Stepping into the world of commercial real estate for the first time can seem daunting, especially when you’re joining an established and thriving firm. I’ve often heard commercial brokerage referred to as the ‘wild west’ and based on my experience thus far, the statement doesn’t seem too far off. In fact, if you Google “How to Survive in the Wild West” you will find an article entitled “9 Essential Tips Folks Used To Make It Out Of The Wild West Alive”. Ironically enough, you will find that these tips are perfectly suitable for someone in pursuit of a career in brokerage.

I’ve taken each of the nine tips and put my own spin on them in relation to my experience as a new advisor… enjoy!

1. Pack a Saddlebag Full of Essentials
Always make sure you have your car topped off with gas, because you never know where you’re going to end up driving on any given day. Not only should you have your car prepped, but it’s best to have a small tablet ready to grab and go with all your documents saved and accessible. You never know when you’ll need to pull up information while touring a building or on the go with your client. Having everything you need right at your fingertips makes you look professional and prepared—two traits that can help set you apart from the crowd.

Pro Tip: Have a stash of healthy snacks and water bottles in your car for when you’re on the go… you’ll thank me later!

2. Swap Stories
This one speaks for itself— networking, networking, networking! In addition to meeting new people and introducing yourself to others, a lot of helpful information can come your way as a result of constantly putting yourself out there. Establishing relationships and community connections through shared conversations is invaluable when it comes to being successful in real estate.

3. Keep a Keen Eye
The commercial real estate market is in a state of constant change. It is your job to stay up to date on local, national, and even global news and events. Situations can shift without a moments notice, so being able to recognize fluctuations in the market will put you ahead of others who aren’t paying attention. Just like the old sailors saying, never take your eyes off the horizon.

4. Stockpile at Home
Attention! This one is for all my fellow advisors just getting started. The reason many people seek out a career in real estate is because of the flexibility it allows. Essentially working for themselves, and yes, you probably guessed it — the opportunity to be extremely successful, financially. However, what many overlook are the dry spells that come in between sales and your commission hitting the bank. It is critical that you are not only comfortable taking a leap of faith, but also that you have your finances in a stable place where you can afford to go without income for periods of time. So, instead of cowboys stockpiling goods at home after their harvest season, make sure you have a healthy amount of reserves in your bank account before taking the plunge into a full-time brokerage career.

5. Always Pack the Heat
Although the basis of our career is centered around fostering relationships, always be prepared to stand up and protect yourself, if needed. There will always be someone that you cross paths with who will challenge you; it is important to remember who you are and feel confident in your knowledge, experience, and training.

6. Rely on the Community
Take a look at who you’re surrounded by. This goes for the people in your office, professional colleagues and of course, your friends and family. Always remember that these are your people and they are there to support you, encourage you, and give you constructive feedback. If you utilize your community properly, you will be unstoppable in all aspects.

7. Know How to Tie a Knot
Cowboys were usually tasked with tying knots as a temporary solution in the event that something breaks on the job. In commercial real estate, things will inevitably go wrong and you will have to be quick on your feet to find a solution, whether it’s temporary or permanent. My advice is not to let these problems scare you—jump right in and find a creative solution. Not only will your clients thank you, but they’ll come to appreciate and value your ‘can-do’ attitude in the face of difficulty. Trust me, this will set you apart.

Pro Tip: Knowing how to tie a bowline never hurt anyone… especially here on Delmarva!

8. The Sheriffs Aren’t Always Trustworthy
When networking and getting to know others, it can be easy to slide down the route of gossip. It is important to remember that this is never the best path to take, especially in a professional setting. Rise above those who wish to gossip about other people— you never know who is watching or listening. Not to mention, you’ll feel better about yourself if you choose not to participate in this.

9. A Wild Horse Can And Should Be Tamed
In every workplace, you will find people whom you perceive to be difficult to work with. The easy way out is to say to yourself that you’re not going to work with that person, avoiding situations that shuffle you together. I’m here to say that the easy way isn’t always the best way—in fact, it very rarely is. Learning to work with difficult people can be taxing, however you have the potential to grow a lot from these experiences. This will allow you to practice patience by pushing you outside of your comfort zone, and will expand your way of thinking by challenging your thoughts and actions. We can’t always have things our way and not everything is going to be perfect, so learning to work with what you are given is a necessity.

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between what it takes to succeed in the world of commercial real estate and survive in the old ‘wild west’. I guess you could say that in a way, we advisors are modern day cowboys (and gals!).

About the Author

Shelby Gillis

Shelby Gillis is an Associate Advisor with NAI Coastal. Prior to pursuing a career in commercial real estate, Gillis spent years working in business operations and retail management for a tourism company located in the Caribbean. Native to the Delmarva Peninsula, Gillis was raised in Ocean City, Maryland and has deep roots in the real estate brokerage and development industries.