5Q: Andy Gutman, President of Farbman Group in Southfield

Andy Gutman, president of Southfield’s Farbman Group, a full-service commercial real estate firm, has found that his passion – writing children’s books – is a great conversation starter that helps him get to better know his clients. “Charlie the Caterpillar” and his other books, along with writing songs, Gutman says, allows his creativity to shine through in the professional world.
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Andy Gutman
Andy Gutman // Photo courtesy of Andy Gutman

Andy Gutman, president of Southfield’s Farbman Group, a full-service commercial real estate firm, has found that his passion – writing children’s books – is a great conversation starter that helps him get to better know his clients. “Charlie the Caterpillar” and his other books, along with writing songs, Gutman says, allows his creativity to shine through in the professional world.

DDN: What are your responsibilities as president of Farbman Group?

AG: We have multiple companies that fall under the Farbman umbrella, and I really serve in that role of overseeing those companies, making sure that they’re performing the way they should be. I also oversee the properties that we own and make sure those assets are performing as well.

DDN: How did you start writing children’s books?

AG: My writing in general really comes from my songwriting, and I’ve been writing songs for years … I started writing things for my daughter … I was driving with her and my wife, and my daughter was telling us at the time about the caterpillars they were studying in school. And she was wondering what went on in the cocoon. And her idea was that caterpillars would be trying on different wings to become butterflies, just like a clothing store, they get to try on the different wings before they leave the cocoon. I thought that was a really cute thought. And so, I said to her, “Well you know, that’d be a fun song to write.” And she said, “Well dad, you’re embarrassing. Don’t write that.” And so, I did. Turned it into a song, and she liked the song. And I said, “You know what’d be fun? Let’s make it into a book. Kids can read about this.” And she said the same thing, “You’re going to embarrass me.” Which, “Yeah. Yeah, that’s probably true.” That was the first book, “Charlie the Caterpillar.” And it really became more than just about the caterpillar trying on different wings. It became a story for children to understand that every one of them is unique in their own way, and it doesn’t matter the color of your wing or how you look on the outside. Everyone has unique and special qualities that make them who they are and make them each individually special. So that was the first book, and it kind of took off from there.

DDN: When you’re away from the office, what are you working on?

AG: It’s always been my passion to be a musical artist. I was a big fan of all sorts of music when I was a kid, and I’ve been writing forever … I shouldn’t sing. It’s not that I can’t, but I shouldn’t if I really care about those around me. And I wasn’t great at playing musical instruments, so I never thought it would go anywhere. It really took trying to teach my daughter that you can live your dreams to really start doing that because I really wanted to be a good example for her. I kept saying to her, “In life you can be anything you want to be.” And she would always (say), “Well, you love music, but you’re not a musician.” And I thought, “Alright, well let’s make this happen.” And trial and error and 450 songs later, it really turned into something for me. So loving music, it’s not a job for me. It’s something that I live for every day. But I also love my day job as a real estate professional. So, you know, it started as a hobby, doing the music and the books, and as of now, I’ve licensed 30 of my songs to different organizations like YouTube and Overhead Media. And I started selling books through any major book store: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. There is money to be made in that industry, and I love doing that, but it’s a work of passion for me. I don’t sleep much, so most nights I write a song, I write two songs. And it just keeps going. I think it’s really taking something that is fun for me to do and then getting it out to the right groups to see whether other people might like it too.

DDN: How does your passion help you in the professional world?

AG: I like to try to see things that others don’t see, so whether I’m looking at one of our real estate assets or I’m looking at a problem we’re facing as a company, I try to look at it creatively. That’s always been a part of who I am. But what I found is, once people knew that I had written a book or books – and I’ve now written four children’s books – … They wanted to talk about it, … maybe because they have children, or sometimes it’s because they always wanted to be a musician or they always wanted to be a writer or they have unfulfilled dreams. And it’s brought me closer to a lot of the people who, in a normal day, we might just stay focused on our business … It’s turned into getting to know them a little better so I can ask better questions and be better in providing the services I do. But it’s also increased clientele who are not looking for your average real estate person. They want someone who sees things more creatively and (that has) brought me closer to existing clients. It’s really made for good conversation where I feel like I get to know people on a more personal level and get to know their dreams and help them far more than I could have before I knew them, when I just knew their business needs. … It’s really been a fantastic way of opening up conversation.

DDN: What’s next on your authoring path? Could this turn into your full-time job?

AG: I’ve got a few things in the works with my books. One of the major ones that I’m really excited about is, a while back we created Charlie the Caterpillar stuffed animals. And now we’re introducing a Charlie the Caterpillar mascot, a character that will go to schools and read to kids and go to hospitals where kids are sick and try to brighten their day and bring them books and toys. I’m very excited about that from a book perspective. (For adults,) I have a leadership book that’s coming out … called “Putting Others First,” and it really speaks to my leadership philosophy, which is servant leadership. It’s making sure that as a leader, I am focused on the needs of the people that I serve, not my own needs, so I’m excited about that. I don’t think I’d ever give up doing real estate. You know, I work for this great company that I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of, and I love the people around me. The company, the people are family to me. It’d be really tough not to be involved in some way. I think there’ll come a time when I’m stepping back a little bit more way down the road. But I love my day job so much that it’d be tough to give that up. And right now, I’m able to balance both, so it works out really well. So, I would say I’m keeping my day job and my night job as well.

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