Though many industry pros learn the fundamentals of real estate in their first CCIM course, Leslie H. Cox, CCIM, asset manager for Iron Creek Ventures in Frisco, Texas, gained real-life real estate experience during his sophomore year at Texas A&M University. “I had the privilege of living rent free in exchange for managing a small apartment complex,” says Cox, who went on to pursue his Texas real estate sales and brokerage licenses during his college years. Having since held licenses in California, Florida, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Alabama, “I have done just about every type of transaction,” Cox says. “I have managed and sold office buildings, apartments, retail shopping centers, triple-net leased properties, historic redevelopments, hotels, and even self-storage facilities.”
Though his wide range of experience helped him to build a successful commercial real estate career, Cox took a hiatus from the industry in 2008. He returned in 2013 in an asset management role, equipped with a CCIM designation. Commercial Investment Real Estate interviewed Cox about his career evolution and why he decided to pursue the CCIM education before getting back into commercial real estate.
CIRE: How did your career in commercial real estate evolve from your early days as a property manager?
Cox: After selling my property management company in College Station, Texas, in 1995, I moved to New Zealand for a while and later landed in Boulder, Colo. I've been fortunate to be able to take breaks from the industry and return again when the time was right.
In 2003, I opened a Sperry Van Ness office in Dallas just as the market was firing up, and new business led me to open another SVN office in Amarillo, Texas, in 2004. Then in 2007, I was looking for my next opportunity and realized the market was headed for a major correction. In early 2008 I decided not to renew my franchise agreement with SVN and took some time off. I used this time to travel, volunteer for my favorite charities, and work toward completing my CCIM designation.
CIRE: After all of that, what drove you to pursue the designation?
Cox: I actually started taking courses in 2001 and continued to take classes as time allowed over the next nine years. I finally earned my CCIM pin in Orlando, Fla., in 2010. The driving forces for me were the educational opportunity, the networking, and my respect for many of my peers who hold the CCIM designation.
CIRE: As a former broker, what prompted you to return to commercial real estate in an asset manager role?
Cox: The main reason for changing roles was opportunity - I wanted to join an organization that was already up to speed and would allow me to utilize my CCIM skill set immediately. I am now working with a private equity group that purchases nonperforming commercial real estate loans. I assist in the initial due diligence and oversee the leasing, management, and marketing of all assets. My brokerage and property management background was a perfect fit for an organization that owns hotels, shopping centers, and office buildings across the U.S. I am learning something new each day and that really keeps me motivated.
CIRE: Did your time away from the industry give you any new perspectives on commercial real estate?
Cox: Yes, I kept in touch with many of my former industry associates. Several of them lost a lot of money keeping their doors open during the downturn, others reinvented themselves, and some commercial brokers got out of the business altogether. Overall, each practitioner dealt with the downturn in their own way, but those who survived will be better prepared for the next cycle. I got into the real estate business during the RTC days, so I knew what the bottom looked like. I continue to learn everything I can about every project and remain optimistic about the future outlook for real estate.
CIRE: As an asset manager, how do you use your CCIM skills in your daily business?
Cox: I use STDB and REI Wise each time we are bidding on a new loan. It's important that I get up to speed on a new market in only a few days since our bid deadline is very short and so much must be accomplished in record time.
I use CCIM's Find a Pro to find commercial real estate brokers who are most active for the asset class in the market area. When I pick up the phone and cold call agents and brokers, having the CCIM designation is a big help in getting their attention. There is a mutual respect and alignment of values among CCIMs. We rely heavily on local market intelligence and no database can provide the information a geographic specialist can.
Once someone in the local market is working on a broker's opinion of value for the asset, I start my own research using STDB demographics, maps, flood maps, and aerial photos to create a document vault using CCIM's partner, REI Wise. Using these tools, I can quickly provide supporting data that will compliment the BOV produced by the agent in the field.
I am also responsible for hiring brokerage firms to manage, lease, and sell our assets. I use my CCIM skills to assist these partner brokerage firms in leasing and sales. The CCIM culture is one of sharing knowledge and skills with others. Everyone in the CCIM network benefits when we help each other.
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.