A little over a year ago, I took a huge leap of faith and left a 19-year career in auto sales to step onto the commercial real estate playing field. In my first year, I’ve learned a lot through observation, time, dedication, trial and error and most importantly…under the guidance and coaching of a great team. I’ve put a few of my ideas on paper and felt it was a good time to share some insight into my journey. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned in my time with NAI Coastal:
I. Integrity Means Everything— This is not an axiom I’m unfamiliar with; in fact, I’ve lived my entire life by that belief and credit my career success thus far to the mentality. I’ve witnessed how quickly reputations can suffer due to even the slightest inconsistency in character… being authentic and genuine in business—and more importantly, in life, is key to building lasting relationships that help you succeed in the real estate industry.
II. Yes, Starting Over is Hard— When I made the decision to switch gears mid-career, I’m not going to lie… I was intimidated. Excited? Of course. But at 45 years old with two kids and all the bills that come along with life, leaving the stable, comfortable lifestyle I had built was a serious challenge. Starting over and learning an entirely different ballgame took an incredible amount of humility. Getting familiar with being the one asking questions after a lifetime of being the one with the answers was humbling.
III. Slow Down— There are many moving parts in real estate, and not all of them are within my control. This was (and still can be) a very hard concept for me to grasp. As someone who enjoys moving at a fast pace, sometimes it can be difficult to step back and let the pieces fall together. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how much I may want something done right this second… it will happen when all the involved parties come together, collectively, and decide to get the deal done. Conveying the facts – the value a sourced deal brings to a client, time sensitivity, market activity and trends, etc. – is my job as an advisor. Once I’ve done that, others must play their role whether they be co-brokers, banks, appraisers, attorneys, or even the clients themselves. Learning when it’s my time to act has been a process… do you know how hard it was for a trained ‘first call closer’ to learn patience in a transaction!?
IV. Time is the Greatest Resource of All— Time is valuable… use it wisely. Don’t squander it while you have it. In the first few months of getting started, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands… what I realize now is how precious it was. In using my time to shadow my mentors and offer up my help, I was able to learn. I practiced the basics… drafting contracts and leases, observing different methods utilized by my team members… I learned by making mistakes. Now that things have picked up and I am representing my own clients, I am able to look back and see how incredibly valuable the asset of time was for my start in the industry. The flip side of this is respecting others’ time. This is a fast-paced profession with sophisticated parties on all sides… people respect those who respect their time! Use it wisely.
V. Communication is Key— This one seems pretty straight forward but learning effective communication in terms of this business has been a process. I’ve spent my entire career avoiding email and text conversations like the plague. As a ‘people person’ I prefer face- to-face conversations… or at the very least, a phone call. Given how complex commercial real estate transactions can be, email threads where conversations with multiple people can be tracked and documents can quickly be reviewed, downloaded and/or edited tend to be the best way to go. However, learning how your teammates — clients and colleagues— communicate is key in navigating a successful transaction. Take the time to get to know each individual situation and adjust your communication accordingly. I’ve learned to be a chameleon in terms of communication style… if what you’re doing isn’t working, adjust early on.
VI. The Importance of Research— Learn the market because what you don’t know can hurt you. As commercial real estate advisors, we are viewed as experts in the field ready and waiting to assist clients in their sales and purchases. People rely on advisors’ knowledge to make life altering decisions… mistakes can be costly and it’s our job to have the answers. There are no ‘timeouts’ in commercial real estate.
VII. Bridging the Gap— Other brokers are not your opponents or competition; they are dealmakers. Linking buyers with sellers or landlords with tenants usually takes more than one broker. The faster you understand and grasp this, the greater your possibilities are for success. I’ve learned to grow my network and utilize local expertise while learning something new from every interaction. At the end of the day, we are all acting in the best interest of our clients and community… these relationships are what make business happen.
I’ve often heard the beginning of a career in commercial real estate likened to ‘drinking from a fire hose’ and it’s a pretty accurate metaphor. Looking back at the past few months, I am confident that I made the right decision in getting off the sidelines and becoming an advisor. I’m looking forward to a long career in the commercial real estate game and plan to absorb all that I can from the ‘fire hose.’
About the Author
George Merritt is a Licensed Real Estate Advisor with NAI Coastal. His primary focus is the representation of commercial real estate users, whether they be buyers or tenants. He is a true people person and is happy to work through the specific needs of his clients. Merritt brings over 24 years of sales experience to the table, including 19 years and over 5,000 units sold in the automotive industry.