Ryan Serhant got his real-estate license a decade ago, at the start of the 2008 financial crisis. Serhant said he was broke at the time and had nothing to lose. His team is now the No. 1 real-estate team by sales volume in New York City.
It's been a decade since the 2008 financial crisis and real-estate fall out. That same year, Ryan Serhant, now the star of "Million Dollar Listing," got his real-estate license.
Today, Serhant holds the No. 1 spot for real estate sales in New York and No. 2 nationwide. His team closed more than $838 million in deals in 2017 while Serhant filmed two separate TV series and wrote a book, "Sell It Like Serhant."
Serhant's seemingly glamorous real-estate career had an unglamorous New York City beginning, he told Business Insider on an episode of our podcast "This Is Success."
"I was broke," Serhant said of his early 2000s life in the Big Apple. "I was doing a lot of free theater. I was playing a clock. I was playing random stuff on, like, the west side—."
Serhant said he consciously decided he would rather be a broke actor in the city than get a "survival job" like bartending or waiting tables. "And I didn't want to do that, so I literally pushed myself to the point where I just ran out of money and had my debit card declined at Food Emporium on 59th Street trying to buy a pack of tofu, and then cried on the subway."
"In hindsight, it was the best time," Serhant said. "At the time, it was probably the worst time ever." Serhant said he saw many people leave the industry at that time, leaving a gap in the field.
Serhant said he had no money and nothing to lose, so he would approach strangers on the street with a few shopping bags in hand and asked if they wanted to invest in real-estate.
"And so I use that fear of not having money and needing to make money, but I balanced it out with this kind of confidence of building my personality and coming out of my shell, and kind of treating it like an acting job, like an improv class," Serhant said.
He continued: "Everyone I met I was going to adapt to the way they wanted to see me, and I was going to sell them real-estate, even though I had no idea what I was doing."