Yair Levy is a well-known entrepreneur in the real estate community in New York and Miami. Over the last several decades, he has been responsible for the transformation of some of Manhattan’s most iconic buildings, bringing new life and excitement to once-neglected properties. Yair continues to be involved in real estate development as a consultant to the Time Century Holdings LLC, a family trust.
Yair had come to the United States from Israel in 1972. His mother used to make cocktail evening dresses which was an encouragement for him to initially get involved in the fashion industry in the US. Yair learned about real estate from his father, who was a real estate broker. That experience led him to eventually become one of New York’s most prominent investor and developer of commercial and residential properties in that market.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
Time Century is a family trust and I am a consultant to the trust. I wanted to create something that had longevity and strength.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day starts with an early morning workout followed by a light breakfast and reading the day’s news. I check my calendar the night before, so I’m prepared for any upcoming meetings or job site visits. I usually spend time at my office to catch up and stay on top of all the jobs I’m involved with. I also enjoy playing golf on the weekend.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It all starts with a market study to help me identify a good location for a real estate project. Once I have a prime location with high demand, I come up with the concept and design. I am always involved in the design of the interior and the whole look of the building.
When it comes to retail, I have a good feel for what works and doesn’t work. I have been in retail all my life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am excited about bringing new life into old buildings, and especially bringing iconic buildings back to their glorious days. Delivering quality finishes in my projects is very important to me and my team.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I enjoy traveling around the world to find inspiration and trends in architecture and interior design. I used to travel at least three times a year to several countries before the pandemic. I can’t wait to travel again to continue to find inspiration.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It doesn’t matter if you come from a family of money or not. You can do very well if you work hard. I used to work 80 hours a week when I started my business.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I decide where to build and invest based on market studies. I make my own decision, and others may not agree with me. Also, I have good business instincts, and I can see opportunities that other people do not see.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I became smart and successful because I made a lot of mistakes. I always recommend to young entrepreneurs that they should not be afraid of making mistakes and to learn from them. The idea is never to make the same mistake twice. If you get far in your career without ever making a mistake, the minute you confront failure, you won’t know how to move forward. Learning from my mistakes allows me to come back every time I suffer a setback.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My strategy has been developing and investing in buildings in prime locations. The real estate market can be cyclical so the best way to protect and grow the value of your assets is buying assets in areas with high demand. I also have a great eye for retail properties because I have been in the retail business since I was a teen. I have always worked very hard to expand my business and keep it growing.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As a developer, I try to control every aspect of a project, including acquisition, financing, construction and delivery. However, things happen that are outside of our control such as 9/11, the Great Recession, and the global pandemic. I always try to remain focused and do the best I can to overcome those challenges. I do know how to come back from a difficult time. When you go down, you have to be strong enough to come back.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My advice would be to find an opportunity that involves something you enjoy doing. Make sure you think big, as it is just as easy or hard as thinking small, so why not shoot for the stars?
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I have donated to various charities to help people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic and to help Jewish families celebrate the holidays.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
My team uses many types of software including Costar, LoopNet and many localized city agency sites.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend Made in America by Sam Walton as it tells the story of hard work, seizing opportunity, and creating the marketplace. I have also been inspired by reading the biographies of Lee Iacocca and Jack Welch.
What is your favorite quote?
Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.
• It doesn’t matter if you come from a family of money or not. You can do very well if you work hard.
• Focus on a business opportunity that you love and never give up.
• Learning from my mistakes allows me to come back every time I suffer a setback.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.