Alison Bernstein is the President and Founder of The Suburban Jungle, a real estate advisory and tech platform focused on buyers leaving the city for the suburbs. Recognizing how different neighboring towns can be from one another and how little families learn about a community during the home search, Alison launched Suburban Jungle, helping buyers navigate suburbia, and understand the ins and outs of towns before making their decision. She had personally experienced these challenges while undertaking her own suburban search and strived to bring that unique expertise to Suburban Jungle families.
Prior to this launch, Alison worked in the industry for more than 15 years, including senior-level roles in sales, leasing, investment banking, and corporate strategy work spanning three of the nation’s leading real estate organizations. She has revolutionized the real estate industry by creating this new advisory pre-search component to the home buying process. When she’s not helping families in their suburban explorations, Alison enjoys traveling, skiing and tennis as well as spending time at home with her husband and four young children… and a huge dog.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Alison Bernstein: The start of Suburban Jungle really began when expecting our first child and simultaneously while graduating from Columbia Business School. We were discussing how we wanted to raise our family… contemplating staying in the city and working through preschool admissions, private school options, and finding an apartment ultimately large enough for our growing family (we always knew we wanted 4 kids and a HUGE dog).
So we did the unthinkable — and out of all of our friends, we were the first to head out to see if the grass was really greener. We had no clue where to go, what to do… and who to ask. We found some real estate agents, some on our own and some through word of mouth. Some of which were better than others, but what they all had in common was that they all wanted to SELL us the town and SELL us a home. Everyone told us we would be happy wherever we looked… but how can we REALLY know? Who can we REALLY ASK?
We couldn’t understand who lived in these towns, why they chose these towns, and ultimately if we were going to fit in. Were these people raising kids similarly to how we envisioned? What did they do over the summer? On weekends? After school? What type of childcare did they have or not have? Did moms work? And the list went on.
SO, we did the best we could… found a town perfect on paper… for us or so we thought. BUT it ended up not being the perfect fit because of the “intangibles” that no one thought to ask. I hated the concept of agents pushing and selling inventory. After all, they get paid when a deal happens… they don’t get a bonus making sure that the client ended up in the right place and looked objectively at every option.
Our concept has resonated with thousands of families in NYC and Brooklyn — and client demand (as well as industry need) has taken us to launch in San Francisco, LA, Chicago, Boston, DC, Dallas, the Hamptons, NYC, Philadelphia, Miami… and so many more incredible areas.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Alison Bernstein: I believe everyone’s journey is unique. Being an entrepreneur takes hard work and dedication, and even if you are born to “create” and “Lead”, if you are not willing to do the work you will never get where you want to be.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Alison Bernstein: Focused, Passionate, Forward-thinking
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Alison Bernstein: Suburban Jungle is a real estate advisory and tech platform dedicated to taking families from urban to suburban. Those who opt-in (to the free service) are immediately assigned a personal strategist with whom they will discuss their unique lifestyle needs, values, hopes, and more. This allows the expert team to customize a list of towns and a personalized home search strategy that will fulfill the individual family’s wishes for life’s next chapter. The company began in New York and has since added such markets as San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Austin, The District of Columbia, Boston, Chicago, South Florida, and the Hamptons, NY.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Alison Bernstein: Company leaders are often inclined to become bogged down with business plans, projections, etc. This only leads to analysis paralysis and before you know it, you have fallen behind. Business is dynamic, and with tech and the world-changing so fast, it is important for a leader and his/her team to stay nimble and at the ready to embrace a new course. Chances are, if you are forging ahead with blinders on, you might not see that the end of the road is just up ahead.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Alison Bernstein: I can’t say I did.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Alison Bernstein: “Enjoy the ride. As you learn and evolve, take the time to appreciate the accomplishments… smell the roses and enjoy the growth. It is key to think about the next step at all times but basking in your successes is also critical to creating balance and avoiding burnout.”
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Alison Bernstein: I really lived and learned. The greatest lesson is that it is all about the people. Great workers aren’t always easy to find, but they are imperative to the growth and success of any business.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Alison Bernstein: The future of management in the post-Covid new world is trusting your employees. We have always provided work-from-home flexibility at Suburban Jungle. And we have had many employees who chose to work from home exclusively. With that said, the sick day went the way of the commute. It disappeared or became a hybrid. Days off/Days on. there is no such thing these days. And nor should there be.
The most important thing is wellness and productivity. We encourage our employees who are not feeling their best, to take some time to recharge. Whether that means a nap midday or simply attending a zoom meeting with the camera off- whatever serves them most optimally and allows them to best manage their workload is key! On one day you may need to take it easy and on the next, you can be working in turbo mode. We leave it to the employee to manage responsibly.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Alison Bernstein: Some people believe entrepreneurship is all sweat and tears. I believe that if you are not having fun you are in the wrong business.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Alison Bernstein: You need to be focused, undeterred and constantly reevaluating efficiencies.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Alison Bernstein for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Alison Bernstein or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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