Real estate veteran Debrah Lee Charatan has long been hailed for her entrepreneurial insight, decades of industry experience, and passion for supporting communities throughout the New York metropolitan area. Charatan is the President and Cofounder of BCB Property Management, a leading multi-family real estate investment firm dedicated to the acquisition, renovation, and management of buildings in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. Since 2008, she has led BCB to acquire over 1.6 million square feet of New York and New Jersey real estate, and a portfolio of over 120 buildings and 1,800 apartments.
Debrah Lee Charatan’s impact today is vast, but she never forgets her humble beginnings. Starting as a secretary while completing her BS at Baruch College, she sought out an opportunity as a property manager at a local real estate firm where she began to make her deals in the 1970s.
From there, Chartan leveraged her resources and real estate expertise to create her own company, Bach Realty, which she grew into one of the most prominent names in New York’s commercial real estate space during the 1980s. Bach Realty is recognized as New York City’s first all-female real estate brokerage, and Charatan’s entrepreneurial success saw her profiled in USA Today, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Inc., the New York Daily News along with dozens of other media outlets.
In 1993, Charatan kicked off another career landmark by launching Debrah Lee Charatan Realty, where she continued her dedication to her entrepreneurial team and New York’s communities at large. Since then, Charatan has become a prolific thought leader on female entrepreneurship, and has been published in the likes of Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post, VentureBeat, Thrive Global and SCORE NYC.
Charatan’s focuses much of her community engagement and charitable ventures through the Charatan/Holm Family Foundation, including the support of numerous arts organizations and cultural and civic causes including New York’s Central Park Conservancy and the Jewish Partisan Education Foundation. Also, Charatan sits on the Women’s Leadership Council of the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Real Estate Council.
As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, Debrah Lee Charatan actively supports the preservation of Jewish historical and cultural institutions including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Park East Synagogue, Chai Lifeline, Southampton Chabad and the Jewish Musem. Currently, Charatan serves as the Vice President on the Board of Trustees for Selfhelp Community Services Foundation, an organization that seeks to support elderly and other vulnerable New York residents, including Holocaust survivors, through independent living that offer community-based services.
How can new entrepreneurs learn to maximize their productivity?
Staying productive requires a steady routine. Like most entrepreneurs, I wake up early to get a head-start on the day. I’m up at 5 am on weekdays to work out for an hour and get to the office early so I can make the most of each day. Choose something that raises your energy and sets a positive pace for the rest of your day.
On the job, the real trick is to set goals and write those goals down. I make “to do” lists — the night before, or first thing in the morning — that detail what I’m going to do that day to achieve those goals. That way, when I get to work, I know what meetings, calls, tasks, and other big-picture items I have on my plate, and more importantly, why they are on my plate.
If you diligently keep track of everything you need to accomplish, you’ll make sure the essentials are crossed off.
What do you think are the best resources for young entrepreneurs to utilize?
Your best resources are time, your budget, your skill set, and your network.
Manage your time and your budget wisely. When you have spare time, use it to develop your skills or learn more about what it takes to survive and thrive in your industry. Create a budget in advance and track your revenue and spending, so you identify where you need to put your efforts that support a growing business.
Relationships are also key. Building genuine trust amongst your peers, colleagues, and competitors offer you one-of-a-kind advantages and opportunities that you won’t have access to anywhere else.
How can young entrepreneurs take advantage of the disruption in their industries?
As I mentioned above, I’m a big fan of writing things down: my goals, my tasks, and my ideas.
One benefit of writing down your goals is that you start to recognize opportunities that come your way that can impact the future of your business in a significant way. It also helps you think more open-mindedly about how to adapt and take your ideas in a new direction as you develop your business.
Also, remember not to take “no” for an answer when a hurdle presents itself, either deal with it head-on or look for ways to redirect your energy and work around it.
What are some of the most effective growth strategies that have helped BCB Property Management succeed?
If you want to grow your business, you need to invest in its success. And in any business, an entrepreneur is only as good as the team that supports their work.
When I founded Bach Realty in the 1980s, and I started to make money, I immediately reinvested those funds back into the business. I hired new talent, updated our equipment, and made practical office renovations. This habit of reinvesting capital into my business is one that helped me thrive at Bach Realty and Debrah Lee Charatan Realty and helps me to this day at BCB Property Management.
Be patient and invest for the long-term. I’ve spent many years reinvesting my money and resources into my companies, and it’s afforded me opportunities for growth that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
How did you become so involved with philanthropy?
I believe every entrepreneur ought to invest in their local community, big or small. When I first started Bach Realty, I made a point to encourage female entrepreneurship by supporting the city’s first all-female real estate team because I knew I could make an impact and help better women’s lives. Today, I maintain relationships with professional female business communities and sit on the Women’s Leadership Council of the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund in New York City.
When you align yourself with local communities, you more clearly understand their needs, and it allows you to create a strong foundation of mutual support and professional development. I continue to foster community ties, especially through The Charatan/Holm Family Foundation, which focuses on arts, cultural, medical and other humanitarian causes in the greater New York area and beyond.
Do mentorship opportunities help new entrepreneurs succeed?
Absolutely. Mentorship gives both the mentor and mentee new perspectives and a broader network. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an entrepreneur who inspires you. With consistent effort, a two-way mentoring relationship allows any business leader to expand their network, their industry knowledge, and even their company’s bottom line.
You’ve been particularly influential in supporting women in business. What advice can you give female executives?
Many women still let bias or negative self-talk hinder their progress and confidence. My advice: don’t doubt yourself. If you do doubt yourself, learn how to push those negative thoughts to the back of your mind while you work because those doubts will clutter your vision.
One of my biggest regrets as an entrepreneur was that I didn’t realize my leadership potential at a younger age. It’s essential to get ahead of the game and go for it, developing your knowledge and skills in your younger years.
On another note, remember to support other women! While female leaders are growing in number, it’s still essential to create a space that allows us to succeed in a heavily male-dominated world.
As a veteran entrepreneur, what is one essential piece of advice you’d give to emerging entrepreneurs?
As I’ve said, I believe in setting goals. Make daily, weekly and yearly targets. Even better: write them down. Advise your employees and business partners to do the same and offer any support you can to help them reach those goals. Holding yourself and others accountable for progress is the best way to make dreams a reality.