Shark Tank… The Apprentice… Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing… these shows all have one thing in common—they each feature real estate professionals. We talk to these reality stars about how they manage their businesses in the midst of cameras and fans.
It’s not unusual for Madison Hildebrand, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Previews International in Malibu, Calif., to have strangers run up and embrace him. “People actually think they know me, so they run up to give me a hug, then they’ll realize that they don’t actually know me. We have this intimate exchange that gets awkward real fast,” he laughs. Hildebrand, who stars on Bravo TV’s Million Dollar Listing, knows that’s the price of being on a reality show. For four seasons, Million Dollar Listing has followed three young, successful real estate professionals (Hildebrand, Josh Altman of Hilton & Hyland Beverly Hills Real Estate and Josh Flagg of Keller Williams Beverly Hills) through the rigors of high-end negotiations, giving an insider view into the real estate world. (At press time, the cast for season five had not been announced.)
Today, reality shows are a fun diversion for watchers and a business booster for those who star on the shows. LORE spoke with four real estate professionals who have become household names as much for their business savvy off the camera as on. Make no mistake; these are serious business people, not entertainers. Here’s what they had to say about how they’re portrayed, how they’ve retooled their businesses and what they love about being in the spotlight.
The truth is, if you don’t play your cards right, reality television shows can make or break the image and the businesses of those featured. Luckily for the four real estate professionals we interviewed, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. The trick, they concur, is that you have to be yourself on the shows. Gimmicks and acts may interest your audience for a short time, but authenticity ensures that your television success transfers to business success.
And that was something that definitely went through Katrina Campins’ head in 2004 when she was a contestant on NBC’s The Apprentice. Now a Realtor® and founder of The Campins Company in South Florida, which caters to athletes and celebrities, Campins says, “I was very authentic on The Apprentice and thankfully it came across well, allowing me to really take my business to the next level.” Campins also starred in a short-lived Bravo reality show called Miami Socialbar that followed a group of young professionals out on the town.
Josh Altman agrees that how you look on camera really highlights your strengths and weaknesses. “Due to editing, you never know how you’ll be portrayed and this is my business so it’s a double whammy if it’s bad,” says Altman, which is why he heavily weighed the pros and cons of being on the show. “I’m happy with the way they portrayed me last year, not everyone will love you, they just need a reason to do business with you.”
For Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group, which she sold in 2001 for a reported $70 million, reputation wasn’t a concern when she was tapped to star in ABC’s Shark Tank, where the “sharks” (all successful businesspeople) listen to pitches from entrepreneurs and choose whether or not to invest in their project or service. After all, she had already built and sold a hugely successful New York City brokerage, and she had stepped away from the real estate business to work on other projects. “I was ready for that next thing and felt I would be perfect on Shark Tank,” she says. In fact, it was her experience in real estate that helped her land the show. “I was days away from leaving for Hollywood when they called to tell me they had decided to hire another girl for my spot. I’m competitive and immediately e-mailed producer Mark Burnett to tell him to give me a chance to go head to head with this other girl. They agreed. By the end of the first day, the other girls’ trailer had the star removed,” Corcoran says. “From my real estate career, I was great at rejection and even better at bouncing back up.”
Adapting to Popularity
While each of these professionals had a level of success before the shows, being on television meant they quickly had to rework their business plans to handle a whole other level of business.
“I’ve had to hire an attorney to work with confidentiality agreements,” says Hildebrand. “I now have an office manager and an entertainment office manager as there are always opportunities for me to explore other business ventures. I would have been successful without the show, but the show has brought a whole other element to my business,” he says.
Altman finds that he’s found a gradual build of business with the show. “I’m more known as a Realtor now and that’s a good thing. People recognize my name more, but I’ve had to become an expert at figuring out what’s real and what’s not. I get a lot of calls and had to get better at screening them.” But, says Altman, it’s business as usual. “I never turn down a lease, even if the commission isn’t that great. You never know what that will turn into,” he says. “And, my clients are really into the show. Some even ask at listing presentations if they can be part of the show.”
For Corcoran, “My actual experience has given me more exposure as an angel investor,” she says. “I get about 60 to 100 business pitches a week,” she says. She also gets thousands of referrals from people who don’t realize that she sold her real estate brokerage 11 years ago. “Because I’m a real estate contributor for The Today Show, people think I’m showing houses. I actually hand off the referrals. The only role I have now is as a spokesperson for the real estate industry and Shark Tank has only helped me [get my voice heard.]” And, she says, because of her real estate experience, she’s able to size up people quickly, a boon to her on Shark Tank. “I was able to size up sales associates and was an expert at hiring. I’m doing the same with Shark Tank,” she says.
Perhaps most impacted by being on a show is Campins, who was only 23 years old when The Apprentice aired. “I went to University of Miami and graduated with a Bachelor’s in International Finance,” says Campins. “I tutored several of the football players who went on to get drafted by the NFL.” Because of this, Campins already had a relationship with potential clients. What she didn’t have was a clear branding package. “What the show did for me is help me figure out how to brand my business,” she says. “We’ve reached a point now where we deal in all markets nationwide and we do a lot of business in New York, Los Angeles, Texas and Seattle. We have a network of agents across the country that we call The Campins Clique,” she says.
For Hildebrand, Altman, Corcoran and Campins, the reality experience has been overwhelmingly positive. From the free marketing to the business exposure, they all agree that being on camera is worth the long hours and invasion of privacy. “A lot of Donald Trump’s friends have reached out to me to handle their properties and I sit on Trump’s Kids Foundation’s board,” says Campins. “TV gives you credibility,” says Hildebrand. “I’m devoted to my brand and maintain a certain level of professionalism despite the drama of TV,” he adds.
So, you think you want to get on a reality show? Here are some tips:
1. Choose wisely. All four of those interviewed chose shows that highlighted their business and professional acumen, not their personal lives. If you’re serious about your business, think carefully about which shows you want to consider. HGTV has several real estate–related shows. To submit, go to: http://www.hgtv.com/be-on-hgtv/package/index.html
2. Work it with your audition tape or interview. Shows are looking for personalities. Make yourself memorable with an audition tape that cranks up your already outgoing personality. If you’re shy or reserved, you’ll get passed over quickly.
3. You, only better. Show your true self, amped up a few notches. Many producers aren’t looking for characters; they want real people who have an edge.
Read more of these inspiring stories at LORE magazine.
Do you know a real estate professional who deserves to be recognized for his or her contributions to the community? LORE magazine is looking for sales associates and brokers to interview about their humanitarian efforts and community service. If you know someone who should be featured, email Editor Tracey Velt and firstname.lastname@example.org.