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The Young Professionals: Their Future Is Today

March 29, 2013

The median age of REALTORS® working as full-time commercial real estate professionals is 57, according to the NAR 2012 Commercial Member Profile. This statistic surprises no one – accomplished commercial practitioners often come with a wealth of years of experience highly prized in the industry. Yet, there are many young professional REALTORS® thriving and producing in commercial real estate with much success.

For a better sense of where today’s most flourishing young commercial real estate professionals are coming from, NAR Commercial reached out to REALTORS® who are top producers in commercial specialties spanning from land brokerage to retail leasing. The young professionals who comment below are movers-and shakers; most were recognized by REALTOR® Magazine’s “30 Under 30” and all are influential well beyond their years.

A Day In The Life Of A Young Commercial Professional

No surprise, young professionals are often tagged as technology savvy and quick to adapt. What was unexpected was the ‘old school’ daily techniques used by this new generation to increase their productivity. Most are successfully utilizing tried and true techniques for client care, prospecting and life/work balance.

Kyle Gable, Vice President/Brokerage, Ackerman & Co. (Atlanta, GA) starts his day with a written “to-do” list. “In order for me to be productive, I have to write everything out and see what I need to do in front of me. I have tried to use Outlook and other means, but writing it out is best for me and helps me direct the amount of time and energy needed to complete the task or goals.”

Once Kyle determines where his energy will be spent for the day, he spends some time reading articles and conducting market research. Kyle said, “Knowing my market is key to me being successful.” Last but certainly not least, Kyle tackles his business the old-fashioned way. “In my line of work, I very rarely sell through listing services. Therefore, I am calling the buyer and end users to discuss my listings.” Keep a database of your clients, Gable recommends, and mark it liberally with notes about what each is looking for, for follow-up communications and potential repeat business.

Deena Zimmerman, Senior Broker Associate, Jameson Commercial Real Estate (Chicago, IL) also starts her day with two written lists – one for today and one for the week. Networking is always a primary focus for Deena as these contacts are her largest referral base. “I try to attend 1-2 (sometimes more) networking events each week and schedule one coffee meeting a week to make sure I am keeping current with my peers/spheres of influence,” Deena said. Ever increasing her reach, Deena also makes time in her day to volunteer on several boards and various groups in real estate. “It feels good to give back!”

Chris Close, CCIM, Commercial & Preferred Properties, Close−Converse (Brainerd, ME) incorporates detailed planning into his routine. “I break down tasks by the following: ‘urgent but not important’, ‘urgent and important’ and ‘not urgent and not important.’ I try to guard myself from getting caught up in the tasks that are not important and focusing on tasks that are of vital importance.” Close places the utmost importance on customer care. “I must never lose sight that all of my income is generated from the clients who pay me for my services. I contact all of my clients on a regular basis updating them on activity and asking them if they have any questions, comments or concerns regarding my service. These conversations provide valuable feedback, build loyalty and challenge me to strive for excellence as I know I am being held accountable by my clients.” In the end, Close bases his day on his bottom line. “Sell, sell, sell – Nothing happens in my business unless a sale or lease is accomplished. I must passionately pursue sales or leases of the properties I have listed as this is what my clients pay me to do.”

For Drew Sigfridson, SIOR, Principal/Designated Broker, CB Richard Ellis/The Boulos Company (Portland, ME), coming in early (before 7) and staying late happens with a plan. “I make as many calls and setup as many meetings as possible during business hours and try to work on proposals/emails/etc before or after normal business hours.” Sigfridson also organizes his day using the all-important to-do list when that early day begins and systematically goes through that list until it is done.

Young Professionals Build Skills For Longevity

“Carve out a specialized segment of the market and really own it; it will pay dividends,” Sigfridson encourages. Also, don’t push a sale – the transaction isn’t the whole story. “Our clients are smart and they are looking for us to be their trusted advisor,” he said. “We need to provide them with the relevant facts and data, identify their real need for selling or purchasing a property or relocating their business, and present them with the best options. If we have educated them properly, the decision will be easy for them to make on their own.”

Education is another key for success. Close stresses the importance of ongoing education and earning designations, such as National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) affiliated commercial designations like ALC, CCIM, CPM, CRE or SIOR. “It helps establish credibility and it’s good for networking,” he said. Further, he explained, having a CCIM next to his name makes him an attractive choice for national brokers who are seeking a colleague in his region. “Without even talking to me they know I’m qualified,” he said.

Zimmerman highlights making use of commercial real estate data tools available, like Co-Star, LoopNet and new REALTOR Benefits® Partner Xceligent but specifically the REALTORS Property Resource® (RPR) Commercial database. “I just love it,” she said, from her perspective as a member of the NAR task force behind roll-out of this new tool. Zimmerman advises commercial brokers to keep tabs on residential data in their markets and read local business publications. “I rely heavily on residential data because it informs my business. If I know people are buying homes in a certain neighborhood, the retail development will follow,” she said.

 Zimmerman is also active in social media. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn keep her connected to her peers and allow her to share articles and upcoming events growing her sphere of influence.

For Kirstin Emershaw, Principal, Reve Pacific (Santa Ana, CA) success is about honest dealing and superb service. “My clients feel they can trust me and that I have their best interest at heart,” she said. “If the property does not work for my client, I will tell them. A few years ago I had to write 45 offers over the course of a year before my client purchased a property. Not many brokers will go above and beyond like that.” The bottom line for Emershaw is “there is no better feeling than helping someone purchase or sell a property. Buying real estate is a big deal. I am grateful my clients trust me to represent them in such a large transaction.”

It Pays To Seek Out A Mentor

Many mentors mentioned by young commercial real estate professionals have business backgrounds other than commercial real estate. Zimmerman reflected on the father of her childhood best friend who is now a mentor and father figure. "He always said ’don’t sweat the small stuff. You are never going to want to look back on your life and see that you missed the small moments.’ I think of him every day,” she said. She also recalls a role model residential broker she knew before she studied real estate. “She got me to get my license and taught me to follow what I believe in,” she said, and “at the end of the day, this is a job. You have to have other outlets.”

Sigfridson found an unlikely connection and role model in the lobster business after working on a lobster boat after college. His boss and mentor was transitioning from the lobster business into real estate development. “He introduced me to the industry and to the top commercial firms in Maine,” Sigfridson recollected.

Understandably, Gable was profoundly influenced by a senior commercial real estate professional with three decades in the field. “He’s seen the good times and the bad times. He took the time to really show me the ropes,” Gable said.

Close, whose father Kevin Close inspired him to enter commercial real estate, remains in business partnership with his dad. Yet another mentor is a pastor who’s his running partner. “I have several mentors in my life that are at least 20 years older than me. These men teach me, encourage me and challenge me if I am not on the right track.”

A Generation Gap? Turns Out – Not So Much

Whereas young commercial real estate professionals acknowledge they can be more technologically facile than their more established counterparts, Zimmerman learned commercial brokers earn kudos for not relying on digital communication. “Technology is so easy for us now, sometimes we forget we should pick up the phone,” she said, noting that her mentors “don’t do conference calls, they do lunch.”

“Perhaps my generation has more of a willingness to collaborate and share information that can result in more deals,” Sigfridson said. “Also, some brokers who are 20 years older may have some hesitancy to use new technologies to their full extent.” To that end, the young professionals interviewed bridged that gap by adapting the most effective ways of doing business and pushing the envelope when it comes to sharing information and not necessarily using technology to do it.

Emershaw added, “I know how to draft offers, type my own contracts, market my properties, list my properties and calculate payment scenarios for my clients. I do not need help with that," demonstrating a self-reliance that may seem foreign to seasoned brokers with assistants typically assigned those duties and yet a breath of fresh air. "It is nice to have help with that, but if I’m in a bind I don’t need to rely on anyone else to get a deal done.”

REALTOR® – A Point Of Pride

REALTORS® who are young and working as commercial brokers see abundant reasons to be proud of their role in the industry.

“It’s great we have an organization with rules and ethics in place,” Gable said. “It is also important we have a presence in Washington. When people see REALTOR® they know it means something. I am not just out there on my own.” Zimmerman is also attracted to the REALTOR® ethics requirements and prides herself in honest practices. She counts her clients and colleagues also as friends.

Sigfridson sees REALTOR® membership as a way to expand his sphere of influence. “I’m also involved with many non-profit organizations and industry trade groups and those are terrific ways to develop and expand community relationships.” Sigfridson recommends active involvement and participation in trade organizations to get the “full benefit and impact” of membership.

The young professionals interviewed place a great deal of value on quality of life. Close counts family time, exercise and an overall positive attitude amongst his daily goals. “Quality family time is essential to giving me the ‘fuel’ for success at work. If my family life is functioning poorly, my work life suffers as well.”

Zimmerman also uses exercise and setting boundaries for personal time (no work allowed) to create a balance including setting ‘appointments’ with herself for these activities. “It helps me avoid burn out so I can always give 100% to my job, my clients, my business partner, my co-workers and myself. I have fun every day. I am proud that every day I am true to myself. I was meant to be this.”