Ryan Serhant Designed His Office to Keep Him Hungry and Humble

Framed failures, a suit jacket covered in cake and the other items in the Million Dollar Listing star’s office that inspire him to be better every day.
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By Brianna Steinhilber

You most likely recognize Ryan Serhant as the tall, gray and handsome realtor from Million Dollar Listing, Bravo’s hit reality show that is wrapping up its sixth season this week.

The real estate agent is at the top of his game — starring in an Emmy-nominated show and leading a bi-coastal team of more than 40 brokers that was ranked the number two sales team in New York by the Wall Street Journal this year.

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So we were curious: What does the space where the real estate mogul makes his millions look like?

NBC News BETTER stopped in to chat with the aspiring actor, turned hand model, turned real estate superstar at his office in New York City. Here are the seven life lessons we learned from Serhant that keep him on top of his game.

Million Dollar Listing's Ryan Serhant fills his office with reminders of where he started -- and how far he's come.Bravo / Kurt Iswarienko/Bravo

If you don’t have confidence, you have nothing. It’s hard to miss the giant four-word phrase framed on the wall above Serhant’s desk: “IN SERHANT WE TRUST.” And that’s exactly how he intended it. A particularly stressful client coined the phrase (to keep Serhant in the hot seat) and it stuck.

“It reminds me every single day that I'm not really in the information business, I'm in the customer service business like any salesperson is. If your clients don't trust you or you don't have trust in yourself and confidence in what you're selling then really, what are you doing?” he says.

We imagine glancing up at the wall during his morning coffee provides a boost of confidence — and, he says, instantly tells a client that they can feel confident doing business with him.

Surround yourself with people who are better than you. Right outside Serhant’s office (and always in eye view since the entire thing is essentially a glass cube) sit his right-hand man and woman, feverishly fielding phone calls, answering emails, tossing around facts about a listing and even pressing pause on their to-do list to make a cameo in our video tour.

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Serhant says he couldn’t do anything without them.

“When you're really, really busy, it's easy to become so busy that you actually don't get anything done because you're trying to do 10,000 jobs all at the same time. When I first got started in the business, I said, ‘If I'm going to be productive and successful, I need to only focus on what I do best,” he says.

He identifies his core strengths as his ability to empathize with people, which makes him great at improvising and bringing in new clients. So what about the hundreds of other tasks that come with a running successful sales team? That’s where he uses other people for leverage.

“You can't be good at everything,” says Serhant. “So you have to figure out what you're good at, and then you have to surround yourself with people who are better than you at everything else. That's the only way that you're ever going to grow and expand.”

If you don’t promote yourself, no one else will. An entire wall of Serhant’s office is completely covered in framed memorabilia. He refers to it as his “nostalgia wall.”

The majority of the items that have earned a spot on the wall are those documenting his successes: newspaper articles announcing huge sales he has made, a movie poster of the Ben Stiller film he had a cameo in, and a LinkedIn article about his career.

“I was told when I first got into this business that anyone can advertise what they do, but it's really PR. If you get written about, or if you put out information about yourself, that is more powerful to consumers and to clients. So literally, everything I did when I first got into the business was a news article,” he says. “If you do anything you need to shout it from the rooftops. You have to promote yourself, or nobody else will.”

Serhant has his $14 million fail plastered right next to his computer screen.

Use your failures to keep you humble. Up on the wall among all of his successes, sitting right next to a framed article about when he sold Elie Tahari's $15.5 million penthouse in eight hours, is Serhant’s biggest failure. His very first listing: a $14 million house that he worked on selling for a year. He never got a single offer.

“No matter how successful you are, there's always my first big listing. I thought it was going to change my whole life. And it was probably my biggest listing failure to date,” said Serhant. “So I framed that article and put it right next to my computer, to remind me that no matter how successful I get, no matter how many people trust me, there's always failure. I'm not going to sell everything that I list, but it's okay. I make sure that that's right up next to my computer screens, to remind me that hey, you might think you're cool because you're in movies and do all this other stuff, but there's always that house that didn't sell.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously. On one side of Serhant’s desk sits a myriad of objects — a Nerf gun, a bobble head of himself, a gold plated hand (a gag gift that was meant as a throwback to his days as a hand model) — which he refers to as his “fun corner.”

“I like to have a few things in here that aren't just real estate based. Because at the end of the day, we're all just sort of big kids that somehow have to wear suits and ties all day long — and deal with a lot of money all the time,” he says.

At one time, I was just a regular broker on a bright purple Razor scooter-cycle.

Always remember how far you’ve come. Among the bobbles in his fun corner sits a bobble head of Serhant himself, perched atop a purple scooter, on the base it reads: “Expansion ... all ways and always,” which he claims as his slogan.

But the lighthearted decoration carries a serious life lesson for Serhant. Long before the cameras, fame and million-dollar listings, Serhant hit the pavement on his scooter, racing around the city to show apartments.

“It reminds me every day that I didn't always have a car and a driver and TV shows and big listings. That I was, at one time, just a regular broker on a bright purple Razor scooter-cycle. It reminds me of where I started.”

Sometimes you just get covered in cake. Leaning up against Serhant’s desk is a framed suit jacket, completely covered in cake. He wore the jacket while filming the season finale of Million Dollar Listing, where he attended a birthday party in Paris and ended up covered in cake from head to toe. It’s admittedly a great conversation starter, and also a reminder of the show’s role in his career and a visual reminder to roll with the punches.

“It's a really expensive tux jacket; I brought it to my dry cleaners, and they were like, ‘No! Can't fix it,’” he says. “So instead of throwing it away, I had it framed just as a nice little reminder of how much the show has done for my career, and the fact that listen, sometimes you just get covered in cake.”