Through my podcast Commercial Real Estate Elite: Broker to Brokers, I’ve spent a year talking to some of the best and brightest commercial real estate brokers in the country. To date, I’ve interviewed over 35 top men and women in the industry sharing best practices, techniques, resources, stories and more. And as an active commercial real estate broker, I realized that I just took a year of graduate studies with the best professors in the country.
One of my last guests, Bo Baron, challenged me to come up with a top-10 list of lessons. I thought that was a great idea and spent some time revisiting each episode. So here are my personal top-10 lessons from a year studying the craft through the country’s Elite (and one Canadian Paul Eric Poitras):
CRE Elite Year One – Top-10 Lessons
10. Practice with passion: Throughout most of my interviews I found myself getting excited and motivated, just listening to my guests. The passion each top CRE broker has for the business and what we do resonates in the way they describe their careers. It’s not a coincidence that each of these top brokers truly loves the business.
9. Value the small deals: Over and over again, my guests would describe how they started a great client relationship with a small start, a 1000 SF office space or retail unit. Or making one or two late calls when everyone else is gone. The point is, you never know how or when your next big deal will materialize. So you need to treat every deal with respect, attention and your very best efforts.
8. Develop mentorships and teamwork: I can you from personal experience; this is a vital first step to a successful career. Much of our business simply cannot be learned from a book or class. Finding and developing a mentor relationship that is mutually beneficial is so important. Mutually beneficial is the key. If you’re fortunate enough to work with a quality mentor, be sure to add value consistently. Take care of their clients like gold. Ease the burden on their time. Don’t take the opportunity for granted, earn it. I also found it very telling that many of the senior brokers I spoke to appreciate the chance to give back today by mentoring younger brokers in their firms.
7. Embrace technology: When I started this podcast, one of my goals was to discover and promote new CRE resources. Several broker’s I spoke to leverage new technologies and social media as well as anyone in the country. Michael Bull’s CRE radio show, Bo Barron’s blog and teaching site, Coy Davidson ‘s Tenant Advisor blog and Mark Jensen’s personal blog were my favorites. These are free and alternative marketing mediums for every broker. Beyond that, these efforts establish you as a market expert in the industry and a go-to resource. A big part of our prospecting efforts is staying top-of-mind and technology can help us do so.
6. Promote Cooperative Brokerage: Greg Hrabcak of Ohio and I had a great talk about this concept, and it came up several other times this year. The bottom line for me is that working with other brokers, to the detriment of your wallet, is 100% in the best interests of your clients. The reduced shared fees are off-set by the volume of work you’ll get for doing a job well done. Naive? Maybe. But I sleep well at night and promote the fact that I’m working solely to get top dollar for my clients.
5. Dare to be different: I find that creativity and thinking outside of the box is rare in our industry. Perhaps it is due to the serious, business-like nature of our transactions. But I have found in talking with CRE’s Elite that there is plenty of room for creativity and, dare I say, fun! Check out my first podcast ever with Derek Waltchak for some great inspiration. And Carter Byrnes from Virigina put it well, tell a “story” for each assignment. Sometimes we worry what our competition may think. Remember, what matters most is that the message we are marketing is being heard and by as many people as possible.
4. Work Hard: Simple right? But often overlooked. I titled my interview with Nick Gustafson from South Dakota as simply, “there is no substitute for hard work” because Nick personified that concept. All of my guests are workers and all are successful. This is not a coincidence.
3. Invest in Professional Development: This is something that I committed to in 2015 as I was finally able to get my CCIM pin. And a quick review of my guest’s bios will highlight the numerous professional organizations they’re committed to including CCIM, SIOR, NAR, ICSC, etc. I said it a few times this year: “we are our own businesses”. We have to invest in ourselves.
2. Choose Integrity: Yes, it is a choice. Each episode I ask my guests what’s an important quality or personality trait a top broker must have. Many responded, in some way or another, that integrity is #1 – being honest with moral principles. And, as a proud Rotarian, I agree. A great graduate school teacher of mine once told me, “all you have in business is your Rolodex (this was in 2003) and your reputation. Lose either and you’re finished”. Choosing integrity is the most effective way to preserve your reputation in this long-term business.
1. Maintain perspective: I took a few months off in early 2015 due to some health issues with my 1-year old son William. To this point, I’ve lived an amazingly charmed life devoid of tragedy or life-altering scares. That was until the Spring with William. Thankfully, everything worked out just fine and he is a healthy, strong, crazy little boy now. But the experience and conversations that followed taught me the most important lesson of all, perspective. This was also outlined in perhaps my favorite episode and talk with Jim Conrad of Illinois as we discussed his relationship with his mentor, Charles Wiersinski who had just recently passed.The bottom line is to have appreciation of what is important. We are fortunate to do what we do for a living. But the best remember that we Work to Live. Not Live to Work.
So guys, it’s been a really fun year or so in doing Commercial Real Estate Elite. I appreciate and welcome all the feedback Thank you for you support. Most importantly, I’ve learned and grown so much as a broker and I truly hope you have as well.