Winick Realty’s Far West Side Shepherd

It was Mr. Baker’s familiarity with so many clients, in part, that persuaded Winick Realty founder and chief executive Jeffrey Winick to name the broker as one of the firm’s two partners two years ago. Indeed, following Mr. Winick’s decision in 2009 to dedicate more time to brokerage activities—and less to managerial duties—at the firm, Mr. Baker added partner to his co-president title. Despite growing pains, he’s learning.

“I want to grow as a manager,” said Mr. Baker, whose entire career has been spent with Winick, which has divulged that future plans for the company include launching an investment-sales division. “I want to make this company more entrepreneurial.”

“They are two completely opposite skill sets,” he added, referring to the distinction between brokers and real estate managers. “It’s very difficult to be a player-coach.”

In his brief tenure as a manager, Mr. Baker has spearheaded a drive to hire younger brokers, many of them recent college graduates, whom he believes are among the most passionate of the city’s pool of potential new real estate professionals.

As Mr. Baker sees it, the industry’s most talented brokers exhibit three strengths, with fundamental knowledge of the business and personality lagging behind what he defined as the most crucial of skills for young brokers trying to break in.

“Mental IQ is in there, but I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m the smartest person in the room,” said Mr. Baker. “The most important thing is the burning desire.”

Weathering the economic downturn is one of a real estate manager’s most difficult tasks, and when it became clear that business would be affected by the collapse, Mr. Baker extolled the young brokers on his team to stop worrying. “We said, ‘Guys, wake up! This is the best time to be a broker,’” said Mr. Baker, who defended his stance by talking up existing capital and rock-bottom interest rates.

Still, there is at least one thing Mr. Baker is not entirely confident about. Despite his early years as a resident of the Far West Side, the broker left the city recently, opting instead for a suburban existence with his young family.
But while soaring rent and cramped housing most certainly can take the broker out of Manhattan, taking Manhattan out of the broker, he said, is a totally different story.

“I reluctantly live in Scarsdale,” acknowledged Mr. Baker, who last week said he was considering a return to the city. “We are Upper West Siders, through and through.”
gvoien@observer.com