agents to hunt for sellers, and then I closed the listings and sold the properties while they kept hunting.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve been sitting on an idea for a line of food products under the brand name “You Won’t Believe This,” like “You Won’t Believe This Potato Chip,” and “You Won’t Believe This Popcorn” and “You Won’t Believe This Ice Cream!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I just purchase a beautiful ballpoint pen. Signing a contract to seal the deal with the pen makes a statement. If doubles my pride at the moment of accomplishment.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?


What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Everyone should keep at hand an American Heritage Dictionary because a good vocabulary is key to communication with and understanding others. I always recommend to kids and young adults to carry around an abbreviated American Heritage Dictionary, and I advise them “Never pass a word you don’t understand.”

What is your favorite quote?

“I quote what I remember, and I favor all that are memorable.” Howard Shwiff

Key Learnings:

  • Howard is the go-to guy for real estate advice for the private investor, and to get a deal done for those who are sure about doing it by themselves.
  • Howard is someone who knows how to plan and plans how to know.
  • Howard is creative, a forward looker.
  • Howard loves San Francisco and does for his community.
  • Howard is obviously a good communicator and someone who can be trusted