The REFM Story
Hello and welcome to the REFM site! I’m Bruce Kirsch, the company founder. Below I describe why I started REFM in 2009.
One month before enrolling in the MBA program at Wharton, I came to a stark realization: I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life professionally. This was a problem. So I sat in my shoebox studio apartment in Philadelphia and started making lists of all of the things that I would be qualified to do two years from then.
Growing up I wanted to be the next Steven Spielberg, so I studied Communication as an undergraduate and loved it. I worked in Hollywood for a short stint and eventually decided it was not for me, and then worked in the mutual fund business for several years. While I enjoyed the securities markets, I knew that I didn’t want to do something as intangible as stock picking and portfolio management for my whole career.
Partly through a process of elimination and partly through luck, I eventually landed on real estate – which, like many of us, I had always been aware of as a business, but had never really looked at closely. I remembered back to long family car rides when I was a child, staring out the back seat window at buildings, wondering about how they got built and how one decided what they were worth. Now in my apartment, the more I peeled back the layers of the onion of the real estate business, the more I became intrigued. Before I knew it, I was hooked.
It’s fair to say that my MBA at Wharton entailed me spending a lot of “quality time” in Microsoft Excel. I was initially petrified at the thought of performing even basic real estate financial analyses in Excel, because I was literally starting from zero as far as real estate went – I hadn’t grown up in a real estate family and didn’t own any real estate personally. Fast forward two years, a lot of fluorescent yellow highlighting and many spreadsheet-filled all-nighters later, I triumphantly graduated with a major in Real Estate and went to work in real estate development in Washington, DC. I was full of enthusiasm and armed with some of the best training in the world, but in hindsight I was still insufficiently prepared for the level at which I needed to be able to perform in Excel (isn’t it amazing that no matter whom you ask in an interview setting, whether they believe it or not, everyone says they’re “great” with Excel?)
Over the next several years working in real estate I learned everything I could about Excel – almost always the long and hard way – but I finally got to a place where I had achieved a real mastery of how to best leverage the software’s power for commercial real estate transaction and partnership modeling – so that Microsoft’s brainchild was finally working for me and not the reverse. By having Excel do the heavy lifting, I could focus more on the results of the numbers and what those results told me.
Proud as I was of my hard-won skills, whenever I reflected back I always thought that it probably didn’t have to be so hard – that it didn’t need to take so many hours and mistakes for me or anyone else to achieve this level of mastery and the clarity it yielded. More and more, I found myself working with friends and colleagues as a sort of unofficial tutor, enjoying empowering them with knowledge and hard skills and helping them avoid the pitfalls to which I had previously been victim – saving them from frustration, lost time and lost money as well. Like many a naïve entrepreneur, I kept thinking to myself: “how hard could it possibly be to start and run a successful business that would fill this need?” (pretty hard, it turns out – no “Four Hour Work Weeks” here!)
My desire to equip real estate professionals with the best training and tools to help save them time and from frustration, prevent unnecessary mistakes and potential losses, and give them clarity in their analyses was all the excuse I needed to launch REFM in 2009. Today REFM’s training, services and products are leveraged by individuals and by companies small and large across North America and around the world, including some of the most well-known names in the real estate business.
The full range of REFM’s offerings – training and consulting, an ever-evolving set of software tools for analysis of all types, strategic alliances with some of the best partners in the business – exists as an unparalleled resource and invaluable ally in our pursuit of creating and reaping real estate value.
Put REFM to work for you today — as are many satisfied customers, you’ll be glad you did.
Bruce Kirsch, Founder