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Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Frank Laufer, the founder of Alternative Business Accommodations (ABA).
What is your Company? How did you come up with the idea? Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a serial entrepreneur it is important for your business to constantly be changing. Initially, I had a dry cleaning business in Manhattan, that did pick up and delivery from high rise buildings before that was actually a thing. That business took off, and then some customers asked me if I knew anyone that could clean their apartments. I immediately hired a housekeeper. From there we got a call from a furniture rental company that was setting apartments up in one of the buildings we serviced. They requested we unpack all the boxes in the apartment, clean it and make the beds. Then, clean the apartments every week. They were adding 4 apartments a week. Before I knew it we were cleaning over 100 apartments a week for them. While this was going on, I started cleaning furnished apartments for Oakwood in NYC and was cleaning close to 100 a week for them. This was how I learned about furnished corporate apartments. Now I was managing 2 thriving businesses. It quickly became apparent that the furnished corporate apartment business was better than the dry cleaning business. I quickly jettisoned the dry cleaning business and kept the housekeeping business and from there entered the corporate housing business when Oakwood corporate housing and then furniture rental business (Formerly Execustay and now owned by Oakwood) decided they would save money by doing the cleaning themselves.
How do you maintain or find new inspiration?
Constantly trying to evolve the business and look for other businesses that will compliment my existing business. Since we are in a faced paced changing technology world, I often look for inspirational paths there.
Where do you see your company 5yrs from now?
5 years from now we will be the leading online booking engine for corporate furnished apartments through our Apartunity.com booking engine. Think of a cross between Airbnb and booking.com. Live booking with only vetted corporate apartments.
What’s the most valuable advice you’ve received that contributed to your personal or professional success?
The most important advice was when a boss told me “Perception is reality” Meaning if someone perceives you or your company a certain way, that is very real to them. So, If it is in a negative light, you need to work to change their perception immediately.
What have you sacrificed for success?
In the early stages of starting your company it is very stressful and time consuming. The buck stops with you and payroll must be met every pay period. Others depend on the decisions I make. Very stressful.
What’s one rule that guides your life?
Treat people fairly and with respect. Many believe you have to be cut throat in business. I would disagree. It’s not necessarily about winning or losing. A good negotiation is when neither party is happy. No winners. Have strong ethics and do the right thing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My biggest inspiration would have to have been my father. He was a hard working family man with a career in sales. He always worked long hours and made a reasonable living, but he told me there was a better way when you are your own boss.
Finally, How have you used your success to bring good to the world?
We have offered discounted housing to patients coming to NYC for medical treatment who cannot afford to have their families stay with them.