Success Strategies

4 Success Lessons From a Powerful Boston Developer

The St. Regis San Francisco Hotel - Yerba Buena Outdoor Terrace Event Space
Guest Writer
Author and Entrepreneur
4 min read
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Richard Friedman has an impressive history of turning real estate into gold by pioneering projects including hotels, shopping centers, office buildings and housing. Some of his more notable real estate expeditions included the conversion of Boston’s historic Charles Street Jail into a luxury hotel, the construction of the 42-story St. Regis Hotel and Residences in San Francisco, and development of Charles Square, an 800,000-square-foot project that included the iconic Charles Hotel near Harvard University.

Friedman is a self-made success story. As a young man he had no problem working hard to earn a few bucks. Some of his jobs included shoveling snow, working at the post office during the holidays, bag boy at a local supermarket, mowing lawns and collecting rents for his dad’s two-person real estate office.

Related: The Crazy, True-Life Adventures of Norway's Most Radical Billionaire

I recently sat down with the dynamic, humble and ultra-successful businessman, and discovered his four lessons to success.

1. Make the call

One could argue that success is in Friedman’s DNA. He’s a hard worker, so undoubtedly, he’d have ended up building an empire in whatever line of work he ended up in. His career resulted in a lifetime of developing hotels and real estate, all because of a simple phone call he made more than 40 years ago.

Friedman was hired by Jordan Marsh to sell a warehouse that they had used for storing fur coats, so he did what any great real estate agent would do: he worked the phones to find a buyer. One of the calls he made was to Hyatt Hotels in Chicago, and a man by the name of Donald Pritzker. Not only did the warehouse get acquired, but a local investor, Hyatt and Prudential developed it with Friedman’s coordinating leadership.

The Pritzker family was developing the Hyatt brand and soon Friedman found himself traveling the country finding other hotel opportunities for the Pritzker family. One phone call, a “cold call” if you will, resulted in a lifetime family friendship and parallel empires in the real estate and hotel world.

2. Empires are built with passion

Friedman tried many jobs prior to landing at his dad’s real estate office after college. One such job was as a door-to-door knife salesman. He says that the job lasted five days because he couldn’t sell something that he was not passionate about, adding that passion is what drives you to get up early, stay up late and to make those hard cold calls.

Related: Biz Stone to Aspiring Entrepreneurs: If You're Not Emotionally Invested, Don't Do It

You must love what you do to the core, or you’ll never have what it takes to build something awesome. Richard is not passionate about just any project, but when he’s passionate, he can turn it into gold.

3. It’s OK to argue

Friedman loves to debate with his friends, family, employees and business partners. He says that he learns best from the Socratic Method because it forces everyone within the conversation to answer hard questions and to learn from one another’s perspective.

He admits that sometimes the arguments get heated if only because all involved are passionate about their position. When the arguments are over, it’s back to business as usual and egos are left unbruised. The best part about a great argument, Friedman says, is that it stretches your thinking.

4. Embrace talent

Friedman says that his number-one key to success is his ability to embrace talent. He surrounds himself with people who are extremely talented and then he’s loyal to them for life.

For someone as ultra-successful as Friedman, he is down to earth, humble, and transparent about what it has taken to achieve big goals. Arguably one of the most powerful men in Boston, Friedman has built a massive real estate and hotel empire the old fashion way, through hard work and strong networks. He is success unseasoned.

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