Dec. 12, 2017 by TREC Staff

How Our ‘Rising to the Top’ Speakers Rose to the Top

Everyone’s career starts somewhere, especially those who have ascended to the highest levels of their industries. Last week, our Young Guns members had the opportunity to meet with some of the leading commercial real estate minds in DFW during our annual Rising to the Top event to ask questions, hear stories and understand what it takes to climb the corporate ladder.

Prior to the event, which took place at Bank of America Plaza, we caught up with our speakers to learn about their first jobs in commercial real estate and how their early days influenced their future successes. Here’s what they told us:

Andrew Bennett, AIA, NCARB principal in charge, BOKA Powell

“It was at a three or four-man architecture firm here in Dallas called Thomas Welch & Associates that I worked at to gain experience. I didn’t even know what the word ‘prototype’ meant back then. You’re working on Lexus car dealership prototypes that you’d repeat, copy-paste, but one of the first buildings I did drafting on is still up and running in Plano. It’s a little retail building, an Office Depot and a Men’s Warehouse, but the fact that something I worked on when I was 21 is still up and running is pretty cool.”

Brad Brown, president, Austin Commercial

“I started with Austin Commercial out of college in 1998 so that was my entry into the business, but the impact to my career has been the value of understanding people and how important people are to your business. We can have all the great systems, processes, marketing and all the metrics you want to track, but ultimately it comes down to the quality of the people, so I’ve really appreciated and love this industry for the value it places on people.”

Kim Butler, head of leasing, HALL Group

“My first job wasn’t in real estate, it was in public accounting, and I will say that the job helped me appreciate my next job which was in real estate. I started at the bottom of the totem pole as a leasing agent and I was leasing a building and loaded up my briefcase every day with brochures and I cold-called from daylight until either dark or I ran out of brochures and I loved it. It was thrilling to me to be able to talk to people all day and talk to people who owned businesses and ask them how they came to own their business. No offense to my friends who are accountants, but it sure beats working on a ten-key calculator all day.”

Chad Cook, founder, Quadrant Capital Partners

“I was an intern for a brokerage company and I fell in love with the business. I saw the locker room mentality of the shop and the unlimited potential that the business offers. I stayed a year doing that and went to a small owner that’s probably a lot more applicable to what I do now as a redeveloper of office properties. I saw how a small company is run soup to nuts, from the leasing to the property management to the underwriting. I got great experience at that shop.”

Jeff DeBruin, principal group services leader, Trammell Crow Company

“My first job in real estate was with Centex Construction which is now [part of] Balfour Beatty and I worked for them for 10 years starting in estimating and working my way up through the field to ultimately being a conceptual estimator and purchasing agent. All of those skills that I gained in that period translated to my current role managing broader-based teams and I think inherently you’re a better leader and more empathetic if you’ve been in those shoes.”

Steve Everbach, president, Colliers International

“My first job in real estate post-college was with a small company called Joe Foster Company in 1985 and my first job was to lease three buildings that [Foster] and a syndicated partnership owned, two in North Dallas and one in Richardson. I went out and knocked on every tenant’s door in the area to get them interested in those buildings. I knew the Addison airport and the Richardson area like the back of my hand. I probably knocked on every door in Addison. You learn how to talk to people and learn to be methodical, diligent, and persistent, and you’d better know your product and how to highlight the benefits of your product versus others and the benefits of that company moving into that specific building or asset.”

Chris Faison, attorney, escrow-officer, executive vice president of commercial operations, Lawyers Title Company

“The first job I had in real estate was as a commercial fee attorney for Chicago Title Company, during the height of residential [refinance] boom. I guess the biggest lesson I learned in those formative years was that no matter how good business is, business goes in cycles and it will go away. I guess the takeaway there is to diversify your sources of business.”

Vicky Gunning, partner, Locke Lord LLP

“My first real estate job is my only real estate job and my existing real estate job. I’ve never left. I thought I was going to do corporate law and tax law and the corporate lawyers were told I was going to do commercial real estate law but no one’s fessed up to telling the corporate lawyers I was going to do commercial real estate law so I actually feel very blessed that it’s the perfect industry for me. Commercial real estate is so vibrant and there’s great entrepreneurial-positive people and you can get involved with clients at a young age, so it was a great career choice.”

Henry Miller III, managing director, Henry S. Miller

“My first job in real estate was when I was 12 years old sweeping up the parking lot at Preston Royal. The way it prepared me for my career several years later was showing me the importance of hard work. It pays to work hard, especially at something you enjoy and love and are passionate about. For me that’s real estate.”

Brian Straley, senior director, CBRE

“My first job was as a project manager with The Opus Group, where they taught us on day one to learn about proformas and where we fit in construction and the world of development. It’s affected every judgment I’ve made. One of the first things I think of when I take on a new endeavor is where does it fit with the overall development world.”

Lindsay Wilson, executive managing principal, Corgan

“My first job in the real estate industry was my first interior design job out of school which happened to be at Corgan, so it had a massive impact on where I am today because even though I left the firm for 10 years between 2000 and 2010, I returned back to where I started, so that first job ended up being my ultimate path.”

Doug Scott, executive vice president, Scott and Reid

“Always stay cautiously optimistic and pay attention to your client base and their needs. I have certainly been through my share of cycles and obviously we are realizing that we are currently having a great run. We are really fortunate to be in Dallas, Texas. Even when this market starts to slow, North Texas is economically positioned to be the steady mule. Our company motto is and always has been that “we chase clients, not jobs.” Follow through is needed long after victory is achieved. We are constantly working to build and maintain relationships and stay involved with our clients even after projects are completed. Repeat business and long-term relationships can help with business streams when markets soften.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,