Max Dobens stays cool under pressure. On September 11, 2001, he was supposed to sit for his real estate exam in the Financial District.
Watching the second plane hit the second tower from the window of the test room, instinct kicked in and he knew he should leave. Taking the stairs to the street, he shared a cab with someone who was near Trinity Church when it happened and was able to get home. A week later he passed the test in Albany and became a broker.
Starting a real estate career amidst a crisis didn't phase Dobens. "I'm a calm guy," he says. "I don't freak out. We're New Yorkers. We will bounce back and things will normalize." Working for Prudential Douglas Elliman, this year he became Executive Vice President and Director of Sales.
Education is paramount for Dobens. He teaches new agents at Douglas Elliman, is a guest lecturer at Michigan State College (his alma mater) and at Baruch college, but most importantly makes sure to always educate his staff, with what he calls "Higher Ed Thursdays." Topics range from how to pick up buyers at open houses to presentation skills. "All the practical stuff I've learned over the years," he says.
Dobens keeps a grill out in the back of his office building at 137 Waverly Place (Edgar Allen Poe's old home, he notes) and each month, he grills a lunch for the top broker. He'll make whatever that person requests - grilled tofu, in one case - and bring someone in from headquarters to chat. These lunches have given him ideas for areas to improve, he says. "Just because you have gray hair doesn't mean you stop learning."
Dobens's greatest achievements are his two sons, Aiden (17) and Sean (14). He took them to South Africa for the last World Cup, but not just to watch soccer matches.
In conjunction with the Pajama Program (an organization that gives pajamas to children in need), Dobens collected 220 pairs of pajamas and brought them to South Africa. Along with Aiden and Sean, they distributed the pajamas to children with HIV and AIDS in Cape Town.
"As a father, I wanted to show my sons that not everybody lives in a condo on the Upper East Side," Dobens affirms. "You have to exposure your kids to the real world."