Inspired Entrepreneur

As an experienced marathon runner, David P. Ellermann, CCIM, managing broker/owner of Ellermann Commercial Brokerage in Chicago, knows the importance of pacing yourself to reach the finish line. Yet his path to the designation, which he earned in just four months, was more like a sprint than a long-distance trek. “That time was very challenging, but the process reminded me that you can push to achieve any goal you set for yourself,” Ellermann says.

With a concentration on office and industrial sales and leasing, multitenant office dispositions, and tenant representation for the past eight years, Ellermann has experienced some of the best and worst cycles in commercial real estate history. Through it all, he has persevered as an independent broker, inspired in large part by his entrepreneurial father who died of pancreatic cancer at the very beginning of Ellermann's career. CIRE asked him to share the reasons he chose the fast track to the CCIM pin.

CIRE: How did you first learn about the CCIM designation?

Ellermann: As an active practitioner in my market, I'd heard how prestigious the designation was but did not personally know any CCIMs. Last summer, a client of mine, Gerard J. Keating, CCIM, SIOR, asked me why I hadn't pursued the CCIM designation. He encouraged me to become a candidate not only for the professional networking opportunities and skills to better serve my clients, but also to gain access to MailBridge (CCIM's designees-only e-mail marketing platform). As it turns out, it was the best advice I've received in my career since my father passed on.

CIRE: What was your path to the pin and what prompted you to move so quickly through the program?

Ellermann: After completing CI 101, I was surprised I'd gone this long in my career without the knowledge I obtained from just that one course. I was fortunate to receive a CCIM Foundation scholarship for CI 102 and took the remaining courses right away. It was clear to me that earning the designation was a solid investment in myself and my business. I immediately chose to become proactive with CCIM in every way possible and teamed up with two committees in the Illinois CCIM chapter.

CIRE: What CCIM educational concepts have been most useful in your daily business?

Ellermann: The combination of investment and financial analysis has been instrumental. Analyzing pro formas and providing advice based on yield requirements before and after tax with or without leverage are strategies I could not have provided to clients in the past. They didn't teach me that in college. Learning and applying the granulars of investment real estate while you are on the front lines is beyond rewarding. The overall curriculum has given me a competitive edge, investment analysis expertise, confidence, and tested and proven competence that I didn't have prior to obtaining the designation.

CIRE: With so many major brokerage firms in the industry these days, what drove your decision to be an independent broker?

Ellermann: Since I was young, my father always encouraged me to pave my own path. He was my biggest advocate and toughest critic. He was a pioneer in sales effectiveness consulting and a principal at William M. Mercer and Ernst & Young due to his entrepreneurial drive. After a long career in the corporate world, he grew several of his own successful companies. In the months before he passed, he encouraged me to uncover the core of what I wanted in my own life. We discussed the entrepreneurial opportunities of a career in commercial real estate - a business with high risks and high rewards. I started with a local firm that I trusted. When I wanted to take my career to the next level, I brought a book of business to my own firm, and I maintain relationships with every client I've ever worked with. I thrive on the boutique essence of entrepreneurship and having full accountability and control of my own endeavors. I'm very grateful for the work ethic and loyalty my father provided me - which cascades down to every client and relationship I've made in this business.

CIRE: What advantages have the CCIM education and professional network offered you in the short time you've been a designee?

Ellermann: The education has made me a better commercial real estate professional, and the CCIM network has put me in a position to grow in my career. As an independent practitioner, I wouldn't have the wherewithal to meet the kind of professionals I have since earning the designation. For example, as a volunteer at the CCIM booth during the International Council of Shopping Centers RECon 2013, I had an opportunity to work with and meet fellow designees and other major hitters with global brokerages simply by promoting the pin and the CCIM network.

My overall experience with the CCIM Institute has been the highlight of my career thus far. I've learned from, networked with, and befriended best-in-class instructors and colleagues who've opened doors to greater opportunity.

CIRE: What advice can you offer to others who are just getting started in the industry?

Ellermann: Creative opportunities exist in all market cycles.


Jennifer Norbut is senior editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate. If you have a story worth sharing in CCIM Q&A, send it to

Jennifer Norbut

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