A Conversation With Anthony Kolich About Integrity, Honesty, and the Importance of Balancing Professional Endeavors With Personal Life

Image Commercially Licensed from: Depositphotos
Image Commercially Licensed from: Depositphotos

Originally from Stamford, Connecticut, Anthony Kolich is a successful real estate developer and the co-founder of Empire Residential. Born into a family of real estate developers, Anthony grew up learning the trade, helping his grandfather with apartment management and participating in talks about tenancy and construction. He worked with his father in construction out of high school while attending college, but quickly understood that his passion for real estate could not be ignored.

Anthony solidified his reputation in the industry in 2000 with the establishment of Kolich Holdings, a property management/construction firm. His knowledge and skill led to rapid success, as he quickly expanded into commercial real estate, all the while successfully weathering the 2008 financial crisis. The company now owns and oversees over a thousand apartment units in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Still residing in Stamford, Anthony Kolich now concentrates his wisdom and experience on managing Empire Residential, the real estate development company that he co-founded with his partner, James Heffernan.

Why did you decide to go into real estate development?

I’m a third generation real estate developer, so the dinner table talk that I grew up with had a lot to do with it. I grew up discussing buildings, construction, tenancy, and management, so this field comes naturally to me. I would almost say that real estate development is in my DNA.

What trends in your industry excite you?

I think it’s the repositioning of assets. Converting office buildings to apartments, hotels to apartments, and other outside-the-box real estate plays. We’re in a market that requires this sort of creative thinking, right now. I look at an asset, and where others might just see a 70% vacant office building, I see a building that I can reposition into a great apartment community.

What would you tell others looking to get into your industry?

First, if you’re trying to get into the real estate industry, start off with a well-established firm so you can learn the business from good and knowledgeable people. But the most important advice I can give is to always have high morals; always take the moral high ground. Reputation is an incredibly important factor in this business, and keeping your name clean speaks volumes. Unfortunately, a lot of people cut corners, and the buyers and brokers can see that. Don’t cut corners, always pay your vendors, and maintain good financial relationships. That’s my advice.

What is one thing you would change in your industry today if you could? 

I’ve found that the state of New York is very politically unfavorable toward landlords. We’re looked at in a bad light there, because a few rotten apples have ruined it for everyone. Most landlords are good people and treat their tenants well, and the perception otherwise is something I would definitely change if I could.

How has real estate development changed over the last decade?

A lot of laws have been implemented over the last decade that have been pretty unfavorable toward landlords, and that has had a big impact on how we develop our business. It’s had a significant impact on where we invest, for example. Our company is focusing a lot more on Connecticut now, because the laws in New York have become so much less favorable.

If you could change one thing you did in the beginning of your career, what would it be?

In hindsight, I think I could have and should have kept a closer eye on the market in the beginning. I missed some buying opportunities back then that I think, had I been watching market trends more closely, I could have capitalized on.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My grandfather was my biggest role model. He came from very humble beginnings and worked very hard to build a business. And he ran his business with integrity. He was an amazing role model.

How do you maintain a work life balance? 

As a divorced father, I’m very conscious of that balance. Spending time with my children is very important to me, and I’m very careful not to waste that time or allocate it elsewhere. I’m happy that I’ve been able to stay very involved with their lives. Often, I listen to people talk about how their kids are in their 20s now, and how they wish they’d spent more time with them, and how they didn’t spend that time because they were busy working. I aim to learn from those mistakes without repeating them. I coach my son’s sports teams, and I never miss a dance recital or a soccer game for my daughter. At 10 and 11 years old, they’re also learning the business. They’re in the buildings, they’re listening to conversations that I have with my brother who’s also in the business, and they’re asking questions. I’m doing the best I can for them, and hoping for the best.

Explain the proudest day of your professional life.

One major highlight for me was purchasing a 154 room hotel and converting it into 70 apartments with such amenities, a leasing office, a pool, gym and dog park.  That was a significant project for us, with a great outcome.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

“Stay humble, stay grounded.” It’s simple advice, but I think it’s a mindset that has really helped to keep me on the right track through my career.

What does success look like for you?

I believe that success shouldn’t only be measured monetarily. Instead, it’s about maintaining a good balance between your professional life and your personal life. It’s about having a strong family and being surrounded by people that love you, while also being successful in business. The important thing is to have both—if your life is lopsided, where you’ve succeeded at one thing while neglecting the other, I don’t think that’s genuine success.

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