jorgeperez.jpgQ: “Do you feel rich?”

A: “No. I think I always have a fear that whatever I have could leave, and it’s very temporary. I’ve seen a lot of people with more than me lose everything. I don’t think of myself as rich. I don’t live a life style of the super rich.”

~ Jorge Perez in Real Deal magazine, February 2008, p. 46

Jorge Perez is a Miami-based developer with a net worth of almost $2 billion, according to Forbes (see below). We both belonged to Young Presidents’ Organization, so I’ve met Jorge on a couple of occasions, including one memorable 3-hour lunch at the Delano in Miami Beach. Just me, Jorge, and a couple dozen of his compatriots. The courses kept coming and the conversation flowed as freely as the food.

When I read what’s quoted above, it deeply resonated with me. I don’t think that Jorge is using fear in the sense of staying awake at nights, rather as an awareness of the uncertainty of life and business and the requirement of vigilance to stay on your game and on top.

It takes one set of skills to climb to the top of the mountain. It takes a more refined, more mature set of skills to stay there: Complacency is a champion’s greatest foe.

If you start believing your own press, if you start thinking you are too big, too smart, too experienced, too well capitalized to fail, then you start to get careless, start to skip on your due diligence, start to not do your homework like you used to, start to take a few too many chances, begin to run unnecessary risks.

A smart business person always protects his or her downside, hides away seed corn, stays alert for the rogue wave that could capsize the ship.

You want to stay on top of your game? Stay scared.


Forbes, September 21, 2006

Net Worth: $1.8 billion
Age: 57
Industry: Real estate

1. What do you eat for breakfast?
Coffee, vegetable omelet and whole wheat toast. Three days a week, I replace the omelet with berries and yogurt.

2. What was your nickname in high school?

3. What was your first job?
International marketing consultant for a European firm trying to market products in the U.S.

4. How often do you exercise?
Tennis four times a week and trainer three times a week, when I am in town.

5. Who was your mentor?
My father was my mentor, and in later life, Steve Ross became my best friend, partner and mentor.

6. How many hours a day do you read?
About two hours per day of non-business reading.

7. What motivates you?
Creating extraordinary urban environments that help define and change the way people live.

8. What is more important: the idea or the execution?
The idea is more fun and stimulating, but the devil is in the details.

9. Worst day of your life?
When my parents died.

10. Do you pray?

11. What was your biggest mistake?
I don’t dwell on mistakes, but I think I regret not spending more time with my kids as they were growing up and probably spoiling them too much.

12. Worst business idea you ever heard? (Did it succeed?)
Investing in upstart high-tech firms. Did very poorly, but learned to stick to what I know.

13. What can’t you live without?
My wife and four children.

14. What is your favorite way to relax?
Visiting beautiful cities, reading and playing tennis.

15. What is the best part about being the boss?
I get to do those tasks I enjoy most and delegate to others those I like least.

16. What is “success” to you?
To be admired and respected by your peers in business and to be loved by your family and friends in your personal life.

17. What is the best investment advice you ever heard?
“You never go broke from making a profit.” Meaning not to look for the last cent but always leave money on the table and overspend to give the customer more than what he expects.

18. Is there any reason to get an MBA?
Never got one, so I would not know. Nevertheless, the better the educational credentials, the greater the chance of getting a better start and the foundation to allow you to succeed.

19. If you could be anything else, what would it be?
Probably a college professor in literature, philosophy or economics.

20. What is your advice to young entrepreneurs?
Have great focus, set high but achievable goals and work EXTREMELY hard at achieving them. Be flexible and ready to adapt to change.


TIME, August 13, 2005

He started out as the leading builder of affordable housing in Florida, but over the past 26 years, developer Jorge Perez has become the Donald Trump of the tropics, with about 50 condo towers in various stages of completion in South Florida, Fort Myers and Las Vegas. His company, the Related Group of Florida, had $2.1 billion in revenue in 2004, putting Perez at the very top of the Hispanic Business 500.

Some of his luxurious condos command as much as $15 million a unit, and his Vegas project is a five-star hotel and casino complex, modeled after Barcelona’s famed Las Ramblas. But Perez says his primary mission is to revitalize downtown Miami, which offers little in the way of a residential community, and make it a cultural and business center for the Americas. “I see it as a great international city for traders and people who are always looking for business and possibilities in other countries—sort of like the Phoenicia of old, where everybody came together to do business and cultures merged,” he says.

Perez, 55, who was born in Argentina of Cuban parents and came to the U.S. in 1968, is as passionate about politics and the arts as he is about building. An active Democratic fund raiser, he advised Bill Clinton on Cuba. His art collection includes work by such Latin American masters as Fernando Botero, Frida Kahlo and Roberto Matta, among others, and he avidly promotes art in public places. Everything Perez does reflects his philosophy that “Every time you make an act, not only are you defining yourself, but you’re defining the world around you.” The Miami skyline shows he’s doing just that.