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Secret to Success – Tolga Tarak

After immigrating to the United States from Italy, Tolga Tarak found himself in Tennessee of all places where he worked as a used car salesman and paid for his education. Shortly after a brief stint working for another company, Tolga knew that he wasn’t building his dream but rather helping someone build theirs. He took his contacts and knowledge and launched Emilia Motors, a luxury concierge service that caters to the worlds wealthiest individuals. Tolga and his team help source the most extravagant vehicles internationally. Today, he lives in Monaco and Miami and has the privilege of owning a Bugatti Veyron. Some call all this luck but Tolga will tell you it was all Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.
You come from humble beginnings. Tell us about your background.

I ended up in this country actually 20 years ago from Italy. When I first came as a 21-year-old, I practically had nothing and came here knowing nobody. I’m from Istanbul, born and raised, so it was an American dream to come here and conquer while being young and ambitious. Of course, that wasn’t the case. You don’t come here and then somebody gives you $1 million. For the early 90s, that was big money.

I did pretty much anything possible and then put myself through school at the university and I did my post grad at Tennessee Tech. When I wasn’t studying, I was selling cars working at a used car lot. I put myself through school by selling cars.

Then through some dumb luck and I ended up in Miami. I always wanted to live in Miami. Why? Because growing up in the 80s, you had this image of trying to get that lifestyle, of rich and fame. It wasn’t really that easy of a transition because I went to school in Tennessee and it was a very difficult time for me.

I raised my brother who was 12 years younger than me. We put ourselves through school and then I met my current wife and I decided to move to Miami over 10 years ago. I did everything within my power to get somewhere. I continued being in the car business and then I decided I wasn’t going to make anybody else rich. I was going to work for myself.

 
So you started your career as a car salesman. Tell us about that.

Believe it or not, my first job was actually in Tennessee, not in New York even though I arrived in New York first. It was a hole in wall car lot I started and it was very difficult because I do not have the salesman personality. They all say everything the customers want to hear but it wasn’t me.

It didn’t work in the beginning because one thing I’ve realized is that I don’t want to answer to anybody. When I’m answering to people, I’m not successful, not because I cannot sell it, because I have to do what they are telling me to do.

What I wanted to do was just stay in school and not deal with work or managing a company. This wasn’t actually planned. I realized after all those years of experience with school is that you understand that everything you learned, you’ll never going to apply it in life.

What you apply in life is your experience and the experience told me that the only way to be successful is to be your own boss.



 



What was the first step for you in becoming your own boss?

I was working for another company and I realized that this was not going to work. I wasn’t going to make someone else $1 million a year so they could hand me a $50,000 W2 form. That wasn’t going to happen and at that moment, I took charge and decided even though I didn’t have my own money, at that moment, I built some clientele who backed me up. That was purely built on trust. I didn’t have nothing but my word and that’s how I started to be honest. That was the birth of Emilia Motors.

 
How did you come up with the name Emilia Motors?

I left home when I was 19 years old when I first lived in England. From England, I moved to Italy because I knew some people. I went to work at a supermarket there unplanned. Although I do not believe in destiny, I ended up in Emilia Romagna, which is the region where all the cars came from, the city called Modena, anybody knows Ferrari would know this and that name stuck to me, Emilia Romagna. When I decided to open my company, I had to have a catchy name so I put the name Emilia Motors. I thought it was easy and that name stuck to me ever since I left Italy when I was about 21 years old and I wanted to keep that name as a reminder of where I’m coming from.

 
How did you establish trust and build credibility when you started?

I have a few clients that I can call my family that I’ve worked closely with over a decade. They stuck with me and at the beginning, they were actually asking me why I didn’t do anything on my own. I said I was thinking about it but even as a brokerage firm, you need space to build something. You’ve got to have money. We’re not talking about a $1. A couple of my clients from Monte Carlo told me, “Don’t worry about it. You do what you can and we’ll back you up and you’re going to be successful.” That was scary to be honest. It’s easy to spend somebody else’s money and I don’t particularly like that.

Then I blew up very quickly because my clientele is on Forbes Magazine top list. When I go to the events in Monte Carlo I meet these people. Networking is important to business. They all stuck to me. Next thing I know, within a year, my telephone was ringing off the hook and nobody asked any questions. I want this, I want that, from Moscow, Istanbul, Geneva.

I’ve developed dealers from Paris and especially Southern France. Switzerland is my forte and one of my dealers over there, Carugati Motors, brought me a lot of customers, and that’s what this last decade is all about.

A key to your growth and success was the financial backing from others. How do you manage that relationship?

When you have a partnership that backs you up, they know that you have to get somewhere and they don’t expect enormous returns. Nobody backed me up because I was going to turn their million to 10 million, but it grew up so quickly, so they were pleased and they kept backing me up. I made my millions because people who backed me up were there for me. We’re still working with the capital. The money I make is my money, to be honest. That’s how I made it. I hold on to what I have and I make them happy off the return that I’m giving them.

Nobody says, “Okay, I want my money back now.” It didn’t work like that, not for me at least and is that luck? Yeah, I mean, I believe luck is laboring under correct knowledge. Without knowledge, you cannot be lucky.

From exotic car brokerage to yacht brokerage and my latest forte in real estate, I was pretty much visionary in that because when the real estate was booming and they expect it to market, I knew everything was going to go downhill and I stayed away from it. Is that lucky? No, it’s knowledge. It’s laboring under correct knowledge, that’s what it is.

 
How can younger people who want to get in brokerage get started?

You’ve got to pay your dues. You can go to one of the big companies like The Collection and you can be a salesman. But I promise you will be a salesman for the rest of your life if you’re not going to take the initiative.

Of course some companies spend millions of dollars advertising. I’m not like that. My command center is in my house where I’m on the phone and on the internet all day long. My clients call me at 3 AM because something happened in Russia and I help them constantly.

But if you’re sitting behind a big corporation and you have a job and that’s the only thing you’re doing, you’re not going to get anywhere. You have to take the initiative and you have to take the bravery. In order to do that, you cannot say, “Here it is people, give me $5 million and I’m going to start, give me $10 million and I’m going to start.” That doesn’t work either. That’s why you have to pay your dues, that’s why you have to build trust and you have to have clients that actually ultimately love you.

 
Should you have funds before you start or should you seek clients first?

You can do both ways. If you are brave and if you’re confident enough, you can start the business and try to obtain customers. I would like every young person, every single one, value education because I tell people, “Do get your MBA.” Yes, there are 3 million MBAs graduating every year. What is it going to do?

Because you will understand the market, you will understand what’s going on and when you are looking at the chart, you will know what it says. You cannot just start somewhere not knowing what to do, how to research. From your communication skills to negotiating skills, it’s constantly a learning experience. I’m almost 42 years old. I’m still reading, learning, and everybody I meet is a learning experience. You have to treat everybody like that.




 




You’re now actively involved in real estate. Tell us about that.

Because real estate is where the real big money is. If you look at anybody who are in the business, unless you are Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, the land and ownership of a house is an ultimate dream. They never ask. People want to better themselves and one day, you buy $2-million apartment, the next day you want the $4-million apartment. A house is a good way to invest as well.

If you buy it right, in a couple of years, you can sell it and profit and you’re not going to say that about any other business because your money is literally sitting there and you’re making your money or whether you actually live in it or rent it. The opportunities are endless but like they said in the Superman movie, “The land is the only one you cannot make.”

 
Tell us about your new firm Ocean Avenue Realty.

Ocean Avenue Realty is catering high end clientele mostly. We do work with lower end if we have to but time is valuable and small deals take more time than the big deals.

My partner Joe Cimino and I decided that Ocean Avenue Realty will cater to $1,000,000+ homes and lend deals and some commercial but not much because I have to deal with Emilia Motors. I don’t want to let it go. I love cars. I love my cars with clienteles and my dealer friends all over the world. I did that myself, I built that myself and that’s dear to my heart still.

 
Was the birth of Ocean Avenue Realty due to your car clientele requesting homes and other luxury goods?

Yeah because I’ve been asked. I get interesting offers. I mean, a few years back, a Russian client asked me if I can get him dolphins. Actual animals to put in his giant pool and I was shocked. It’s just like “You’re really good at getting everything for us. He said, “Can you get it?” I said “Yes, actually I can get it but you need a very special permit for this.”

The requests are like “I need this, I need that.” One client from Geneva told me he knew that this guy in Paris who owns a 1939 Alfa Romeo which is worth roughly about $15 million and he asked me, he said, “I will pay for it and I want it in my collection. Can you get it?” He even knew exactly where it is but those kind of people, they don’t want to dial anybody. They just want people to do it for them. I did it, I put a deal together, never lied my customers. If it’s $1 million deal, if it’s $100,000 deal, or $5,000 deal, it doesn’t matter. I tell them exactly and I tell them what’s fair. They always pay me more than fair.

 
How to you manage to run this business when it seems like you’re always on call?

The technology helps me a lot. That’s number one. I wake up early but after all, we do have wholesalers literally in Europe, Middle East, and pretty much all over the United States. We have connections and all we have to do is just, “We are looking for this” and next thing you know, it spreads like a web.

All you have to do is just literally just say you’re looking for 1-year-old Aventador to five people, the next thing you know, they are calling you for this, this, and this. The process goes very fast and you connections to four different wholesalers but mostly it’s a few people that actually work for us and then the rest comes easy.

What do you look for in your employees and how do you manage them?

I have a few main employees and it’s hard to call them employees because they are, in my opinion, the bread and butter of my business because they really do go get it. They are go-getters and the way they do it is through connections like me and some of them have even more connections, people that I don’t even know, because not one person can know everybody in the whole nation in the business. They make my phone calls and they report to me. When they find it, they let me know.

One of my best people is Antonio, he’s one of the best wholesalers in the world and all I have to do is just tell him, “I’m looking for this.” He won’t sleep until he gets it just because all these years that we built our relationship. Somebody knocks on my door and say, “I want to work for you. I really know a lot about cars.” It doesn’t work. Yeah, a lot of kids know a lot about cars but are you going to be able to talk to the billionaire that he doesn’t want to sell his car?

 
Through all the success you’ve had, is there any moment that stands out for you?

The best thing is recognition. If you go somewhere and they know you and you step into this big man’s world and million dollars means nothing and they respect you. That’s priceless for me.

You may have millions of dollars and nobody can stand you. That’s very normal and I try to keep it humble because modesty is a virtue and there’s nothing wrong with living your life like that.

 
Tell us what it’s like to own and drive a Bugatti Veyron.

Bugatti is not just a car. Even at the very beginning, it was above its time and today, if you’re driving a Bugatti Veyron, a lot of people have mixed emotions about that. I’m going to summarize to you with one sentence – it ruined everything else I’m ever going to drive.

It’s absolutely phenomenal because the feeling you get from it is immense. It’s practically an F16 without the wings. At the end of the day, you’re driving a seven digit plus dollar car and people are following you, people are filming you, and you’re a sudden celebrity and that’s the embarrassing part, well not for some people, even though it feels good. I don’t submit to conscience but the car itself is incomparable.

I’ve driven it all. I’ve driven the Pagani, I’ve driven the Enzo, I drove the original McLaren. I love them. They are all beautiful. I’m a big Pagani fan and even though finally we have it in this country, which I had the honor to meet Sir Horacio Pagani myself, I’m a big fan, but Bugatti truly engineered the Veyron above everything else. Here’s a simple example, you’re driving 70-80 MPH and you accelerate. You’re immediately going 170 MPH. The transmission, I heard that it took them several years to build the transmission alone and with the transmission, you hear everything but feel nothing.

 
We want to thank Tolga for sharing his awesome story. You can connect with him at the following places:

  Watch Tolga’s interview in the Secret Academy

  Emilia Motors

  Emilia Motors on Facebook

  Emilia Motors on Instagram





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