Friday, November 8, 2019

Three Ways to FAIL as a Commercial Real Estate Professional

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The airways and media channels are clogged with ways to succeed. Seven habits of successful people, characteristics of top producers, Three ways to own your tomorrow in ninety days - just by doing this!

Well, I wanted to write a success column of a different sort - an anti success column . I guess, by default, if you don’t do the things that will cause you to fail - you will succeed - but I digress. I can assure you this, if self destruction is your goal, follow this simple three step plan, and you'll be outta the biz in no time flat - guaranteed! 

So, here, in no particular order is my failure recipe.

Calling owners of exclusively listed properties. When I got in the business - before Alaska was a state - well almost - the one thing you didn't do was contact an owner of a listed property - period. If you are a member of the Association of Industrial Real Estate or the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors - you are bound to a code of ethics. Over time this rule softened somewhat and it was acceptable to call a national multi property owner, if, you weren't calling about a specifically listed property - but were simply calling to yack about the general market conditions. This is still a slippery slope. 

Look, here's the bottom line, if you get the reputation of an owner schmoozer, you run the risk of losing your largest source of potential business - the cooperation of other brokers. They won't trust you, share info with you, and will talk about you at open houses. We had a particularly nasty fellow in our area. He was notorious about soliciting owners of listed properties. Needless to say he was a bit unpopular with the fellows. We showed up an an open house one day - not his, BTW, only to find marketing flyers of HIS buildings plastered in the open building - and HE didn't plaster them! Somebody got EVEN! Classic! 

Not specializing. Take a look at the folks that kill it. They are specialists! Some like to know everything in a given geography. Others enjoy a product type - manufacturing, high rise office, big box retail. Maybe your thing is a specific industry - food production, law firms, or apparel distribution. One of our top guys only does national home health care facilities. A generalist must do two things to succeed - which are expensive and time consuming. He must learn a new market and new processes every deal! Here’s what I mean. Let’s say your specialty is manufacturing buildings between 20,000-75,000 square feet in the city of Anaheim. If someone asks - “how’s the market?” - your response will be focused on deals, activity, movement, and availability. If you’re a generalist - you’ll respond - “quite robust!” - which effective communicates nothing of value.

Ignoring your pipeline. Too often, we get so wrapped up in the execution of the deal, that we postpone, ignore, or stop prospecting - ENTIRELY! Picture a large diesel truck motoring down the 405. He's rolling! You don't see him stopping - unless some moron is traveling 55 in the fast lane. He's got momentum. For him to stop, start over and get that big rig cranking takes time and fuel - AKA, money. He avoids this whenever he can. Think about your commercial real estate practice in the same way. If you must start over, to fill your deal flow, you squander precious MO. The true professionals employ a machine that runs 24/7/365. Through mail, social media, signs, and follow up calls - their focus is upon finding and winning vs. simply fulfilling. Sure. I get it. What’s the point of finding new if you don’t close the old? But, trust me - getting ramped up is slow and painful.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at or 714.564.7104. His website is

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