Anthony Lolli founded his real estate agency, Rapid Realty, in 1998. He opened his first franchise in 2009, and in a few short years, he grew his business to include more than 60 locations nationwide. In 2013, Lolli received three national and international awards for his work, including Entrepreneur of the Year (Golden Bridge Awards), Executive of the Year (International Business Awards) and the New York Future 50 Award (SmartCEO Magazine).
As the Golden Bridge Awards' 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year, Anthony Lolli is in great company. The founder and CEO of Rapid Realty has joined the ranks of past winners like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. For more than 10 years, Lolli's apartment rental brokerage firm operated out of a single Brooklyn-based office. After changing the company's approach and becoming a franchise four years ago, Rapid Realty has opened 64 locations in multiple states and has become known for its transparency and customer service. Lolli shared his journey and secrets to success, including the one mistake that almost cost him his business.
BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Anthony Lolli: I wanted to be an architect. Whenever I travel, or just when I walk into a new building for the first time, I'm always inspired by the architectural style and innovations. It makes my mind start turning with ideas for how I would incorporate similar elements into one of my own buildings.
BND: Can you talk a little bit about Rapid Realty and how you got your start?
A.L.: I started out as a real-estate agent when I was 19. Over the next two years, I worked for a couple of different firms in Brooklyn and eventually got my broker's license. I looked around at what was going on in New York real estate at that time. It was 1998, and everyone wanted to be doing sales, particularly in Manhattan. No one was paying attention to rentals, especially in the outer boroughs. But I could see that renters needed a company they could turn to, and that Brooklyn was on the verge of exploding. That's how Rapid Realty was born. I was a 21-year-old kid with a few agents, a one-room office and a business plan that most brokers at the time would have thought was absolutely insane. And it worked. In 2009, Rapid Realty became the nation's first rental-based real-estate franchise system. Now, we have 64 offices and counting, and we're expanding across the country.
BND: What was your main motivation to start this business?
A.L.: The main reason I wanted to become successful was to provide for my parents. My mother came to the U.S. from Ecuador with $40 to her name. My father taught public school in New York for decades, and when he retired and his pension wasn't enough to support his family, he became a street entertainer to make ends meet. When I was a young boy, I made a promise to my mother that I'd make our family rich one day. I never forgot that promise. Rapid Realty became a way to do that, and then it grew into so much more.
BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?
A.L.: As a street entertainer, my father had a trained parrot. He'd go into restaurants, and people would pay to get their picture taken with the parrot perched on their shoulder or standing on their head. Watching him taught me a lot of important lessons that ended up being tremendously valuable when I got into real estate and started my own company: how to manage money, how to calculate profit and loss, the importance of hard work and the power of a little charm.
BND: What's the best part about owning your own business?
A.L.: You get back what you put into it. With most jobs, if the company grows because of your efforts, it's someone else who benefits. When you put all that effort into your own business and the company grows as a result, the feeling of accomplishment is more rewarding than I can even say, especially when your work creates opportunities for others. It's not just about boosting the bottom line. It's also about giving people the chance to start a new career, and even giving them the chance to become business owners themselves.
BND: What is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?
A.L.: My biggest mistake was trying to hold on to too much control. When I first started planning to expand Rapid Realty beyond its first location, I wanted to open more corporate offices and install our top agents as branch managers. I trained those agents to run an office, and then they all left to start their own competing firms, using the knowledge that I had given them. I'd trained my own competition! That's what led me to franchising. It meant giving up some of that control, but it allowed me to give our top people the chance to open their own offices while still keeping them in the Rapid Realty family.
BND: You recently won three prestigious business awards, including the Golden Bridge Awards' Entrepreneur of the Year. How does it feel to be ranked among entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Weiner?
A.L.: It's incredible. To receive this kind of recognition on the national — and even international stage — is simply amazing. It's a testament to everything we've accomplished over the last few years, and to the power of a new idea. There have been a lot of people along the way who said it wouldn't work, but we did things our way, and here we are. I feel very grateful to everyone who worked so hard to get us here, and I'm very excited about what the future holds.
BND: What is your best piece of advice for other entrepreneurs?
A.L.: One of the trickiest things about being an entrepreneur is that the buck stops with you. When a decision has to be made, no one's going to make it for you. You have to learn to trust your gut. Whether it's making a change in personnel or committing to a particular strategy, when it's time to make a move, you'll know it, and there's nothing to be gained by rationalizing it away.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.