To Be Successful, Never Take Anything For Granted and Keep Learning
Aleksandra Scepanovic is Managing Director of Ideal Properties Group, one of the largest privately-owned, independent real estate firms specializing in premier Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods.
The firm was launched in 2007 by Scepanovic and her partner Erik Serras, who identified a need to build a technologically innovative infrastructure for sales and rentals in key Brooklyn neighborhoods
I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Scepanovic recently. Here are the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Aleksandra Scepanovic: I was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia, a country that was not only a part of a larger country (Yugoslavia), but also at that time one of the most wonderful places in the world to grow up in. Yugoslavia was officially a socialist country (read: communist with its own particular twist); however, it was not part of the Eastern Bloc. We, to the large extent, lived how Western Europe lived, without most of the negatives experienced in the Soviet Bloc (such as the freedom to travel… or truly speak one’s mind without consequences to lifestyle or life in general).
My childhood was amazing. Like many other Europeans, we had incredible work opportunities and cherished family times…and vacations. We traveled extensively and vacationed at least two weeks on the Adriatic coast in the summertime and went skiing for an additional two weeks in the wintertime. I had a very happy childhood, at least until age nine, which provided a glimpse into what I’d want my future adult life to look like. Seeing my parents, relatives and friends create such a remarkable life for us was a good garden for me to plant seeds of an “ideal” environment for my future.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Scepanovic: I worked in Bosnia as a reporter during the wartime, and it was during this time that I was exposed to the workings of not just an actual economy – granted an ineffective government-led economy – but also a parallel black-market economy. Through observing that dichotomy at work, first hand, I learned that opportunities are what people make of them. That realization helped form some of my business tenacity and contributed to me losing even a semblance of any fear of starting and running a business.
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Scepanovic: My math teacher in grade school was incredibly strict. For someone who had a very “happy-go-lucky” growing up circumstance, this teacher adding a tremendous level of structure was incredibly helpful. I found her style outrageous yet interestingly impactful on my ways. I learned that not everything in the life ahead will be fun and play. Sometimes, you just have to hunker down and do your homework. Ugh. I know. This has still stuck with me and turned me, many years later, into a co-leader of a real estate firm in New York City, doing lots and lots of homework (pun intended).
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Scepanovic: To this day, I remember the words of my grandfather, a serial polyglot: “You’ll never understand another person if you can’t speak their language. Learn the language.” I’m always trying to do my best to understand the other side’s point of view and I find this invaluable in business and life.
Griffin: Please give me the top three bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo:
- Put the interests of others ahead of your own, and look for a way to align with an adversary for a positive impact.
- Create a team you believe in and subsequently, believe in your team and invest in them. People are and will always be your greatest asset.
- Be transparent and honest in all matters of life and business. Others will appreciate it if you are open and that openness will help you create a much more collaborative team.
Griffin: Describe a painful setback in your life and what it taught you.
Scepanovic: My father died when I was nine. My whole life crumbled after his death and it had to be rebuilt from scratch by many adults around me, which was extremely painful on so many different levels. This early tragedy taught me that you should never take anything for granted and that you must always work towards increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Scepanovic: Young, talented and ambitious women need to realize their own potential and be forever unstoppable. Believe that you can conquer the world and not take any No’s. If you believe in it, with passion, perseverance and the complete belief in yourself, you will get there. Also, of course, along the way, invest in learning more and ask for help from those deserving of your praise.