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Meet Joseph Lee of Elifant Group in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joseph Lee.

Joseph, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I didn’t always think to be a real estate broker. My mother enjoyed investing in real estate and was quite successful. However, my passion was in ceramics and teaching it, so out of college (where I studied Real Estate Finance) I went to go teach ceramics at the local high school. It wasn’t until I got married and we started to talk about having a child, did I think about leaving my dream job; teaching just wasn’t going to cut it…financially.

I started to work for a boutique firm in Old Pasadena for a couple of years and went corporate for a year. Ultimately, I started my own brokerage, The Elifant Group. People would pronounce it with a French accent and wondered about the name of the company and it’s peculiar spelling. But should you ask, it’s no big secret: My daughter’s name is Ellie and she was an infant. Ellie + Infant = Elifant.

Now, starting off was a challenge. When I taught, I would end nearly everyday feeling full; feeling like I made the world a better place than it was the day before…even if I didn’t. Real estate was different as you can imagine. I needed to find the value of what I was doing. It took me time to realize that in my new position, I was in the capacity to really make lives change. I was helping to negotiate leases and purchasing buildings for people in which they would do their business: The business would allow them to provide for their families; The business might be an opportunity for them to fulfill their dreams.

I feel that success is found through servitude and if I can provide a sound education in Real Estate, my clients will have all the information to make a smart and informative decision for their business and ultimately for themselves and their families.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
If there is one thing that I find a struggle, it is the inconsistency of a paycheck. Working a daily 9-5 certainly lends itself to a lifestyle in which I can get paid regularly, but it’s not conducive to the lifestyle that I want to live today.

Being able to decide when I need to spend time on my business or being able to enjoy the milestones of fatherhood is an intangible that I just can’t place a dollar value on. I’m starting to appreciate the trade-off.

In my interaction with my clients, I found that the appearance of age seemed to equate to intelligence and capability. I look young. When I taught, my parents would walk in my room [for Back to School Night and Open House] asking to see Mr. Lee. As a real estate professional, I had a client explain to me that I was too young and wouldn’t understand the challenges he had overcome from the experiences he had in business. I had a hard to time telling him that I was older than him, when we shared that we graduated from the same college. From that moment on, I was comfortable not working with people who judged me simply by the lack of grey hair and wrinkles…although I’m getting ’em.

Elifant Group – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
A friend told me, “once a teacher, always a teacher.” I’ve embraced that with my practice in advising/consulting in real estate. I get that not everybody is a savvy investor or has a strong understanding of real estate so we’ll have conversations regarding the intangibles of owning real estate like location based on you vs location based on your employees or clients, growth outlooks and what that means for a business owner, etc. Of course, we go over the financial components of the transaction as well. I think, as a business owner, you have plenty on your plate and other things to focus on rather than a real estate transaction. Delegate that duty to me; Let me go on that ride with you as you navigate through a lease or sales transaction, I promise to make it less bumpy.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Starting my own brokerage was a turning point for me. For the first time in my career, I had ultimate control of what I was doing and how I was going to do it – and that can be an exciting and scary thing. Being exposed to and meeting so many principals, I realized that I would have to wear many hats, but actually having to do it is a different story – after all, what were the hats that I would have to wear…and when? Knowing what to do and becoming a leader for my team is tough when there are no instructions to success, but taking that first step away from working for somebody else; filing for my own business entity and getting my business permit…well that’s the proudest moment of my career so far.

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Image Credit:
Sam Lim Photography

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