Friday, March 12, 2021

3 Transcendent Figures in Commercial Real Estate

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Last Wednesday I agreed to an early meeting - in person, no less. On the drive back, I tuned in to my favorite radio talk station - KABC 790. It was there I sadly learned of Rush Limbaugh’s passing. I must admit, rarely did I listen. As a matter of fact, I can’t recall the last time. But, his brand saved AM radio and created a whole genre of content - conservative talk. Many of the stalwarts in the industry today have Rush to thank - including the two gents - Armstrong and Getty - to whom I was listening. Rush Limbaugh transcended his craft. Meaning? Everyone knew him - even if you weren’t a fan. Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali, Vince Lombardi, Oprah Winfrey, Billy Graham, and Stephen Spielberg all shared a similar impact upon their professions. Even if you never watched golf or consumed a lemonade iced-tea - you recognize Arnold Palmer. Transcendent figures do that - become household names.
You may be wondering. What does this have to do with commercial real estate? Only this. Our trade has similar figures who’ve broken the shackles of normal and transformed our industry. Allow me to introduce you to a few. Wait. You probably already know them.
Roger Staubach. Founder, The Staubach Company. United Stated Naval Academy. Heisman Trophy winner. Multiple Super Bowl titles with the Dallas Cowboys. Thanks for that Roger! You made this young man - a life long Cowboy fan - very happy in the 1970s. However, when Roger retired from the NFL his focus turned to commercial real estate brokerage. Roger moonlighted in brokerage during the off-season with the Henry S. Miller company. While there, he observed a need. Corporate tenants were lacking representation. During those days, owners of commercial real estate engaged brokers to market their assets and locate occupants to fill their spaces. But, who was the tenant’s advocate? Generally, a hybrid agent who did landlord and lessee work. Roger’s company forged the Tenant Rep concept whereby his company’s only clients were the occupiers of office and industrial buildings. Contractors, space planners, architects, attorneys, project managers, and moving companies were all components of Staubach’s offering. When you hired Staubach to secure a location - all of those service providers were part of the deal - at no cost. Revolutionized was the way in which corporate occupants were represented. Staubach was sold to Jones Lang LaSalle in 2008 for $613 million. How’s that for timing?
Andrew C. Florance. Founder, Director, President and CEO of Costar Group, Inc. According to the CoStar website - “Andrew C. Florance founded CoStar Group, Inc. in 1987, fundamentally changing the way commercial real estate professionals access, use and share information. Through CoStar, Mr. Florance pioneered the concept of commercial real estate firms outsourcing research functions to a third-party information provider, combining the operational efficiencies of a computer-based information system with the more thorough, standardized and higher quality property information produced by the industry’s first independent research organization.”
From experience CoStar is best in class and we rely upon its data daily. Tasks such as sourcing available inventory, researching ownership, and reviewing market trends - CoStar is the gold standard.
Bill Lee. Founder, Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services. Bill was a top producer at Grubb and Ellis in the 1970's. Bill's observation was that there was no intra office cooperation. An agent within the office had zero incentive to work with his fellow agent. Quite the contrary, in many cases the agent would "pocket" the information so that he could "double end" the deal with his own buyer. Bill wondered if there was a way to create intra office cooperation through a sharing of commissions and profit.
Bill Lee and four of his Grubb and Ellis friends started Lee and Associates in 1979. The theory was simple but revolutionary; create a system that would reward profitability and encourage cooperation. Each of the original "partners" was free to broker in any area, call upon any client they chose (as long as another Lee agent didn't have an existing relationship) and the agents were encouraged to share with each other. Profit was divided at the end of the year and apportioned to each partner according to his contribution. The resulting "splits" exceeded anything in the industry then and now. Lee and Associates "principals" (as we are now called) enjoy the best splits in the industry. Lee & Associates is now the largest broker owned company in the United States boasting over 60 offices globally.
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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