Gary L. Malin – President, Citi Habitats

Gary L. Malin, president of Citi Habitats, is the principal figure in the day-to-day operations, strategic planning, and overall vision for one of New York City’s largest and most successful real estate brokerage firms. Gary shapes the company’s brand through his hands-on involvement with marketing and public relations initiatives, builds and maintains alliances with key real estate entities and professionals, and directs Citi Habitats’ affiliates.

In addition, Gary built the company’s corporate relocation division, Citi Relocation, from the ground up. He also oversees Citi Habitats’ new development marketing division, Citi Habitats Marketing Group. In all of these functions, his primary objective is to ensure that Citi Habitats remains, as it has throughout its existence, the industry leader in forward-thinking, customer service-centered real estate firms.

1. How do you define success?
While “success” can be defined many ways, I define it as working in an environment where the culture and values match your own. It’s important to enjoy going to work every day. Being regularly challenged in your career is important, too; it helps get the best out of you. People tend to judge success based upon financial growth. While having enough money to live a comfortable life is important, the key is not to make the number on your paycheck the only measure of success.

2. What is the key to success?
Hard work always plays a role in success. It’s also important to act honestly and with integrity—always. The value of your word is very important, and once it’s lost, it’s very hard to get back.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
I’m my harshest critic, but I’ve always had confidence in myself. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will, either.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
When I am faced with adversity, I remind myself that it’s not the adversity that defines me, but the resolution of this adversity that matters in the end. In addition, many times something good comes out of a challenge. We need to get shaken up once in a while to help us grow and become better people. I look at change not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that change is inevitable. Although you may not understand the rationale behind the change, as soon as you embrace it, the sooner you can excel. You have to anticipate change and prepare how to react. Remember, having great vision is one thing, but delivering on that vision is what matters.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I spend most of my free time with my family. I have two very active kids! I also like to hit the golf course with my friends. I find it to be a great way to relax and decompress.

7. What makes a great leader?
A great leader is open to suggestions and fosters an atmosphere where every team member’s contributions are valued. On that note, it’s important to take steps to make the work environment a fun one. In addition to simply making the office a more pleasant place to spend time, it instills a sense of loyalty and teamwork among employees. A good leader also has faith in his or her team and gives them the tools to excel, but also allow them to make mistakes—it’s a part of the learning process. He or she also needs to be proactive and always focused on the future. It’s important for a leader to challenge their current business model, and to be on the lookout for new opportunities for growth.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
My advice would be to choose a profession that you are passionate about. When starting your first job, remember that there is no substitute for hard work. Do what it takes to prove your value to the firm. Don’t pigeonhole yourself, and learn about other people’s roles at the company. You may discover that you’re interested in pursuing a position you never knew existed. Find a mentor, and ask him/her a lot of questions. Be a sponge and absorb all the knowledge you can. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from your mistake, brush yourself off, and keep moving.

This interview is an excerpt from Success: 30 Interviews with Entrepreneurs & Executives by Jason Navallo.