Friday, August 23, 2013

A #CRE career? Things to consider


I provide Location Advice to owners and occupants of industrial buildings in Southern California...AKA...I am a commercial real estate broker and have been since 1984...all with the same firm, Lee and Associates and all in the same area of specialty and geography! I believe that qualifies me as some sort of an expert on the industry...and I have the grey hair to prove it!
Recently a Twitter colleague of mine, Barbi Reuter tweeted the following question, "Who has sites to recommend to educate a recent college grad on the #CRE brokerage biz to see if it's a good fit?"
As I digitally fumbled around trying to help Barbi, I realized that the question was blog worthy.
Certainly Duke Long's popular post is available to remind us how old school guys (like me) attack the business. There are Quora answers to specific questions that folks have posed about a career in CRE. But, nothing I found would qualify as the advice you would give your kid sister, nephew, or spawn if asked about what you do, why you do it and what advice would you give them if they wanted to get started. Ready or not...that missing advice, Barbi. I will frame the advice into five areas of conversation...What, why, common traits, pitfalls and considerations...something extra.
What we do: Quite simply, we benefit financially (often quite handsomely) from change. That change occurs when an occupant moves from point A to point B and leases or purchases a location. We can also benefit from a static change in the terms of a lease if the occupant stays in their present location and renews a lease. 
Why we do it: To have the freedom to make as much money as we want without territory barriers, bosses, or constraints upon who we prospect as clients. Many of us enjoy the entrepreneurial spirit of the business and the ability to help and advise entrepreneurs.
Common traits: I have found that most successful CRE brokers are self motivated, disciplined, thrive on competition, and connect well with people...notice outgoing wasn't included? I have witnessed several very successful yet introverted CRE brokers who have the other traits and thrive.
Pitfalls: No salary, no benefits (medical, retirement, vacation, etc.) No safety net (you fail...look in the mirror), you "eat what you kill", you are the owner, CFO, COO, marketing director, chief engineer, janitor, etc...of your practice. You better be good at ALL aspects of the business OR work in a team of people that are.
Considerations: Carefully consider four things...a specialty (retail, office, industrial, multi family, land, investments on the owner or occupant side or both), a geography (are there opportunities to represent occupants, owners, developers, investors, etc. The more of these, the better), a mentor (who will teach you the business and how well do you relate), and your personal financial staying power (plan on not making ANY money for eighteen months). I specifically didn't mention a company because "that depends". If you are 30 years old, formerly employed in site selection for Walmart and want to do retail tenant rep work in Austin, Texas the answer is different than a recent college grad looking for her first job as an office owner and occupant rep in north Orange County, California.
Something extra: What would I have done differently? I would have focused early in my career on more owner relationships. Owners hire you to find occupants through "listings", listings create a market presence, a market presence creates a demand and an expertise, the expertise grows with time. With listings you have control of one side of the transaction and can use that control to seek occupant requirements.
Easy next step: My time with Procter and Gamble taught me to always provide an "easy next step" here goes. Select a social media channel of your liking. Do a quick search of #CRE in twitter, "Commercial Real Estate" in LinkedIn, YouTube or Google and "LISTEN". Learn the lingo and become familiar with the conversations taking place. You will be well on your way!
So there you have it! They are all opinions, but they are all mine!


  1. Well, Allen, I'm honored that you would take time (which we know is money) to provide this guidance. It's very sound and concise. I'm most grateful!

    1. My pleasure, Barbi! I am happy that I could help. Thanks for providing the inspiration. Please tell ALL of your famous friends:)