My First Year in Commercial Real Estate

In Bradford Buzzby Bradford

As many tenured agents and property managers can attest, the first year in commercial real estate can be grueling. Being prepared for what’s to come is your best bet for achieving success during your first year.

Every workplace has a mix of skilled professionals covering the gamut of generations. Generation Xers grew up at the peak of the Cold War while Generation Z has never known life without technology, including the internet. It is important to remember that all generations, Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen X (born 1965-1980), Millennials (born 1981-1996), and Gen Z (born 1997-TBD) all share similar values and worries. Everyone has the desire to be valued and for stability in employment. It’s in openly discussing what is important to them that we find their true motivations.

Recently we sat down with a Millennial and Gen Zer to get their take on their first year in the CRE business and their thoughts on the generational differences in the workplace.  Brandon Alexander, a broker associate in the Fort Worth office and Skye Hamilton, a property manager in the mid-cities area.  Both have been with Bradford just over a year.

What are 3 things you have learned in your first year in  commercial real estate?

Brandon Alexander: The first and probably the hardest/most important thing I’ve learned, was accepting the fact that in order to improve as an agent and develop as a person takes the willingness to fail over and over again to learn and gain more experience, especially in this industry. If a deal falls through at the last second, or a cold call didn’t go how I wanted. It doesn’t do any good to sit around and feel sorry about it. The only way to respond is to learn from what went wrong and figure out a better way to approach the situation for the next time around.  Another thing I learned was how to deal with certain clients. What I mean by this is how to determine if someone is a legit prospect or if they are not serious about needing my services. When I first started out, and because I didn’t know any better, I found myself spending lots of time on clients that weren’t serious, While I could have been using that time prospecting for new business. Learning how to ask the right questions and being able to properly vet prospects has helped me in determining what will be a valuable use of my time. And a third thing I’ve learned is to have patience. Yes, this might be a very rapid and constantly evolving industry, especially at this point in time here in DFW. But being younger I have to remind myself I can only control what I can control at the moment, and it takes time to gain lots of clients through networking, it takes time to earn their business, and it takes time for deals to close. 

Skye Hamilton: In transitioning from residential to commercial real estate there were many lessons and changes I had to learn. The biggest lesson I would say is that no deal or lease is the same. Just when I think I’ve got this figured out; someone throws a curveball. To me, that’s what makes CRE fun though! No two deals look alike which means every day is different. Property Management is much more than just processing work orders and fielding tenant calls. Learning the in-depth accounting processes and terminology has definitely been one of the biggest transitions from Residential to CRE. Those that know me to know how much I love things to be perfect and orderly. As mentioned previously in CRE no lease, deal, or tenant is the same. This has taught me to be flexible and how-to better balance priorities. This past year has taught me more than I would have imagined this time last year. I look forward to reflecting back to this article next year having learned even more!

Who is your biggest mentor? Why? What have they taught you?

Brandon: In my first year in commercial real estate, my biggest mentor would have to be my boss, Nick Talley, who is the Senior Vice President and Managing Partner of this company. Before getting hired on at Bradford I had been told by multiple people in the industry that one of the most important things to have when you’re young and starting out is a good mentor to learn from, and I am confident I found that in Nick. When it comes to having a mentor I don’t think that they should have to “baby” you. I think it’s important for them to allow you to mess up and succeed on your own. With that being said Nick has allowed me to do exactly that while coaching me up in the process and making himself available to me to address any questions or problems that I have faced thus far.

Skye:  My biggest mentor is my boss David Simpson. He was tasked with training me when I was brand new and had so much to learn. I am forever grateful that he has been my mentor through this learning process! David has taught me everything I know about Commercial Real Estate so making a list feels almost impossible. I think the number one thing David has taught me is to always think two steps ahead in any situation. There have been many times he has surprised me by being prepared for an issue I didn’t even see coming! I consider this one of the biggest lessons he has taught and continues to teach me every day. There is much more I could say to the multitude of things David has taught me about CRE but I will just say I am extremely grateful and blessed to have him as my mentor in this industry.

In your first year in commercial real estate, have you experienced any generational challenges out in the field? (If yes, explain).

Brandon: I can’t say that I have had someone specifically tell me they wouldn’t want me to represent them due to me being young but I could definitely get the sense that’s what they were thinking, just based on how they wouldn’t take me seriously at times. It would be completely naïve of me to think that that hasn’t been a factor. But as I continue to gain more experience and confidence, I’ve noticed that less and less. When I have gotten to prove to owners and clients how hard I am willing to work, and the better I have gotten to know the markets I work in, the less my age has been a factor.  

Skye:  Shockingly, I do not feel that I have experienced many generational challenges in the field in my first year in commercial real estate. I have always been told that I come across as much older than I actually am rather in a casual or business setting. I think most people never realize my age unless they see a photo or meet me in person. I have been told many times after meeting people that they never would have guessed my age based on previous phone or email communications. However, I do enjoy the surprise on their face when we meet in person! I know many people choose to be offended in these situations, but I chose to see it as a compliment and a testament to how far I have come in my life.

Millennials and Gen Z’ers are having a huge impact on the CRE industry. What are some positive influences these generations bring to the industry? What can other generations learn from them?

Brandon: When it comes to having millennials and Gen Z’ers in the commercial real estate industry one of the positive influences I have noticed is that we all adapt and use technology better than other generations. Since we grew up with it, it’s no secret that this is something that is one of our strong suits. With how the industry is constantly evolving so are ways that help us do our jobs more effectively. Speaking only for myself and those I know in this industry, a big one that we all have and something other generations should take note of is how hungry we all are to learn this industry and different markets that we’re in. All of us are willing to take on hard work and long hours to build our business. I think older generations miss that part a lot just based on our age, how we look or just because “Millennials” have taken on a lazy connotation. For those of us in our first year in commercial real estate that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Skye:  This is a difficult question for me to answer since prior to Googling “Gen Z’ers,” for this article, I thought I was a Millennial! To my surprise according to my birth year, I am a Gen Z’er. Not sure if the fact I had to Google that term affirms or contradicts that statement?! I think both generations have interesting and different approaches to their roles in commercial real estate as well as other industries. According to an article in Forbes which detailed difference between Millennials and Gen Z in the workplace, Millennials tend to be more of team players whereas Gen Z’ers prefer to work on their own due to their competitive nature. I think this could prove to be interesting as more Gen Z’ers enter the workforce. We could see a large increase in the number of young adults entering the leasing/sales side of CRE. With this, I could see technology becoming even more impactful in the CRE industry. Statistically many Gen Z’ers are choosing to enter the workforce rather than rack up student debt. With this in mind, these changes may be coming very soon! I think every generation could stand to learn something from the others. In my opinion, the biggest thing to be learned from Millennials and Gen Z’ers is our ability to multitask due to our love for technology. Our ability to do just about anything from our phones makes businesses more efficient which easily correlates to happy clients! 

According to Pew Research Center, the number of Millennial and Gen Z employees are expected to surpass Baby Boomers by the end of 2019, and they will comprise nearly half of the total working population by 2020. The overall lesson that we should all learn from other generations is that everyone thinks differently and makes alternate choices, but the values are all alike. “I think every generation could stand to learn something from the others,” stated Skye Hamilton, property manager.