David Malcolm is a real estate expert with over four decades of work experience. Since earning his real estate license while still in high school, he has managed numerous complex real estate, development, and financial transactions. He earned his real estate broker’s license in 1974 and later graduated from Harvard Business School’s Presidents Program. Mr. Malcolm holds the highest professional commercial real estate designation, CCIM – Certified Commercial Investment Member, and is a Harvard Business School Lecturer.

Based in San Diego, David Malcolm currently serves as President of Cal West Apartments, Inc. In 1978, he founded his first company, and from 1989 to 1997, he held exclusive rights to Rally’s Hamburger stores in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties. As President, he managed more than 40 locations and over a thousand workers.

Malcolm’s formidable work ethic, exceptional leadership skills, and ability to recognize real estate opportunities that others don’t and maximize their value sets him apart from other industry professionals.

His track record as a successful businessman in San Diego is only matched by his commitment to the community’s betterment. David Malcolm has held numerous municipal and statewide public offices and was the longest-serving California Coastal Commissioner in state history.

How did you get started in this business?

In high school, I read in the paper that an 18-year-old could get a real estate license. I decided to take the test – passed – and decided to start in the real estate business.

How do you make money?

Real estate owners wanted to give a young, stupid kid a chance, so I immediately listed and sold several properties. I used my commissions to start buying homes, which is how it all started for me.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

Within the first 90 days, I made more money than I ever thought possible. Nothing like getting your first big commission check!

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

I sold a large shopping center in my first six months in the real estate business. My commission was $100,000 (in 1972). I could buy four homes with that money. However, the seller hired an attorney who met with me before the close of escrow. The attorney said, “We will pay you $50,000 today, or you can sue us and win, but it will take three years…your choice?” I took the $50,000 but being cheated was mentally a big blow to me. As an 18-year-old, I wasn’t ready for “Real World” negotiations and decided I needed a mentor to help me better understand the business world.

How did you get your first customer?

I got my first customer by going door to door and asking people if they were interested in selling their homes.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

For many businesses, including real estate, social media is a must. However, nothing can compare to the power of referrals. That is why networking and making sure you always act professionally are so important.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

It has been challenging to deal with issues around COVID-19. Do you make your employees get vaccinated? Do you allow more “work from home”? What safety measures are we missing in protecting our customers? There is an endless list of items when dealing with COVID, and some are very difficult.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

There is no substitute for hard work. I had to work 60 hours a week for years. While this has a price to pay with your family and maybe your health, it is tough to succeed in business if you only work 40 hours a week.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

I still get excited about every deal! I love my work and the satisfaction of closing a complex transaction. It’s this constant satisfaction that keeps me going. I often tell my wife that my mistress is my job.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

My business, like most businesses, will look very different in five years. Staying in front of change is exciting and rewarding. How can I make my company “More Green”? How can I expand opportunities in my company and create a more diverse team? These items are GOOD BUSINESS! If I can stay ahead of my competition in these areas, financial rewards will follow.

What business books have inspired you?

I teach for one week every year at Harvard Business School. There are so many great business books that I could never name just a few. However, let me say that “Atlas Shrugged” is not considered a business book, but it will sharpen the way you think. The other book that isn’t considered a business book but maybe will generate more money than anything is the Bible’s Book of Proverbs. Your referral business will grow beyond your wildest dreams if you follow Proverbs. Getting new customers is expensive and difficult; referrals make it so much easier.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I was lucky to find and keep a great wife for the last 47 years. She “put up with” my long business hours, and I didn’t appreciate the job she was doing raising our two boys. I certainly could have been more balanced and told myself to bring flowers home more often.

Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?


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