Everyone should be afforded stable and affordable housing. Making it his mission, Gary Rahman founded a successful residential and commercial real estate company in Washington, DC, where he is changing communities by developing housing for low to medium-income families. In this episode, he joins Jeffrey Edwards to share with us how he is doing it all and changing the dynamics of urban neighborhoods and explains why he believes housing is one of the pillars to establish wealth in this nation, and why community is the connection to our soul. Gary then gives some inspirational insights and advice that reminds us of how capable we are of affecting each other’s lives in a positive way.
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Changing Communities Through Affordable And Reachable Housing With Gary Rahman
It’s great to be with you here. It’s a pleasure to have a guest here in this episode. It’s us getting together with people out there who are making a difference in the world and our guest is no exception to that. Our guest is Gary Rahman. He manages the residential and commercial real estate company based in Washington, DC and Baltimore area. He is also successful as a motivational speaker. He is an author. He is also a radio host. One of the things that I recognize him for is his connection to the community.
What he does on the business side is also part and parcel of how he aligns with his community and where he sees his contribution making a big impact and having meaning. It’s truly a pleasure and privilege to have him here. Welcome to the show, Mr. Gary Rahman. It’s one of these days where I get to hang out with you. Having seen your work over the years, the first question that always comes to mind is how do you do it? How do you do what you do every day? It seems on the outside that you do it effortlessly but I know there’s a lot that goes behind it.
I would say first, I think it starts with purpose. I’m willing to do what I do. Being a native of Chicago, Illinois, I was the youngest of three. My mom raised us. I was raised in a single-family household. My mother suffers from depression and raised on welfare. By the time I was ten years old, we’d been evicted over twelve times. For me as a young man, unstable living conditions and transferring a number of schools, I wouldn’t want it at a young age and I made a promise at a young age that this wouldn’t happen to me and my family. I’d be able to help others in some situations and that one day I’d be a multimillionaire.
At the time, I was going to the first-grade level in special ed. Statistically speaking, I should be either in jail or dead, but I didn’t know those statistics so I pursued what I do as it relates to real estate investing and development, focusing primarily on low to medium-income families because I want to provide stable housing for others. I think that that is one of the pillars of the community. It’s one of the pillars of establishing wealth in this nation. I think that it should be something that’s affordable, reachable, and attainable for everyone.
As you look at what your role is and in terms of how you see yourself, you’re providing that support for families in communities out there. From a business perspective, there’s the macro side to it too. You work with investing in real estate properties. You also built-in commercial and residential as well. How do you see your role in your area of influence in working with clients and also other stakeholders?
I think somewhat of a unique model. We think it’s about capitalism now, it is not what it started out. I read Andrew Carnegie’s book. It was fascinating about his perspective of capitalism. He was one of the wealthiest men in the late 1800s and 1900s but he was a big believer in labor. He believed that the only reason why he was successful was because of labor and he wanted to ensure that those people who helped him reach in business that they were compensated and their families were in good shape after they retire.Displacing people doesn't help the community. Click To Tweet
He also believed in not dying rich. Setting up different philanthropy things so that others could benefit from that wealth. My approach when it comes to businesses is similar. Displacing people is I think something that’s not helping the community. In the time and in the society like we’re living in right now, I think it calls more division. It causes a lot more heartache. Instead of gentrifying communities, how can we work at and build those communities so that all people have a stake in those areas? That’s been my approach. I can’t see that I do without their investment because they even build it slower.
It has a principal and a purpose that’s sustainable. That to me is more important. For me as a developer and investor, I look for opportunities. I want to make money. I’m in this as well to make money, but I don’t think that it should be the primary objective. I think that there are ways in which when we look at how we treat other people, how we build a business, it gives me great pride to employ people. To know that having an opportunity to provide a job opportunity helps others in other ways as well, all those things there are great benefits to me as well.
How would people describe you in your community given the work that you do? Given the work that you do and you’re working with the community that you help build, but even with your peers. How would they describe you as either a business partner or an agent of change based on what you continue to do now?
If I were writing my own obituary on my own funeral, what would they say about me? My wife gave me a Zoom surprise party and I had over 80-something people on the Zoom call. The outpouring of what they thought about me as a person and as a businessman, as a father and her husband was emotional. I’ll based it off of that. What many of them said is that I am someone who motivates and pushes them to be their best. I would hope that’s an attribute that I modeled more than talk about. I think that it’s important to model certain behaviors that you want others to establish themselves.
In my business practice, I try to be a fair person. I want to push people to be their best, to give their best and to do their best work. Whether it’s renovating apartment buildings or whatever the case may be, to be someone who’s looking out for the community and trying to invest in the community. When we think about philanthropy, oftentimes sometimes we get a little skewed. Sometimes we feel sorry for people and no one wants anyone to feel sorry for them. The approach in business and approach in philanthropy to me is one of service but one of mutual benefit. I would hope that others see me as well as someone who respects people.
You mentioned having people following people like Andrew Carnegie, for example. Who are some of the other leaders or mentors who have been influential along your path to where you are now?
A number of you will know because they’re personal people that have been phenomenal in my life. My mother who didn’t have a high school diploma, but said that I could be whatever we imagined. I don’t know how much she believed it. That would be one of them. Seeing her struggle with three children and making some tough decisions at times so that we wouldn’t live in the housing projects and whatnot, which as a child, you wonder if it’s the right decision. You then become a parent and you realize the importance of those decisions that she made at the time.
I’ve had some amazing uncles, my childhood pastor and some amazing teachers that have been impactful in my life early on and put me on a trajectory to be who I am now. If I think about those that are more common a name and some were not even alive but they still are mentors., I think of Reginald Lewis. I think of Marcus Garvey and Elijah Muhammad, people who either were at the end of their lives or not even alive for most of my life. Their stories and the things that I’ve been able to study about them have been phenomenal and how they invested so much of the time and energy into building and self-improvement. Those would be a few.
You’ve mentioned a number of people that standout and what I find most interesting in speaking to get to successful leaders in the community or in business or in life, is that there’s often someone along the path that is either in their church community, or at school, a teacher or administrator, or a sports coach, but someone who is local who gets to know them at that grassroots level and is an influence for them for the rest of their life.
I believe that we’re all leaders. We’re looking for somebody but we can stop looking. We can look in the mirror. I say that because the people that have been the most impactful in my life are not necessarily people that the world knows or even growing up in my community that even the whole community knew, but they were important to me. To your point, I transferred from a lot of different schools growing up and when I grew up, I moved to my grandmother’s neighborhood.
I lived in Chicago. The school there, I didn’t know at the time, was one of the best in Chicago. I had some amazing teachers who noticed me. It’s the first time I felt like I was in school where I was being noticed. I had people who were investing real time and making sure I moved forward. In one year, my reading and math went up 3 and 4 years, respectively. That was nothing but them pouring into me and letting me know that I was important and not invisible. It doesn’t take Beyonce or Jay-Z or somebody on television to inspire us.
I can remember my eighth-grade graduation. They asked me to speak as one of the keynote speakers. Afterward, I go to my home to pick up my diploma and my eighth-grade teacher tells me, “Gary, one day I’m going to read about you. You are going to be famous.” Those words have stuck with me all my life. It wasn’t a famous person who told me that. It was my eighth-grade teacher. We start to also look at ourselves in the mirror and understand the value and the impact that we can have, not only in our households but in our communities. I think we’d be a lot better off and we need that big deal right now.The approach in business and approach in philanthropy is one of service and of mutual benefit. Click To Tweet
To what you’re saying, Gary, it feels that oftentimes, especially in times of crisis where we’re looking outside for an answer, we’re looking for that beacon, that someone who’s going to lead us forward. From what you’re from, it’s like we can start looking from within. How can we make that difference? What can you do? You’re speaking to yourself saying, “What can I do to get started, to take actions and to make something happen?” It doesn’t have to be something great. By people investing in you and noticing you, it’s led to where you are now. When you take a look at people, emerging leaders, people coming up the ranks now, what can you tell them to help them get their heads straight and see what role they can play in other people’s lives?
I think a major role is letting other people understand that they’re the leaders they’ve been looking for. Even if I’m more out in the public and there may be others who are maybe more notable because they’re out in the public or that type of thing, that doesn’t make them any greater a leader than someone who is unknown that’s in the neighborhood and their particular schools or whatever they do, the bus drivers to regular common day folks.
I think that’s what community is about. When I think of times past, that was one of the beauties of a community. You had common people in the neighborhood coming together that looked out for one another and that inspired one another. We had teachers and plumbers. They’re all different aspects of different occupations. Mothers, stay-at-home moms, they all played a role in that community. It’s no different now for me. I believe in that wholeheartedly. I finished reading The Jewish Phenomenon. That was the takeaway even from them as well. It starts with some real basic things. I have a mantra.
I tell people if they want to talk politics before they cross our threshold or home, they need to be banking black, buying a certain percentage from other blacks, and building for black coffers because they want to talk about problems and all the different political aspects. These are three basic things, and we all can do it. It doesn’t take a political move and we can at least establish those things. They maybe would have a stronger voice economically, politically, etc. that we could demand things in person versus asking. It’s basic. It’s community. It’s grassroots. I believe in grassroots being the catalyst for all the things we want to see.
From your media and the things I’ve read up on you, I think you capsulate when you say that community is the connection to our soul. It starts there.
You make it more complex and make it more something else. We would talk about political parties. It’s how we connect with each other and how we build from there.
As a father, and we’ve talked about family, how do you take all you’ve learned to this point in time and share that with your kids? What’s the conversation like for you?
My wife’s amazing. I believe in modeling and teaching instead of preaching and teaching so they see the example they want to live out. It’s easier to then speak on it because they see you doing it. We have those conversations. Our kids are known as the stuck-up kids. They’ve been traveling around the country, speaking as well as teaching others how to trade stocks. They’ve got merchandise, websites and etc. We have a lot of conversations as it pertains to business and service because oftentimes, you have many that will give subpar service and have been giving subpar service, especially to a disenfranchised group of people and throwing it into and more accepted because that’s what it is.
We’d have a different approach to that as well as far as making sure that they’re giving 110% especially to those who’ve been disenfranchised and understanding the importance of their service, their product, and the people that they serve. It’s an ongoing conversation. It is something that I think that like a number of other things that we deal with our children. It’s one of those things you want to have a lot of conversations about because you want them to feel comfortable with rebuttals and questions. You want to be able to have a dialogue.
I can imagine what the conversations would be like with their friends, “How’s your weekend?” “I think Apple’s up to two points now. I think IBM is looking up good. You might want to check that out.” It’s amazing to see what they’re doing and I’ve had chances to check them out online. They look like they’re rocking it right now. It’s a credit to you and your wife. Be careful about the data because it might be a hostile takeover one day. You mentioned that you’re an author and you have a book that I came across. We talked about it and it’s Back From Hell and the Devil Didn’t Win. It’s a book about your trials and the path you’ve taken in your life. What was your inspiration behind this book? When you were writing it, what did you find out about yourself as you wrote this book and put it out there?
It was brought to me to do a book by a mentor. I like to listen to those who are more successful than me, so I said, “Yes, I agree to charge and move forward.” As I began to delve into the book, it was one of those things where it became therapeutic because there were things that I have buried deep that I have forgotten about that came out of me writing the book. The more that certain things came up in me, the more I felt more inspired to be even more transparent.
I figured there were probably others that were struggling or having doubts or whatever the case may be that they needed to hear that and hear it in real plain language. That time was the springboard of how I delved into the book and put a lot in there. There are some things that I forgot to put in it. I think that for the most part, there are some good takeaways like struggles at a young age, to hit my pinnacles and still having some downsides then come backs. I think there’s a lot that people can take away from the book.Look at yourself in the mirror and understand the value and impact we can have in our communities. Click To Tweet
I know that it’s a story that inspires me. I know that you’ve mentioned earlier on that the people that you learn from, the people that are no longer with us, it’s through their books, through the writings, through their speeches and especially these days when there’s a lot more on social media and in the video. There’s no shortage of collateral out there for us to dive into, learn and grow. Our mentors can be here present but they can also be people who’ve spent time here on this earth as well.
One of my favorites is Napoleon Hill. I’ve read his books and the name of this book was the one that inspired me, which is one of his last books that they released, Outwitting the Devil. I did a show about it. I was on somebody else’s show. It’s a great book. In the book, he’s having a conversation with the devil and you almost feel like he used to have a conversation with the devil. That helped me a little bit when I was thinking about the title of my book. There are mentors and I think about others similar to those who are long gone, but you are reading their books. They still can be inspirational long after they depart. We all have that capability.
Gary, you mentioned this. What is the legacy of Gary Rahman? How’s that going to be defined? How would you like that to be defined?
It’s still happening. I still have a lot left in me and a lot of stuff to still accomplish. I still see these visions that I’ve seen of my destination that I hadn’t physically gotten to yet. There’s a lot left, but I will say that one of the main things that I hope at least that if God were to take me out right now is that people would know I loved hard, and I truly want to invest in people more than anything. That’s the biggest and most important investment. The things that I’ve shared with others and my children, I would hope that they would continue to take that message and continue to duplicate that with others. That would be right now. I know I have more time.
Gary, I want to thank you for your time here. I do look forward to seeing and spending more time with you in the future and seeing you grow and to make your impact in this world. It comes back to what you’re saying before that community is the connection to our soul. Thank you for being here on the show.
I appreciate it. Thank you. This is a great show.
Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your day. Until next time, be good and lead well.