At J.H. Berry & Gilbert, we understand that remaining at the forefront of the commercial real estate industry requires a dedicated team of knowledgeable CRE brokers who are willing to work hard, engage with clients and stay up-to-date on industry trends. Years of experience have taught us first-hand the importance of preparing young professionals to lead our firm’s future, and we have committed to providing our upcoming talent with the necessary resources to meet these demands.
However, a recent report, Deloitte’s “Commercial Real Estate Outlook 2018,” shows that this sentiment may not be shared across our industry. Among other alarming trends and statistics, its research states that the percentage of real estate employees 55 years or older increased by 3.6 percent between 2011 and 2016. When paired with the fact that only 4.3 percent of real estate employees are of the 20-24 age group, these numbers present a call for our industry to prioritize the hiring, retainment and development of young talent. The CRE industry can mitigate this impact by immediately prioritizing a culture that motivates each team member to be responsible for the professional growth of incoming personnel.
With several young professional team members, as well as veteran employees willing to invest in their professional growth, J.H. Berry is dedicated to ensuring each employee is prepared and equipped for future leadership positions. We talked with a handful of these team members to learn what led them to a career in commercial real estate, what advice they would give to a new J.H. Berry team member and which company resources have been most helpful to them.
Hunter Hospes, project manager, oversees office building management for the firm’s properties including office buildings, retail properties, industrial properties and bank facilities.
What are a few lessons or skills you have learned from watching the seasoned brokers at J.H. Berry? I’ve learned that communication is key. Not just making a phone call or sending an email, but meeting face to face and shaking someone’s hand can go a long way. It’s helpful to always have an open mind and try and look at each situation from multiple perspectives.
What resources has J.H. Berry provided that have been helpful to your career development? Continuing education, information on networking events and company events outside of the office.
What advice would you give to an upcoming team member on their first day? I would say to be yourself, have a smile on your face and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re confused about something, ask. There is no such thing as a dumb question.
Your role at J.H. Berry requires excellent management skills. How has J.H. Berry supported you in developing the tools to thrive in this pivotal role? Being new to the industry, J.H. Berry has guided and taught me everything I know about commercial real estate and management. With that being said, it is also good to learn who you are and how you do things on your own. Everyone within J.H. Berry does a great job of not micromanaging, which is reassuring because it shows that they truly trust your judgement.
Jess Ragsdale, transaction and project coordinator, assists the brokerage team with activities related to tenant relations, tenant renewal, new leases, tenant improvements and capital improvements.
What are a few lessons or skills you have learned during your time at J.H. Berry? Working alongside such a strong and successful group of brokers, there are numerous lessons and skillsets that have been taught to not only me but also to the entire firm. One that stands out to me the most would be the importance of communication. In the property management world, it is important to convey communication to tenants and landlords on any moving or upcoming projects. Managing expectations from a project and capital standpoint is essential to keeping everyone happy.
What resources has J.H. Berry provided that have been helpful to your career development? J.H. Berry has provided me with the tools I have needed to see development in my career. Working directly with Christopher Thames in both property management and leasing has allowed me to gain extensive knowledge in those aspects. Most importantly, J.H. Berry has helped me understand how property management and leasing go hand in hand.
What advice would you give to an upcoming team member on their first day? I would give an upcoming team member the exact advice that I was given before I jumped into the CRE world, and that is to push hard through the first two years. The first year is a learning curve and the second year you start to progress, but, by the third year, you are seeing the results of your hard work and dedication. Find what motivates you and hold on to that.
You joined the J.H. Berry team with a strong background in customer service. How do you feel this skillset has benefited your work in commercial real estate? Customer service plays a vital role in my job. As I stated before, communication is crucial in property management. Tenants want to know they are heard and taken care of as efficiently as possible. Strong customer service generates loyalty, and loyalty generates leases!
Michael Reilly, leasing and brokerage associate, collaborates with the brokerage team to procure new business opportunities throughout the Southeast.
What led you to work in commercial real estate? I wanted to be in the commercial real estate business my entire life. My grandfather was a developer, and I was fortunate enough to grow up around people in the real estate business who were always working on deals. Watching my grandfather taught me how to interact with business partners and emphasized the importance of treating people the right way when you are doing business.
What resources has J.H. Berry provided that have been helpful to your career development? One of the best resources J.H. Berry has been able to provide are the people. Everyone has an open-door policy and is willing to talk through all aspects of the business – not solely deals. The older guys do a great job of helping us think things out so that we can best serve our clients.
What advice would you give to an upcoming team member on their first day? I’d say just to listen and ask questions. If you hear something that doesn’t make sense, ask about it. We use some very distinct language that isn’t always easy to understand if you have never done it before. Finally, do not be afraid to ask for some help.
What are a few skills you acquired during your time in investment banking that have benefited your role as a leasing and brokerage associate? My time in the investment banking world has helped me greatly in the commercial real estate world. It helped me to learn where different clients are coming from and how people on the investment side are often looking at entirely different things than a user. I was fortunate enough to develop some really great contacts that have been extremely useful as we work to grow our business.
Callan Sherrod, brokerage relations specialist, collaborates with the J.H. Berry office brokerage team to effectively support and manage the team’s marketing tactics, business development goals and client relations.
What led you to work in commercial real estate? I’ve always had an interest in real estate, but commercial real estate in particular became of interest after I graduated from college. I thought it was an untapped industry for women, especially my age, and I wanted to be a part of it. Looking for an opportunity to combine my marketing and sales background with a focus on commercial real estate led me to J.H. Berry!
What resources has J.H. Berry provided that have been helpful to your career development? I am so grateful for the resources and support that J.H. Berry has offered me. From a business development standpoint, they continually encourage me to expand my network by introducing me to different people and plugging me into different organizations in which I can thrive. Not only are we encouraged to be a part of these organizations, but the company really supports us by participating in events, serving as a sponsor or helping us get our foot in the door. From a purely knowledge-based perspective, J.H. Berry has provided me with the business and market knowledge needed to be able to provide clients with the expertise they have come to expect here. In my three years at J.H. Berry, I have been a part of countless transactions and have worked with clients in all different scenarios. J.H. Berry provides the market knowledge, tools and resources necessary for a young person like to me really be able to succeed in helping clients get the best end results possible.
You have been recognized as the BCRC Rookie of the Year and, recently, as a BBJ Rising Star in Real Estate. How has J.H. Berry supported you in launching such a successful career at a young age? J.H. Berry has supported me by teaching me the ins and outs of the business and allowing me to be a part of transactions from day one. Being able to work with Philip Currie and learn from him has been instrumental to my career.
Jake Taylor, leasing and brokerage associate, specializes in commercial leasing and sales and works with the brokerage team to foster new business opportunities.
What are a few lessons or skills you have learned during your time at J.H. Berry? Never go into a meeting unprepared. The brokers have emphasized the importance of familiarizing myself with the specific needs of a client and the market factors that affect their individual situation. There is no one-size-fits-all pitch for prospects and clients, so it is important to master their specific sub-market and have a tailored approach and solution for each situation.
What resources has J.H. Berry provided that have been helpful to your career development? By far the most valuable resources are the other brokers. They have information that can’t be provided through the internet or a database, so I always try to take advantage of their knowledge when they are available. The software we utilize is great for tracking market data, storing contacts and managing deal pipeline and activity.
What advice would you give to an upcoming team member on their first day? If you are new to the industry, spend most of your time during the first month learning the market, reading leases and absorbing as much information as possible. This will jumpstart your ability to work independently and add value to the team.
Your work in fostering new business opportunities for the firm requires a combination of relational skills and a deep understanding of business practices. How has J.H. Berry helped you develop this unique skill set? J.H. Berry is involved in and donates to many fundraisers and philanthropies. These organizations are not only a good way to give back to the community, but they also provide excellent opportunities to network.
Bill Gunn, senior vice president, oversees all commercial and industrial property operations for the company, leveraging more than four decades of real estate experience.
What advantages does J.H. Berry enjoy by committing to hiring upcoming commercial real estate professionals? Upcoming or young people entering the real estate field are critical to propel a company forward by introducing new thought, energy, enthusiasm, contacts and technology. We will be no better than the people we hire.
What qualities and values are common among the most effective young commercial real estate professionals across the industry? Work ethic, commitment, desire, team work and an attractive personality are attributes that come to mind when I think of the ideal new hire. Hire proven talent that shows signs of good potential, and then train them for the task.
John Hardin, vice president of office sales and leasing, has more than 33 years of experience focusing on tenant, landlord and property owner representation.
What do you foresee as the biggest challenge for a local young professional launching a career in commercial real estate? The time it takes to establish the relationships enough to make money. They have to work for someone who is going to teach them and train them. It will be very tough if they are thrown out to the wolves. They have to be good with technology. It takes a lot of long hours of hard work in the beginning.
Are there any pieces of advice that you offer young professionals when they begin working at J.H. Berry? They must learn to be outside their comfort zone, which means making hard calls on people they don’t know. They need a mentor they can work under that will help and train them.