Jerry Kestenbaum and the Luxury Building Dilemma
I have two wishes. First, I wish that my Park Ave high-rise had a more efficient way of delivering my packages, telling me when my guests arrive and alerting me when a maintenance request has been received. My second wish is to… well… actually live in a high-rise where these problems theoretically exist.
For now, I can only share the story of the man who created an extraordinary system to help poor penthouse folk with their luxury building dilemmas.
The (High) Rise to Building Management Success
The real question is how Jerry Kestenbaum, a Doctor in Clinical Psychology (CUNY, 1983) who dabbles a bit in computer programming, went from VP of the family chemical biz to Founder and CEO of Buildinglink.com, a web-based integrated system for residential building management.
Refron Gases to Luxury High Rises. This sounds interesting.
It started in New York City. The year was 1999, and Jerry got a call from his building about an emergency situation. Management had to break into his apartment due to a leak upstairs, but this wasn’t even the biggest issue. For Jerry, it was the old contact number they called him on to alert him of the situation. When he saw the scribbles and cross-outs in the building’s resident contact book, he thought, as most entrepreneurs do, “there’s got to be a better way of doing this.”
So, Jerry started building out features for a system that would relieve the pain points of residents just like him, and in a few years with a little help from a few million dollars (of his own money, by the way), BuildingLink was born. This was an unusual turn of career for
Jerry, but clearly a successful one. The system, now in its 11th year, provides its web-based integrated platform for over 1,000 luxury residential buildings across the country.
What lessons, then, can this psychology doc turned luxury building manager expert share with us budding business owners?
It’s easier to start a business that is Revolutionary rather than Evolutionary
Jerry saw a problem in the way his residential building was managed. There was no efficient system in place at the time, so rather than build on an existing idea, he developed his own. Lesson: The average person complains, the entrepreneur builds.
Different Clients Mean Different Appeal
Jerry’s initial target customers were in residential buildings which were a disorganized, chaotic mess. But, it turned out the buildings that were the most organized were the ones that understood Jerry’s product the best and wanted it the most. Later, Jerry built on his product to appeal to customers with a more visual reaction (i.e. those who rejected it initially), allowing them to actually see just how cool it was and how it would really help the residents. Lesson: Know who your clients are and market accordingly.
Some people want to raise $20 million in capital to launch their business, take it public and make it worth $100 million. If that is your metric of success, good luck. For Jerry, he measures his business’ success by focusing on getting two buildings this month, four the next, and so on.
Lesson: Focus on your clients’ needs and your metrics of success; don’t worry about your competitors and you’ll avoid fear and intimidation.
Perhaps, applying these startup lessons to your own business will one day land you in one of Jerry’s kitted-out luxury buildings. One can only wish.