Adam Milstein is an activist, philanthropist, successful real estate developer. He is originally from the State of Israel, where he attended university at the Technion and served in the IDF during the Yom Kippur War. Adam Milstein and his wife Gila moved to the United States in the early 1980s and earned his MBA in entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. After college, he began working in real estate and ultimately rose to the position of president at Liberty West Inc., a division of Hager Properties. Adam Milstein is now a managing partner at Hager Properties, which owns and manages over 100 properties around the United States. This portfolio of properties is valued at nearly $2 billion. In addition to his work in commercial real estate, Adam Milstein has dedicated much of his time and energy to strengthening Jewish identity, fighting anti-Semitism, and bringing awareness to issues affecting Israelis and Israeli-Americans. He is currently the chairman of the board for the Israeli American Council (IAC) and is actively involved in numerous other organizations that support these causes, such as Stand With Us, Sifriyat Pijama B’America, Hasbara Fellowships, and the AIPAC. Additionally, in 2011 he and his wife founded the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, which supports the education of student leaders and young professionals on school campuses about the State of Israel, the Jewish people, and the many challenges facing democracies.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
After earning my MBA, I wanted to learn the real estate business, which is what led me to the job at Liberty West, and eventually to the position of managing partner for Hager Properties. I did not start this business; however, during my time at Hager, I began to have conversations with one of my business partners about philanthropic work and ultimately decided to move forward with it. I wanted my life’s work to be about more than just earning money—I wanted to make a difference.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
In the real estate business, it took many years. Success does not happen overnight. You must be disciplined, follow up on all your leads and recognize that it will take time to get where you want to be.
How did you get your first customer?
By seizing every opportunity that was in front of me. I followed up on 100 percent of the leads that came my way. You never know which ones are going to pay off. The only guarantee is that you will certainly miss out on the opportunities that you don’t take.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I never doubted myself. I’m very self-driven and motivated to succeed. If one thing wasn’t working, I’d simply acknowledge it and find a better strategy. This is the case in both my work as a real estate developer and philanthropist. When you have passion for what you do, I believe you are naturally driven to succeed.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to grow your philanthropic efforts?
Synergy is key in the philanthropic world. I am regularly meeting with leaders of non-profits, pro-Israel activists, other donors, and other members of our community to personally have a clear and high-level understanding of what exactly is happening around the world in the communities I care about. That personal touch goes a long way—whether I’m speaking at an event, at a dinner party, or on a conference call—to bring our community together and achieve the goals of my foundation.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
It is always a tough decision to decide who to award grants to through the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation. I am always amazed at the various groups and the ideas that they have. Sometimes it is challenging to decide who to support. But this is a good problem to have!
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I am self-motivated. And I think that is because I have purpose and passion in life. When you believe strongly in what you do, and you have self-discipline, success comes naturally.
What has been your most satisfying moment as a philanthropist?
The formation and success of the Israeli American Coalition (IAC) has to be my most satisfying venture. It is now the fastest growing Jewish organization in the United States and it is continuously helping connect the next generation of Israeli-Americans to their heritage. I am very proud of this.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
My plan for the future is to train up the next generation of leaders who will promote and preserve the causes of the Israeli people and Israeli Americans. Even though anti-Semitism is on the rise, I feel very optimistic about the future. Through my work with the IAC, my foundation, and other organizations, I have met many pro-Israeli activists who are truly passionate about our cause. And they are working hard to rise to the challenges and connect those living in Israel and those here in the United States.
What business books have inspired you?
There are so many great books out there. Whatever specific topic you are interested in, you can find valuable information on it in a book. One in particular that stands out in my mind is And the Good News Is… by Dana Perino.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
There isn’t one particular object or possession that I’ve purchased that comes to mind. However, the money that I’ve spent investing in future leaders for the Jewish community has certainly helped with the philanthropic causes I am passionate about. Great leaders are vital to the future of the Jewish-American and Israeli causes. I believe it is my job and the job of others who have the resources to help cultivate this next generation of leaders.
Do you find it difficult managing a successful real estate career and working on your philanthropic projects?
I don’t find it hard managing both. These days, I am in a position where I can spend about 90 percent of my days doing charitable work. It is extremely rewarding and frankly, it doesn’t even feel like work. It is a passion that comes from the heart. I can’t imagine spending my time doing anything else.