With more than 50 years in the business, John M. “Jack” Peckham III, CCIM, CIPS, RECS, of Peckham Boston Advisors in Boston, has played a pivotal role in commercial real estate's evolution. Peckham has not only served as one of the earliest CCIM instructors and founding president of the New England CCIM Chapter, but he's also led the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and directed the National Association of Realtors' strategic planning efforts. Yet perhaps the most notable of Peckham's accomplishments are his contributions to technology in commercial real estate.
As founder of the Real Estate CyberSpace Society (www.REcyber.com), one of the industry's first online networking and deal-making platforms, Peckham had a vision for how technology tools could streamline the industry. Commercial Investment Real Estate asked him to share some of the highlights of his experience in the industry and the impetus behind his technology vision.
CIRE: Describe how you conducted business in the early days of your career.
Peckham: We opened Data Realty Corp. in 1963 with a sparkling new IBM keypunch and sorter to match investors with investments by punching holes into cards. We quickly grew to 18 income property specialists and became the largest income property brokerage firm in New England. Nine of our salespeople began the CCIM educational program and became candidates. With this combination of education and technology, we became a dominant firm in our market.
A few years later, I published an article about how computers were poised to become a valuable selling tool for investment properties. The article discussed how computers could be used to analyze real property investments on a year-by-year basis, how to match buyers with properties in markets across the country, and how to look at the neighborhood and demographics of a property's location. People snickered when I wrote that article 45 years ago - Bill Gates was still in junior high school at the time!
CIRE: What technology advancement has made the biggest impact on your business?
Peckham: In the mid-1990s I started playing around with the Internet, typing long DOS strings of letters and numbers to bumble around on this fledgling phenomenon. Then, 30 years after I wrote my futuristic article, the big game changer emerged. I was at a technology trade show booth where they demonstrated a new program called Magellan, which put a face on the Internet and allowed users to click on text, images, words, or pictures to navigate the web with ease. I was looking at the forerunner of today's Internet browser. I knew this was going to transform our industry. The Internet tools, email, listservs - and the other outgrowths that followed - quickly changed the way we did business.
I began using this new technology and sold like I had never sold before. I hardly needed to leave my desk to list, analyze, promote, negotiate, and close income property sales. Over the years I have used the Internet to sell everything from a hydroelectric dam to a Swiss energy company to last week's sale - a 45,000-sf shopping center just down the street from the local buyer's office. The Internet and its resulting tools clearly evened the playing field in commercial real estate.
CIRE: You created an online professional network years before today's social media platforms were available. Tell us about that process.
Peckham: I founded the Real Estate CyberSpace Society in 1996 to assist real estate professionals in using Internet-based tools. Our team built specialized tools and included them as benefits of membership.
At its height, Real Estate CyberSpace Society had 4,000 active members. During this time, we also invented and developed a platform for conducting virtual conventions (www.CyberConventions.com). We licensed this platform to organizations, including NAR's commercial division. For a decade, we conducted annual national real estate cyber conventions featuring as many as 50 speakers, 150 booths, and more than 4,000 attendees annually.
CIRE: With the evolution of social media and other online networking platforms, how has the Real Estate CyberSpace Society evolved over time?
Peckham: The Society grew with vigor until the economic downturn forced real estate practitioners to tighten their belts. Today the Society continues to offer its three most valued benefits: CyberTips e-newsletter, Real Estate Radio/TV, and the RealBuyer Investor eDatabase. In addition, based on 50 years of deal making, I now offer individual deal mentoring to brokers combining the techniques I developed over the years with the knowledge base I gained from my CCIM training.
CIRE: Did you learn any lessons early in your career that continue to shape the way you do business today?
Peckham: Those early days were the seeds of organization and professionalism for the commercial real estate industry - and the foundation for my marketing successes over the years. Mixing my CCIM education and camaraderie with imagination and chutzpah, I have entered most transactions quite sure that I was better equipped and more knowledgeable than most sellers and buyers. This, with a sprinkling of hard work, has worked pretty well for me over the years.
Jennifer Norbut is senior editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate. If you have a story worth sharing in CCIM Q&A, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.