Eugene Giscombe possesses over 30 years of experience in the Harlem, N.Y., real estate market. He started his career in 1972 when he headed the sales department of Webb & Booker, a Harlem-based real estate firm. At Webb & Booker, he represented major banks and managed office buildings. Soon thereafter, he launched Giscombe Realty Group and with success came roles as the former chairman of the 125th Street Business Improvement District and former chairman of Community Board 13. He is also a past recipient of the “Business Person of the Year” award from the Harlem Business Alliance. Giscombe continues to be active and is presently the chairman of City National Bank and vice chairman of the Greater Harlem Nursing Home.
Rolling out spoke with Giscombe about the importance of educating oneself on all aspects of real estate, why he chooses to give new hires a trial period, and why gentrification doesn’t worry him.
What role did education play during the beginning of your career and how have you continued to remain knowledgeable about the field?
It is very important. When I got in the market in the early 1970s I took courses in as many areas as possible so that in short period of time I knew real estate law, finance, banking and negotiations. Education prepared me so that I could meet the opportunities and changes in the real estate market. For example, when I leased store spaces on 125th Street and it slowed down, I had to switch to selling brownstones. I had to go from one area of expertise to another in a seamless and quick fashion with as little downtime as possible.
Your team is a crucial aspect of your success. How do you decide whether someone is a good fit for your company?
I look for individuals that have people skills, who are willing to share information and seek information. After bringing someone in I do a trial period where it gives me a sense of their skills and learning ability and they can look at the firm’s leadership to see if its a fit for them. We want hungry people who don’t put limits on themselves.
Some people are concerned that the African American presence in Harlem will be severely diminished as a result of the gentrification in Harlem. What are your thoughts on the changes?
We will be here because no matter what happens with gentrification, [Harlem] will be Afrocentric for the foreseeable future. My company deals with all New Yorkers as far as the services we provide.