Lew Geffen’s Tricks of the Trade

Lew Geffen’s Tricks of the Trade


When you’re in business for 40 years you learn a trick or two. When you’re Lew Geffen, founder of one of the country’s biggest real estate agencies, you’ve got a whole arsenal of tricks that turns man into property industry machine.

He shares four of his biggest learnings that you can apply, starting today.

Lesson 1: The first appointment of the day

My very first appointment of the day is always with me, no compromise. I do some kind of exercise and I find that it gives me more energy for the day.

I tend to go into the office at 10am and work until 4pm; it’s tight but this time is highly focused and productive. It’s an advantage that I can make decisions quickly.

Lesson 2: Managing the day

Timing is very important. If an appointment is at 10 for an hour, it’s at 10 for an hour. And when it comes to meetings, I chair and take minutes myself to keep things on track.

I trash a lot of emails early on in the day, sort out the important stuff that has to be done daily, and then only look again last thing.

When I’m travelling between Cape Town and Joburg, I’m on the 7am out and 6pm back flight and that’s when I watch a movie. It’s my down time. I never work on the plane and I don’t like to stress myself because stress is unproductive.

Lesson 3: CEO responsibilities


I’ve got a good nose for picking brilliant people who take responsibility and who I can delegate to. It frees me to think laterally and do the marketing which is my forté.

It’s hard in the beginning when you can’t afford the best, but I’m now in a position where I’ve got great teams in every division. Develop a sense for the x-factor and even though you won’t always make the right hire, you’ll be right 75% of the time.

Lesson 4: Managing teams

I’ve worked my way to the top through every level of the business. It was a good learning curve because now I can mentor and train my people well.

It’s very important to treat people with respect and to be humble in the sense that I want people to be happy in the workplace. I’m fussy and want things done properly, but if you treat people with attention and respect, you get the best. If a person isn’t fit for the job they won’t last long.

The best lesson I ever learnt was from my daughter who was eight years old at the time. I received reports showing that agents were using too much paper and it was expensive.

HR suggested we charge agents per ream, which we did. Six or seven agents left at the same time. I was complaining to my wife about this while we were on holiday.

My daughter blurted out, “Dad, it’s your own fault! I’m sick of hearing about this.” I realised that the people working for me are my clients and I changed my attitude.

Besides setting up an infrastructure that people don’t want to leave, we have to weigh up figures and costs against people’s performance.

If they’re working and delivering on their targets, don’t nitpick. Leave them to their own devices and when they come to you for help, help them.

Yes, monitor the statistics and advise them if they’re low on stock and then work on that aspect — monitor from a macro point of view.

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Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.