Michael Nourmand on agents getting poached, running a family business

Name: Michael Nourmand

Date of birth: February 3, 1981

Lives in: Beverly Center

Hometown: Beverly Hills

Family: Married, two children

When Michael Nourmand took over Nourmand & Associates in 2007, he was in his late 20s. The Beverly Hills High School and USC graduate has since had almost a decade to adjust to the weight of reins — during which the second-generation family business has grown beyond its staple Beverly Hills office, expanding its outpost in Brentwood and opening a new office in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, the real estate world has changed around him. New brokerages like the Agency have opened their doors and established brokerages based elsewhere, such as Douglas Elliman, are also staking their claim in the luxe Westside market that has been Nourmand’s bread and butter since it was founded, by Saeed Nourmand, in 1976.

We spoke with Michael Nourmand about family wealth, watching brokers get poached by new firms and the challenges of boundary setting while running a family business.

When did you first get involved in the family business?

I got started doing administrative jobs in the summers while I was attending USC. My dad’s big thing was that if you want to run the company, you need to come in, understand the staff and the job, get to know the agents and earn your way into it. It was like, yes, because I’m your dad, you are going to obviously have more opportunity, but there are people that take advantage of opportunity and do really well with it and people that blow it. Most of the time if you look at family wealth, the next generation or the generation after goes through it. You will see that if you go through history books about different wealthy families, and I actually do take an interest in reading that stuff to see what people do and don’t do.

What have you learned?

My thing is that if you go and you give someone everything they could possibly want, and then you expect them to work, you are sort of stealing their motivation. You are actually preventing them from having their own success. My parents were very good with that. My dad gave me a budget. He would say, here is more money then you’ll need this week. You have to decide how much you are going to save, what you are going to use it for. His big thing was you have to make decisions. Even when I got started here, he let me make my own decisions, even if he didn’t agree with them. If he thought something that was a complete disaster waiting to happen, he would speak up. But for the most part he sort of let me find my way, giving only advice from his own experience.

Earlier this year, we interviewed Courtney and Kurt when they were your Eastside power brokers, and they have since left for Compass. Will they be replaced?

We’ve already found replacements. We’ve hired five agents in the last month to cover additional marketshare on the Eastside. [Kurt and Courtney] are two exceptionally good agents that I am sure will continue to succeed, but had different core values on things even as simple as signage. To us, having a uniform sign is important. I think any well respected real estate brokerage that has has a long term future would mandate uniform signs. That is just an example of an issue we didn’t see eye to eye on. My thing is that we all wear the same uniform.

How do you feel when brokers get recruited by other companies?

People say it’s business, it isn’t personal. In many ways, if you read the book
“The Godfather,” [author Mario Puzo] actually talks about business being the most personal thing there is. So, you have all these people moving to these different places. Every year there a new company with a new promise. A new company is talking about the model being broken. When some of these places aren’t around, is it going to be a reunion with the brokerages where they used to work at, or are they going to go off and start their own company, or join a different company? It will be interesting to see.

What do you mean by new promises?

It seems that there is a new technology or gimmick that is used to lure agents to the new kid on the block. Within a short time period, the new technological trick that is introduced has already been copied by everyone else and sometimes performed better than the new company. And as soon is this happens, it seems like another company pops up with a new technological advance. There have been good technologies introduced by new companies…[but] other companies in the industry adopt them and catch up very quickly so it’s a very short lived advantage.

Why do you not believe some of the newer companies will stick?

There is a reason why there haven’t been that many real estate companies that have survived [in Beverly Hills]. You have to be committed to it, have pockets, be diversified. I think those are the reasons why I am not particularly fearful. But by the same token I am not resting on my laurels.

Courtney and Kurt were working out of Atwater Village. Where is the office for your new Eastside agents?

We have an office in Hollywood. My dad bought the Hollywood Athletic Club building back in 1986 when Hollywood was not what it is today. We have an office space there. We have in excess of 3,500 square feet and over 40 agents in that office. It’s growing quickly.

When and why did you decide to focus more on the Eastside?

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We started talking about opening an office on the Eastside in the mid 2000s but we made our decision in 2007. Because of my father owning the Hollywood Athletic Club building, we had a front row seat to see the development and gentrification in the area. None of our competitors had an office in Hollywood and there was no boutique office in the general area. We noticed a trend that our business was growing quickly on the Eastside and we had a good core of productive agents doing business there. Living on the Eastside became a lifestyle choice. It no longer meant that you were priced out of the Westside. Several of my friends from Beverly Hills High School have lived on the Eastside for years and they love it. This made it clear that L.A. was moving East.

How has Hollywood changed since you opened there?

We started there in 2007. My dad’s vision when he bought the property was that Hollywood was turning the corner in the 80s. That didn’t happen. Then it was the 90s, and that was probably the biggest disaster for Los Angeles. I think everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I literally could see people doing drugs and other illegal activities on corners. So it has come a long way.

How are your siblings involved in Nourmand?

My siblings are shareholders. My sister Nicole is pediatrician with a successful practice in Beverly Hills. My brother Howard has a post-production company. He has done a lot of work with Lena Dunham. He also helps with some of [Nourmand’s] marketing stuff.

Why did you take over Nourmand, and not one of your other siblings?

Default. My sister didn’t want to do it. It didn’t really interest her. My brother didn’t really like the idea either. He was always a little more creative, a little more artsy. So I was the youngest one and I was interested. My bar mitzvah theme was Monopoly. So I knew at a really young age that this was what I was going to be doing. When it came time to talk about college, my dad was a very big proponent of USC. He said, if you want to do business in this town, you’ll make a lot of contacts there. He also wanted me to join a fraternity which I did not do. It would have had been really good for business but it just wasn’t my thing.

Did you go directly into the family business after college?

I did. I got my real estate license when I was 19, it was around the year 2000. Then I got my brokers license in 2006. I actually closed a few deals [for Nourmand] even before I had graduated from USC.  

When did you become president of the company?

By the time I was 27 or 28, I was running the day to day here. My dad turned 60 and retired. He’d come to manager’s meetings once a month. Aside from that, it’s if you need me call me. Which I do. I’d say I probably need his advice a couple of times of month. Something will come up and I’ll say, this is something where I thought I had seen everything, but apparently I hadn’t. That’s when I call him.

Growing up, were your mom and dad always working together?

Not for my whole childhood. My dad came here [from Iran] and built a real estate company in 1976 out of nothing. He had to establish himself. He worked hard, and around the clock. He sort of was the go-to guy for all of the Persians that were coming to Los Angeles and looking for property. So he’d sometimes sell four houses in a week. My mom raised us and got [into the business] the late 80s. My dad wanted her to get into the business. My maternal grandmother said, don’t get into the business, it is going to be horrible for your marriage to work with your husband. My mom hit the ground running. The first couple of months were hard, she came to my dad in tears and said, “I can’t do this, the people are so mean.” And my father’s response was, “I know you can sell the world.” Anyways, she had a lot of success. People at first thought it was beginner’s luck. Now, it’s nearly 30 years later.

Does it ever get hard to be working with  your family?

Of course. I would say that working a family business is sort of a fourth dimension. I am very close with my family, but at the same time, I also have to have boundaries. My mom will call me on Saturday morning and she will want to talk about the ads we ran. I’ll say, in a polite way, if it is really important let’s talk about it now, but if not, I’d rather focus my time on my wife and kids. We can talk about this Monday morning.

Do you think you will run the company for the length of time your dad did?

My thing is always very simple. If there is a day where you think there is someone else better to run my job, let me know. I have no problem stepping aside and just focusing on brokering deals. I do the job because I enjoy it, I am passionate about it. But at the same time, look, there may be a time when there is someone better to do the job and when that time comes I’d like to think that I would support that person and help them. After running the company for 30 or 40 years, it will be time for the next generation, either my son or my nephew or someone else. My dad ran it for about 30 years.

How old are your kids?

My son is almost four and my daughter is almost two. I do joke around with my son that I want him to come and work with me. Some days he is into the idea, other days he isn’t. He was walking around the office one day with one of our agents who has been with us for a few decades, since she was 19, and she was joking around and said, you are going to be my future boss. Ideally, yeah, there always would be somebody in the family running it.

You were very young to be the president of a brokerage when you started. How did that play?

I think being a millennial is a huge advantage because I am [accessible] to the new talent coming into the business. I’m 35 so I am at the very edge of being considered a millennial. I think I am the [youngest person] that is in my position in terms of my competition and peers.

How is decision making different in a family business?

We work out our differences and we are a united front. Sometimes that means that I may not agree with something, but the fact that I don’t agree with it doesn’t mean that I don’t support or push for it. You have to have that kind of consensus. It’s different because when you are just working with someone, you can change jobs, or fire someone. It is different when, that’s your dad, that’s your mom. That’s the person that changed your diapers. That is the person that worked until midnight to put you through school. It is a little bit of different dynamic. So I try to be respectful of that, and to be grateful.