The Real Deal New York

Day in the Life of: Robert Reffkin

The Compass CEO on playtime with his daughter,
his espresso habit and Thursday night karaoke
By Claire Moses | March 01, 2015 07:00AM
Robert Reffkin

Robert Reffkin (Click to enlarge)

Robert Reffkin is the co-founder and CEO of Compass (which until last month was known as Urban Compass). The start-up brokerage — which Reffkin runs with partners Ori Allon and Ugo Di Girolamo — has raised more than $70 million since launching in May 2013. The technology-focused firm has shocked the industry by luring top Manhattan agents such as longtime Douglas Elliman-star Leonard Steinberg. The 35-year-old Reffkin has been written up in Fortune for his all-star resume, which includes graduating from Columbia University in two years, serving as a White House fellow, and doing stints at the mega-consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and Goldman Sachs. He’s also a marathoner to boot. Reffkin spends most of his time at the office (from roughly 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the week and between noon and 4:30 p.m. on weekends). He lives with his wife and daughter in the West Village and can often be found brunching with them at Bubby’s in the Meatpacking District or playing in the park on Saturdays or Sundays.

6:00 a.m.   I wake up and the first thing I do is respond to emails that have come in overnight. After that I work out. I like running along the water from West 12th Street to the South Street Seaport and back.

book7:00 a.m. I play with my 19-month-old daughter, Raia. Her name means “friend” in Hebrew. Playtime involves reading a book — “Huggy Kissy” is a favorite — or playing music. I play the guitar and sometimes she will play on an electronic drum set she has. 

8:30 a.m.   I leave my place in the West Village and get on a Citi Bike to go to work at my office at 90 Fifth Avenue. Before I head into the office I stop at Liquiteria on the block and grab a coffee and cacao smoothie. The drink has coffee, banana, coconut and almond milk. It’s my liquid breakfast.

9:00 a.m. On Thursdays, we have the Compass running club, when we meet with a group of Compass employees and agents at the track at FDR and Sixth Street with a trainer. I pay for it personally. I think it’s important for the people in the company to be in great shape.

10:00 a.m.   At work, I spend about a third of my day interviewing new people. The decision to hire someone has to be unanimous. If one person doesn’t think it’s a good fit, we don’t hire them.

pizza11:00 a.m.   I meet with different teams around the office. I don’t have a desk and I rarely use a computer. I think everything is easier with your phone. I talk to as many different teams as possible to discuss what they’re working on and try to help think of a strategy with them.

12:00 p.m.   We provide lunch for our employees every day. It’s incredibly important to create a space where people talk to each other. Usually it will be something healthy. About one day a week, we’ll have something that’s a little bad for you, like BBQ or pizza.

2:00 p.m.   I meet with Ori, my co-founder, who has taken the lead as our fundraiser. Goldman Sachs, Founders Fund and some real estate developers are among our investors.

3:00 p.m.   I usually have at least three espressos a day. This is on top of the coffee-flavored smoothie, which I consider health food. I like making my own espressos on an espresso machine we have in our office.

5:00 p.m. At least on Thursday a month, the company gets together for a happy hour after work. Usually the team will spend about two hours in the office, having drinks before we head out to an activity such as karaoke or bowling. Last night, I left karaoke about midnight.

6:00 p.m.   I make sure I talk to my mother every day. It’s very important to me. She lives here in New York, on the Upper West Side. My mother has been a real estate agent for about 16 years. She currently works at Charles Rutenberg. We see each other once or twice a week.

candles8:00 p.m.   On Fridays, my wife and I host people from work for Shabbat dinner at my apartment. Before the guests come, I light the candles and say the prayers with my wife, daughter, mother and mother-in-law.

9:00 p.m. After our Shabbat dinner we play a game called ‘Press,’ where you get three minutes to ask another person anything you’d like, as if you were a reporter. 

11 p.m. On weekdays, I leave the office. When I get home, I kiss my wife, who is already asleep, on the cheek and say ‘I love you.’

1:00 a.m. Before going to bed for a roughly five-hour night of sleep, I make sure all unanswered emails are addressed. I feel like it’s my responsibility to respond to every email, every night, before I go to sleep.

  • Jon

    So Robert Reffkin goes running, drinks lots of coffee, interviews people, and doesn’t do any actual work since he has no desk? Nice life.

    • SombreroMucho

      Never sees his family and loves to brunch it up. Wow. A tremendous life. Gag.

  • asdf

    laid back life.. so if he makes sure to answer all his emails at 1 am before he goes to sleep, why does he answer it again at 6 am

    • SombreroMucho

      Addicted to his phone. Remember that Compass, which used to be Urban Compass, was supposed to be some innovative and groundbreaking real estate tech platform. Guess that bombed and all he’s able to hold on to is his addition to his tech platform called the smartphone.

  • sam chang

    this obama lookin guy is a jew?

  • WhoWillRobDurstPissOnNext?

    smoke and mirrors

  • guest

    Why is everyone hating on this guy? (No, I do not work at Compass)

    I enjoyed this read.

    • Harji Singh

      when you have haters, you know you must be doing something right

  • Chris Searles

    It’s great to see someone who can balance work, family and commitment to their employees. This business could use more of that.

  • meh

    every one of these day in life articles is ALWAYS the person’s dream day of productivity…

    5hrs of sleep? give me a break.

  • Broker

    Seems like an interesting guy.

  • David

    Im not sure why they call themselves a tech firm in real state. If it werent for streeteasy, there would still be an abundance of buyers brokers. Now all the big firms want to take the whole fee; this is why the big firms dont want to be part of the new idx feed.

    The best bet for someone looking to sell are the smaller boutique firms were one can negotiate their fees and still get the job done.

  • Paul Hudson

    Its funny because I met the guy back when urban compass was first starting. Off our initial conversation, I can openly say the he knew nothing about real estate (and absolutely nothing about Manhattan real estate). Then again theres nothing a little bit of Goldman’s money, and buying a few big shots like Steinberg, couldn’t fix. They’re trying to change an industry which is controlled by relationships. A “tech startup” will not be able to emulate a network or relationship. I wish them the best of luck, and hope they get bought out soon so he can move onto the next venture.

  • NL

    It’s surprising to see these comments posted. He sounds extremely motivated, genuine and like a great person. Given his success, it’s great to see he still holds onto his values. No – I do not work with him or have any relations.

  • David Goldberg

    Great to see Robert getting the recognition he deserves. As an investor (in Compass), it’s about people first, and Robert and Ori are rockstars, and genuinely good people. They deserve all the success coming to them.