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 Bill Gates’ 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 library of templates 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 working smarter – not harder and longer – in Excel.
Bruce, this is a great story. It’s pretty incredible what you’ve created in a few short years, REFM is a one-stop shop for students and young professionals who want to get into real estate finance or further their career. You’re an example of a true real estate entrepreneur; when you see an inefficiency you create a product to fill the void, when you have an innovation, you run with it.
I look forward to one day exploring everything you have to offer. Here’s to a great 2012.
Thanks Joe! I am a lucky guy to have great customers who tell me what they want.
I concur with Joe’s comments below except I need to replace “young professional” with “old professional” and “student” with “reinventing career” 🙂
Best wishes! Look forward to exploring what you have to offer!