By Holly Dutton
He has as many inspiring one-liners as celebrity life coach, Tony Robbins, but veteran Corcoran broker Patrick Lilly doesn’t just talk a good show.
The one-time Village People roadie and Master of Business Administration has successfully blended a million dollar sales career with pro-bono coaching, and says he never been happier in his life.
“I have a belief that as I become a better human being, I become a better real estate broker, and vice versa,” said Lilly. “I think the two are totally tied in.”
A Maryland native, Lilly attended high school and college in Missouri. He gravitated to New York via a variety of jobs, including tennis instructor, bartender at a gay Fire Island disco and, most memorably, as a bouncer for 70s hit-makers The Village People during the band’s early days.
“It was a blast,” said Lilly of the short-lived gig, which he described as the most interesting job he’s ever had.
Although he’d enrolled at the New School to study clinical psychology, the excitement of being in New York City saw him drop out after just two weeks.
“I was the new guy and I wanted to play in the city,” he said. He bankrolled his lifestyle with lucrative bartending gigs for two years before the novelty wore off and he buckled down to business, enrolling in NYU’s MBA program with the intention of going into the advertising business.
“I was so naïve then,” he recalled of the months he spent job hunting only to find his new degree wasn’t an automatic key to making money.
“I’d made more money as a bartender than I was offered for some professional positions,ˮ he said, confessing that his confidence was at a low when he met an old pal for lunch back in the late eighties.
“He was a manager at Bellmarc and he asked me if I wanted to work for him,ˮ recalled Lilly.
“I turned up my nose. I said ‘I have an MBA, I’m not going to sell apartments.’ Then he told me how much money he made his first year — and my nose went right back down. Three days later I was working with him.”
And he’s never looked back. After two years with Bellmarc, Lilly made the jump to commercial real estate at a small city firm but quickly realized he preferred the residential side. He opened his own boutique company, Patrick Lilly, Inc, which he ran for 10 years before being bought out by Coldwell Banker.
“I knew Coldwell Banker was coming to New York, and I knew that [big companies] was the way of the future,” said Lilly, who went on to reign as a top broker at the franchise for 13 years.
But as he prepared to enjoy an Alaskan cruise in late 2008, Lilly was as stunned as the rest of Manhattan when Coldwell Banker became the first major real estate casualty of the Lehman Brothers collapse.
Admitting the trip was his “worst ever — I was worried the whole time about my future,ˮ Lilly returned to a flurry of offers from several of Manhattan’s leading firms.
“I thought I could give more to my clients at Corcoran,” he said of his decision to join Pam Liebman’s team.
His sales barely registered a hiccup during the transition, and Lilly has gone on to become one of the city’s most sought after speakers, inspiring and teaching others about the business.
“I got lucky,” said the broker. “I fell into something that I’m really, really good at. But I’m also a lifelong learner.
“The minute you stop learning, the minute you close your mind to new information, that’s the moment you start to die.”
After years of offering advice and information to his clients and colleagues, Lilly decided to take it a step further and, in 2000, began an 18-month study course in Seattle to earn a life coaching certificate.
“It was like getting a Masters,” he said. “It was definitely as hard as getting my MBA.”
He’s now been life coaching for seven years and said it’s how he has met some of his best friends.
“It’s really great,” he said. “Most of the life coaching I do now is pro bono. It’s my way of giving back.”
Sometimes he’ll even coach a client. “Not all of my clients want that, but every once in a while they do, and it’s a real pleasure for me, it brings me real joy.”
Lilly also coaches most of the members of his six-person team, meeting with them once a month to talk.
“Quite often it has nothing to do with real estate,” he said. “It has to do with their thoughts and beliefs and how we can change them so that they can live happier lives.
“Helping them become better people helps them become better real estate brokers, which helps them to serve our clients better. So it’s a win-win situation.”