Robert Rivani of Black Lion: Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Real Estate Industry
An Interview With Jason Hartman
Spend the money on good legal counsel. There are so many title matters that can come up, and a lot of people blindly sign large, 30 page documents without fully understanding what they’re agreeing to. Spend the money to get advice and make sure you’re making smart decisions.
As a part of my series about the ‘Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Real Estate Industry’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Rivani.
Robert Rivani, President, Black Lion Investment Group, is an American entrepreneur, retail entertainment innovator and real estate visionary. Rivani sees the overlap of retail, entertainment and dining as a new frontier in real estate. Inspired by Miami’s high energy lifestyle, Black Lion presently specializes in entertainment-focused endeavors for South Florida’s ever-expanding social scene.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
I was first exposed to real estate at a very young age, and quickly fell in love with it. Prior to entering the commercial real estate world, as a teenager, I had made more than $150,000 through my business buying and reselling sneakers. I loved the Jordan shoe game, but was looking to find my next passion and entrepreneurial project, and real estate ended up being that.
This was during the 2008 market crash, and a lot of properties were going into foreclosure and people had a tough time getting rid of their assets. Properties that were once worth $2 million or $3 million were now $600,000. I saw this as a unique opportunity to buy, flip and re-sell inexpensive buildings and areas in need of development. I started in Georgia, and then expanded to Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas.
Over time, I perfected my business model and became increasingly interested in finding vacant or abandoned sites and transforming them into thriving retail and entertainment destinations. Throughout each process, I always made it a goal to create ways to benefit the community around the sites.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away what you took out of that story?
Recently, I purchased a super exciting property in Miami which is probably one of the only freestanding waterfront properties in that market. It is literally 15 feet from the water and it has a super famous James Beard award-winning chef. It was just something that’s a one-of-a-kind trophy property. I know the long-term value is only going to grow. It’s a staple in the community.
Investing in this inspired me to establish Black Lion’s brand as these experiential properties, so that you associate Black Lion’s properties as incredible places to stay, dine and enjoy.
Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered.” In other words, people who are hard working will see success, while those who are greedy, or try to gain something from nothing, will ultimately fail.
In commercial real estate, a lot of people try to be greedy and get every single nickel and dime out of a property, which can lead to mistakes. Additionally, both sides are typically not going to be happy with this kind of deal, which will lead to problems. I’m a big believer in leaving some “meat on the bone” for the next guy, and continuing to have your money work and grow for you.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
There are a ton of new projects that Black Lion is working on. One of the biggest ones is ITC Crossing in New Jersey. We’re working on a $5 million remodel, bringing in new tenants. It’s an exciting emerging market with a lot of population growth and new residents.
I also plan on investing another $100 million into South Florida in the next year, as companies and individuals alike continue to relocate to the area from across the country, particularly the New York and California markets. We’re working on several new food and beverage concepts in South Florida in the Brickell, Miami Beach and Wynwood neighborhoods.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I’m not your typical developer and owner, and never wanted to be. At Black Lion, we strive to operate outside of the cookie-cutter industry norm, looking for unique properties and deals. We have strong ambitions as a company, and are not afraid to take risks in this burgeoning new climate for entertainment and lifestyle real estate. As we begin to expand our portfolio, we are going to change the way it’s done. I don’t follow trends. I aim to shake it up and find properties that are a reflection of my personality and who I am.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My wife is my rock. A lot of people don’t realize how grueling the industry is, and with working 12-hour days, having a support system helps you balance your career and appreciate life so much more.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry? If you can please share a story or example.
I see the overlap of retail, entertainment and dining as a new frontier in real estate.
Inspired by Miami’s high energy lifestyle, I’m presently excited by entertainment-focused endeavors and South Florida’s ever-expanding social scene.
Through Black Lion, I recently acquired the restaurant Amara at Paraiso, as well as a high profile restaurant at the Marea in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood, and a restaurant location at the SLS LUX tower with a soon to be announced restaurateur and concept.
Furthermore, I recently acquired Wynwood Jungle, a retail plaza located in the heart of Wynwood, Miami’s famed creative hub.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples if possible.
First, I would transform the permitting process. It is the most antiquated system that we have. It takes too long which slows down the opening process for businesses, especially high rises and restaurants.
The way we buy properties takes way too much time and is too heavily regulated. It can take up to 90 days sometimes to get a loan. The banking system, and the way funds are distributed, definitely needs to change.
Rising interest rates could also negatively affect the development of properties. When the cost of borrowing is more expensive, it can potentially impact rental rates as well as lead to higher cap rates, so it causes the whole investment market to shift.
What advice would you give to other real estate leaders to help their teams to thrive and to create a really fantastic work culture?
The most important advice I can give is to not buy into the “hype.” You’ll see a lot of people post on social media about crazy deals and transactions that can make you feel discouraged, but those posts don’t always portray the whole truth of a situation.
If you’re just getting started in the industry, take time to educate yourself. Start reading about commercial real estate whenever you can.
Mentorship is also a useful tool. Finding an internship or person in the industry to shadow for two or three months is a great way to gain hands-on experience and true industry knowledge.
If you’re already in the industry and you’re looking to take on larger deals, look into the success stories of others that have grown their businesses, and find business mentors who are in the positions you aspire to. Take classes and attend conferences and don’t be afraid to spend money on your own knowledge and intelligence, because that will pay tenfold in the future.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
1. Environmental studies. These are crucial when purchasing commercial real estate, as they limit your liability for any contamination caused by the building’s previous owner. Completing an environmental study can save you from headaches and huge expenses down the line, should an environmental issue arise.
2. How parking affects businesses. Safe and convenient parking can boost revenue, especially for entertainment and dining destinations. If parking is a headache, guests are less likely to frequent the business.
3. Understand noise ordinances. If you’re investing in a restaurant or nightlife venue, noise ordinances are going to play a major role in hours of operation, the space’s music and vibe, and other key business factors. Before investing, understand the type of community you’re going into and make sure it’s the right fit.
4. If you’re a landlord for a restaurant, encourage implementing takeout and create opportunities to simplify takeout, like short-term parking options. This can create a huge revenue increase for the restaurant, and in turn for you.
5. Spend the money on good legal counsel. There are so many title matters that can come up, and a lot of people blindly sign large, 30 page documents without fully understanding what they’re agreeing to. Spend the money to get advice and make sure you’re making smart decisions.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Be yourself and don’t worry about what people think. That’s the most important thing for me and how I’ve defined my entire career.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can learn more about Black Lion’s current projects and endeavors on social media: https://www.instagram.com/robert_rivani.
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.
About The Author: Jason Hartman is the Founder and CEO of JasonHartman.com, The Hartman Media Company and The Jason Hartman Foundation. Jason has been involved in several thousand real estate transactions and has owned income properties in 11 states and 17 cities. His company helps people achieve The American Dream of financial freedom by purchasing income property in prudent markets nationwide. Jason’s Complete Solution for Real Estate Investors™ is a comprehensive system providing real estate investors with education, research, resources and technology to deal with all areas of their income property investment needs. Through Jason’s podcasts, educational events, referrals, mentoring and software to track your investments, investors can easily locate, finance and purchase properties in these exceptional markets with confidence and peace of mind. Jason educates and assists investors in acquiring prudent investments nationwide for their portfolio. Jason’s highly sought after educational events, speaking engagements, and his ultra-hot “Creating Wealth Podcast” inspire and empower hundreds of thousands of people in 189 countries worldwide.