Ed Berlinski, S.E.C.

Ed comes from a family history of entrepreneurship, so you could say business is in his genes. His grandfather on his mother’s side was a blacksmith. His grandfather on his father’s side was a dairy farmer. His father started his own business manufacturing coil springs, which he sold for all kinds of applications across many different industries. So it’s no surprise that Ed eventually determined to make his own way in business as well. But let’s start at the beginning…

Ed was born the oldest of four siblings; he has two brothers and a sister. Although born in Hartford, CT, he was raised in Bristol, about twenty miles away. Growing up, Ed was very involved in sports, playing both baseball and basketball. And he was quite good – he made 1st team All-State in basketball and was instrumental in taking his high school basketball team to the state Finals in his senior year.

After graduating from high school, Ed was accepted into Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Deep down, Ed knew he wanted to do something in business, and this education gave him a strong foundation for his future business path. He graduated with a BS in Economics, majoring in Accounting. From there, Ed moved back home and went to work in his dad’s shop, where he stayed for two years while his dad “worked him like a mule!” Looking to do something different, he then went to work for GMAC, where he did finance and accounting work for the next year and a half. It was while working there that Ed came to the realization that if he wanted to advance, he needed to get his MBA.

Ed proceeded to start researching business schools. He had decided on, and was accepted to, the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. What you would expect to be described as the most grueling, or the most exhausting, two years of his life, Ed instead described as the “two most enjoyable years of my life.” Ed considers himself to be obsessed with learning, and loves to be in a classroom setting where he can be exposed to new information and new ideas. He was enthralled with the lineup of “brilliant professors,” and enjoyed being in the company of a host of bright fellow students who were all there to achieve higher learning and education. Ed left well-prepared for his next career moves and future business endeavors.

Upon graduating from Wharton, Ed proceeded to work several corporate finance jobs over the next two decades that would provide great business experience. He started his first job immediately upon graduating, taking a position in finance with Joy Manufacturing in Pittsburgh, where he worked for the next four years. Looking for something new, he then went to work for U.S. Industries, Inc., as Assistant Treasurer. U.S. Industries, known as U.S.I. today, is a massive conglomerate with many different companies and over 120 divisions. This position and environment was ideal for Ed, as he has a self-described “incredible curiosity and love of learning.” The ten years he spent with U.S.I. afforded him a great learning experience and exposed Ed to many different businesses and facets of their operations. From there, Ed relocated to Rochester, NY and went to work as the Corporate Treasurer for Gleason Corporation, formerly a publicly-traded NYSE company that has since been taken private. Ed worked at Gleason for the next six years, until his entrepreneurship gene eventually got the best of him and prompted him to go into business for himself.

In 1990, he and a partner formed a Joint Venture and started a company called Vehicare. The concept was centered around mobile vans that would provide on-site preventative maintenance services, i.e. oil changes and the like, for truck fleets. Over the course of the next three years, Vehicare proceeded to open 30 locations. During that time, though, Ed came to the conclusion that he didn’t see the business to be viable over the long-term, and he ended up selling his stake and exiting the business.

Looking for something different, and having just tasted the freedom and excitement of working for himself, Ed decided to venture out into real estate in 1993. He earned his license, and right away started taking CCIM courses. Ed started out as a “Vanilla Broker,” and took on many roles in the business (sales, leasing, etc.) to make a living for the first few years. Things started to change and get more exciting, however, when he attended a regional marketing session in New York State in 1996. It was there that he met Jon Schweitzer from New Jersey, a former S.E.C. member who has since retired. Jon introduced him to the Society and invited him to a meeting, and Ed soon after attended his first meeting in September of 1996 in Burlington, VT. Like many of our first experiences with the Society, Ed was “blown away” by the knowledge and creativity represented in the room. It was at this meeting that Ed met Wayne Jensen, who also was a first-time attendee. Wayne was working on a rehab project, and Ed had money to lend, so they were able to generate a transaction at this first meeting. Not bad!

Not surprisingly, Ed started attending S.E.C. meetings on a regular basis, and became a member three or four years later. Since those early days, Ed has become well known as a hard-money lender, and has done dozens of transactions over the years with S.E.C. members and their clients. When asked what he enjoys most about the S.E.C., he said he really enjoys the education and the social bonding, and feels forever indebted to the Society for the many ideas and concepts he has learned and used during his career and the relationships he has formed. He was also taught the importance of counseling your clients; he took Jim Brondino’s counseling course twice and is “forever grateful” for that education. This has made a real difference in the way he views and approaches deals, and he was and is continually surprised at how little many brokers really know about their clients and their situation. In addition to his many years of deal-making within the S.E.C., Ed served as the head of the S.E.C. production committee for two years, and also served about 5 years on the Board of Governors.
When asked about his most successful deal, Ed explains that his best transaction was actually a series of transactions. Since Ed’s business revolves around making loans to other real estate practitioners, he strives to understand the borrower’s project and plan, but also to develop a relationship with the borrower and understand their motivations and desires. One such relationship was with two younger guys who were rehabbers of single-family houses. He got to know these guys well and understood their plan, and they developed an incredibly successful relationship which resulted in 130 transactions over a span of 11 years!

When asked what he considered his biggest mistake in his real estate business and what he learned from it, Ed’s primary response was “don’t reach outside of your level of competency.” He went on to explain that his worst deals were those where he had broken his discipline and his own set of rules for what he looks for in a deal. In those cases, he stepped too far outside of his comfort zone and knowledge base as it related to property type, risk tolerance, etc., and he ended up paying the price for it. All things considered, however, these transactions were reminders, although sometimes costly reminders, for Ed to stay the course and keep his discipline; and that is ultimately what has made Ed’s investment career such a successful and rewarding one.

Recently, in October 2009, Ed and his wife of 43 years, Alice (a stay at home mom/high school English teacher/recent retiree), packed up and relocated to Calabasas, CA, to be closer to their son and daughter, who both live in Los Angeles and, most importantly, their two grandsons. Since that time, Ed has continued to focus on his lending business with S.E.C. contacts, and making new contacts in his local market. Ed also enjoys continuing to learn, and makes a regular habit of attending seminars, meetings of investment clubs, and educational sessions. Even though his own experiences and knowledge quite frequently exceed the vast majority of attendees and in many cases the presenters, Ed attends with an open mind in hopes of discovering at least one thing that he didn’t know before. Ed also enjoys spending time on the beaches of Malibu with his family, counseling people in the business, and spending time with his grandsons.

One could say that Ed Berlinski has reached a gratifying level of success in life and in business, and they would be right. He once said that if he were to paint a perfect picture of what he wanted to do and where he wanted to be, he is doing it now in that place. And at the end of the day, there is nothing more gratifying than that!!

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