Stay humble- allow other people to shine and don’t be afraid to listen and not be the smartest in the room

Aspart of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing hotelier and developer Marc Lawrence. He is the head of LBL Group, a full-service real estate organization that specializes in strategic planning, development solutions and hospitality. Washington Avenue’s Kimpton Angler’s South Beach hotel is its crown jewel.

Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Marc Lawrence: The Anglers all started when I was working at The Related Group. To relax I would jog along the neighborhood, and while the rest of the area was being developed, I noticed a worn-down, neglected Mediterranean Revival building. The original Anglers began as a simple 49 room condo/hotel conversion, and ran into headwinds due to market conditions, which forced the developer to return deposits when buyers couldn’t obtain end-loans. Other issues ensued such as renegotiating a bank loan, buying out partners, operational issues, evicting a restaurant tenant for not paying rent, and a global recession. After 7 years of ups and downs, KHP (and Kimpton hotels) entered as a partner to merge the existing hotel with a newly acquired property to build phase two, adding 85 new rooms, complete with a rooftop pool, underground parking, retail space, a new lounge (Minnow bar), new restaurant (Seawell Fish and oyster), and renovations of the existing property. The hotel is currently a shining star on Washington Avenue. While other developers are beginning construction today, there are around 1,000 new units being built on Washington avenue, and the Anglers is once again the trendsetter on the block, leading the way for a new and improved Washington Avenue.

Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.

Lawrence: It was 2008 and recession was in full swing. It was the same time I got my CO for the newly renovated Anglers Boutique condo hotel. When it came time for the buyers to close on their units, no one was able to get a mortgage on a condo hotel project. We had to approach our lender for an alternative strategy as our loan was due. It was at this time that I had to renegotiate with the bank, return deposits, self fund the remainder of the project and renegotiate my partnership agreement. It was really risky because the loan expired and they may have foreclosed on me — and this was just as we were opening.

Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?

Lawrence: I was incredibly fearful that this would be the end of my entrepreneurial dreams and career. I felt my back was against the wall. I got the drive from my grandfather. As a child, my grandfather has instilled in me a sense of fortitude. Hard work and smart work, he believed, were the keys to success and would push me through. He also taught me to create our own luck and destiny, as well as our own paths and opportunities.

Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?

Lawrence: I was able to stick to the game plan and consult with professionals who gave me great guidance and continued to press along with opening the hotel and feeling confident in my abilities, knowing there would be brighter days in the future. After dissolving my partnership, renegotiating with the bank, we were able to open the first new hotel on Washington avenue, earning a top spot on Tripadvisor for four years and won a few awards.

Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share a 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Lawrence: You have to believe in yourself- I’ve been on a mission to refresh and relaunch the deteriorating area of Washington avenue. Currently, I sit on the Washington Ave BID (Business Improvement District (the BID) as secretary). Under Mayor Levine, the city recognized that Washington Avenue needed help, and my brother Eric was appointed to the Blue Ribbon panel to incentivize developers to invest in and improve Washington avenue. After I worked tirelessly to change zoning and planning laws, Washington is in the middle of a revitalization, and armed with a 10 million dollar General Obligation Bond GO BOND to spend on a master plan, clean up, additional security, creating artistic street interactions and hosting concerts in the area. The transformation of the community and interaction has been a top priority for me.

Don’t accept no for an answer -The life of a developer is spontaneous to say the least — every day is totally different. It can range from walking a construction site, meeting with a design professional, or GM regarding a celebrity in-house, attending city commission meetings, visiting a warehouse storing FF&E, and partner meetings all in the same day. I am not afraid to get my hands dirty and do anything that is required, including punching units in the morning and checking people in at night.

Stay humble- allow other people to shine and don’t be afraid to listen and not be the smartest in the room

Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Lawrence: I attribute my drive and entrepreneurial spirit to my grandfather who at an early age always influenced me to be my own leader and always own my own business. Even if I was trained as a lawyer, I knew that it was only a means to an end as I always listened to my grandfather’s good advice. However, the most influential person who exposed me to the world of development is Jorge Perez. I was lucky to have worked at the Related Group for 5 years and I learned quickly that a career in development was exactly what I wanted to do.

Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Lawrence: I am reshaping the city I live in, helping put Washington back on the map, rebranding and working with with Business Improvement District BID, to rebrand a once forgotten street into one of Miami Beach’s best new destinations. I have been working with City, the BID, the neighbors and design professionals to create a destination that will inspire a new generation of people to enjoy and take pride in. I am excited and honored to be part of this process. It’s a great feeling to know what you are creating today will reshape the community of tomorrow and is something I can point to with pride knowing that all my love, sacrifices, energy and passions went into.

Crowley: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Lawrence: We continue to look for new exciting projects, but the work on Washington ave is only now beginning and and the Anglers is still not 100% completed as we have a New England seafood house opening. Seawell Fish and Oyster is going to be the newest addition and I am so excited to introduce it. We own and manage our own restaurants. I have a great feeling that Seawell is going to be a local favorite. We will be the only Oyster bar in town and I am confident we will be well received. We have done extensive research, tastings and assembled a great team to wow both locals and tourists alike. Besides the new restaurant, my work with the Washington Ave BID is only now beginning, just got funded and hired one of the most amazing architects I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Currently, we are developing the master plan, working with the COMB and the Mayor to make sure we approbate the GEO bond funds appropriately and wisely. We know the responsibility we are tasked with and take it seriously. We are entrusted to clean up Washington, make it safe, fun, exciting and unique. I am proud and confident in the team we have assembled as everyone involved is a local and invested in making Washington great again.

Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?

Lawrence: I have many hobbies, friends and a wonderful family who believe in me and love me very much. I am grateful for my life, my relationships, my dog (who you can find greeting guests at the front desk) and the world I created for myself inside and outside the hotel. I have a passion for life, love exploring new places, spending time with quality people, and giving back. I’m very proud that I have been mentoring a kid since he’s been in 7th grade and next year he’s off to college on a football scholarship. It is very humbling and satisfying when you give your time and efforts to someone in need — the rewards have exceeded my expectations. I am grateful to have made a positive impact on a kid who otherwise had very little opportunity and guidance…it turns out that we needed each other. When I lost my brother, he showed me how fortunate I really was to have known brotherly love and that any of life’s challenges can be overcome.

Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?

Lawrence: Facebook-!/marc.lawrence.9674

Instagram- mr.anglersmb

Crowley: Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.