Can two generations bridge the gap of different styles, skills, and experience? While attention has focused on the millennials becoming the largest working cohort, overtaking baby boomers, this generational shift is gathering greater urgency as baby boomers think about leadership and succession plans for their businesses.
If these three partnerships of baby boomer and millennials accurately mirror the commercial real estate industry, together they will smoothly transfer industry knowledge, build successful client relationships, and navigate the economic cycles.
In the meantime, mentoring and training has evolved into a two-way street. Baby boomers are learning from millennials and vice versa. Collaboration between generations remains as significant to successful transactions as it is among those of the same generation. In fact, many of these partnerships have resulted in improved return on investment for their clients and their businesses.
Dennis Cronk, CCIM, reports his business has significantly increased since Matt Huff, CCIM, came on board. David G. White, CCIM, is grooming Stephanie Hainley to spearhead the business he has built. And Caleb McDow is sparking innovation to move Ben Crosby, CCIM, and his business to even higher levels of success in his niche market.
Expanding Business Success
Both natives of Roanoke, Va., Dennis Cronk, CCIM, and Matt Huff, CCIM, have different styles, personalities, and skills, which they use to their maximum advantage for their clients. There's also a significant difference in their ages and experience.
But both have solid financial expertise. At 64 years old, Cronk has, on several occasions, sold the same commercial properties in Roanoke two or three times over. He also served as the 2000 president of the National Association of Realtors. Huff is 30 years old and started at the firm in 2008 after gaining investment and commercial real estate experience at Shenandoah Life and graduating from Virginia Tech with a bachelor's degree in finance.
“Our financial knowledge has allowed both of us to create custom in-depth cash flow analysis for our clients,” says Cronk, president/CEO of Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group. “We feed off of one another. The volume of business at our firm has significantly increased since Matt and I started working together. He invigorates me as much as I invigorate him.”
For Huff and Cronk, creating new investments and new jobs in their community is of paramount importance. “This career has given me an opportunity to improve the region where we live,” says Huff, who is now an owner of Poe & Cronk. “For example, industrial development has brought millions of dollars here that make our community a better place to live and work.”
Huff credits Cronk with helping him deliver the right mix of data and intuition to their clients. “I have learned from Dennis to know properties and people - a combination that incorporates the art with the science,” he says. “Also, we were fortunate that we were good communicators already, but, together, we have become great communicators.”
Cronk recognizes Huff's effective use of technology to build business for the firm. “Matt has improved our professional presentations immensely and brought us up to speed on CCIM's STDB, which we use extensively,” he says. “Matt also convinced me to let him redesign our website, which is much better now. The website is your front door to the business and where clients first learn about you.”
Both Cronk and Huff credit CCIM education with giving them the foundation to grow and succeed. “Those brokers who earned the CCIM designation or have taken CCIM courses make our firm successful,” Cronk says. Their company employs 16 brokers; eight of them are CCIMs.
A recent project in Roanoke shows how Cronk and Huff work collaboratively. The team represented Hanover Direct in the $14.5 million sale of a 650,000-square-foot industrial facility to Ardagh Group, a Luxembourg-based manufacturer of metal and glass containers for the food and beverage industry. Originally, the property was listed at $12.8 million.
The facility took more than a year to sell, and the two partners played different roles. Since the building took two hours to walk around, Huff showed it to the prospective buyers. Cronk negotiated the transaction with two serious buyers after bids came from brokers and buyers all over the world. The transaction is expected bring 96 new jobs and a total of $93.5 million investment to the community.
“Dennis has great experience that leads to great intuition,” Huff says. “He understands what clients are going through, and our transactions are all about meeting the needs of our clients and being able to predict probable outcomes.”
Managing Generational Succession
Over the past 30 years, David G. White, CCIM, CRE, has built his commercial real estate brokerage, investment, and development company from the ground up in Burlington, Vt. For nine years, he has mentored Stephanie Hainley so successfully that she has risen to the position of chief operating officer and senior project manager at White + Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors. Now transitioning leadership to the next generation is on his mind.
“I am thinking of a succession plan, future leadership, and ownership of this company,” says White, who is in his early 60s and is looking ahead five years to his pending retirement. “Stephanie will be a significant part of that change in leadership and ownership.”
Not only does Hainley excel at development, she has been recognized in the community as Woman of the Year 2013 by the Burlington Business & Professional Women, 2014 Rising Star by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Class of 2014 Rising Star by Vermont Business Magazine.
“Learning commercial real estate development and investment is like learning a new language,” says Hainley, who is working toward the CCIM designation. “I want to be fluent and am still learning. Through working with David, I found that I have an aptitude for business. Instead of getting master's degree in sociology, I earned an MBA at Champlain College. As Sheryl Sandberg says, 'Careers are not ladders, they are jungle gyms.'”
Early on, Hainley helped a local health food store relocate to a challenging site, navigating a very complex permit process, and overseeing compliance with permits during construction. This quickly led to other major projects, including working with the University of Vermont Medical Center's new radiation oncology center.
“Stephanie quickly picked up how to read a zoning ordinance, study environmental laws, and decipher land use laws,” White says. “We are not lawyers, but we have to understand these laws and ordinances to give good development advice to our clients.”
Through their years working together, their partnership has become collaborative. White consults Hainley about various issues because he respects her opinion so highly.
“Often, Stephanie will see something that I haven't seen and that will enhance where I go from there,” White says. “Her contributions are of tremendous value to our business.”
For Hainley, White has taught her to research every possible scenario and explain to community leaders why and how proposed projects will increase value to the city.
“David has taught me that people are moved by emotion, not by rules,” Hainley says. “We are more likely to get approval for a project when we explain the context and have understanding and empathy for the people involved.”
Specializing in brokerage for vast agricultural lands nationwide, Crosby & Associates gained crucial Federal Aviation Administration exemption approval to fly drones for commercial uses in August. Just two years into his career, Caleb McDow took the initiative and applied for a Section 333 exemption to the FAA rules, which prohibits businesses from using drones or small unmanned aerial systems for commercial purposes.
Like his mentor, Ben Crosby, CCIM, McDow is also a licensed pilot having gained his experience through nine years of flying planes such as the T-6 Texan, T-2 Buckeye, T-39 Sabreliner, and F/A-18 Super Hornet in the U.S. Navy. When he turned to commercial real estate as his career choice, Crosby was his trusted adviser.
“It was a way to work for myself and build my career,” says McDow, 34, a sales associate and agricultural land specialist at Crosby & Associates in Winter Haven, Fla. “My level of effort matches how quickly I can advance. Ben has helped train me from the day I started and is always available with practical and concrete advice when I have any questions.”
McDow and Crosby first met 12 years ago through Crosby's youngest daughter who participated in a national leadership program with McDow. When he considered a career change from the U.S. Navy, his first call was to Crosby.
“I asked Ben, 'How am I going to do it and be successful?' Ben and I talked about getting the CCIM designation and my transition into the industry by obtaining a master's degree in real estate from the University of Florida,” says McDow, who earned his master's degree in 2013 and expects to earn his CCIM designation in March 2016.
For Crosby, McDow has brought knowledge of technology and energy for conducting business that “has been a shot of adrenaline in the arm of our company.” He compares the highly structured and systematic way McDow was trained in the Navy to applying those principles to organizing and structuring commercial real estate deals.
“As fellow pilots, you are trained to look ahead by 20 to 50 miles to anticipate what may happen,” Crosby says. “Likewise, in this profession you have to stay in front by anticipating the next trend and figuring out the next economic cycle. Caleb has quickly adapted because of those skills.”
McDow's first big listing was for a 500-acre orange grove. Like other orange groves in the state, this one was plagued by greening disease, decreasing its value. However, McDow had difficulty telling the owner what the property was really worth. Crosby told him that if McDow did not tell the owner the market price for the property, he would not be serving his client.
Through financial analysis and concrete evidence, McDow persuaded the owner the property was worth half of what he thought. Within two weeks of that discussion, McDow and Crosby worked together to bring the owner an offer from a cash buyer, closing the deal three weeks later.
“Ben has significant experience, which is the biggest thing I'm lacking,” McDow says. “Since Ben is willing to mentor me, I have his experience available to me to advance faster.”
Nationwide, experienced CCIMs are teaming up with millennials to close deals. Their ability to complement one another is enhancing the profession and ensuring its longevity. Here are examples of their teamwork in action.
Sharing knowledge. Steve Williamson, CCIM, 63, shares his expertise in retail with Sarah LanCarte, CCIM, 27, who specializes in industrial. Located in Transwestern’s Dallas and Fort Worth offices respectively, they met at a CCIM reception and then shared a mutual client. LanCarte’s effort to keep the client relationship at the forefront of every transaction impressed Williamson. “She made me remember that it’s not just the result that it’s important; it’s also about getting feedback and maintaining the relationship.”
Combining unique skills. A 35-year industry veteran, Gregg Pounders, CCIM, 55, and a five-year newbie, Justin Bishop, CCIM, 31, at Pounders & Associates in Florence, Ala., collaborated to complete an $8 million acquisition of 50 properties for a 280-bed regional hospital site. “Our unique individual strengths allowed us to collectively provide our client with the attention and communication required to accomplish this monumental task,” Pounders says.
Cultivating family ties. Gary Banner, 52, CCIM, and his son, Ilan Banner, 24, of Sun Commercial Real Estate in Las Vegas, recently leveraged their respective skills for an Auction.com sale. Ilan attracted buyers and followed up on every lead using multiple tech platforms, while Gary used his market knowledge to educate potential bidders. The result was an all-cash, noncontingent sale at market price.
Enhancing teamwork. John Orr, CCIM, 46, and Elyse Chubb, 25, comprise the retail services team at Colliers International in Charleston, S.C. They represented a national real estate investment trust on the landlord side of a metro Charleston retail property. Orr provided the experience in analysis and strategic pursuit of the ground lease with use clauses, while Chubb knocked on every door to lease infill spaces with complementary local tenants that could improve the merchandising mix and increase the income and value of the property.