Miserable Day in the Life: Commercial Real Estate Broker
"I don't see you as someone who loves Real Estate," my one Principal said. Wrong…
I took a sip of my coffee and thanked whomever that we were outside and I had sunglasses on.
"I think you're just in this to make a quick buck," he continued. Wrong, again. There is nothing quick about the sales or leasing process in commercial real estate and I am certainly not making any money of note yet.
"I just don't think you're very loyal." Ugh.
This was all during what he called an apology, mind you.
Some days you are undeniably the man. Women want you, men want to be you, the stars align, and everything goes your way. This was not one of those days.
Whether or not it was the absolute worst day is debatable, because rarely are ENTIRE DAYS bad, but there were many aspects to last Tuesday that were undeniably awful in a stupid sort of way.
Make sure you check out a slightly more normal Day in the Life of a Commercial Real Estate Broker as well as my 6 networking tips and my blog in general.
6:00am: I woke up in a bad mood. The afternoon before I caught shit from one of the four principals of my company for work I had submitted to him. The work had been on point, but in the interest of time (which he had stressed was the most important factor), I submitted it to him in parts via email as I completed it instead of all at once. All he had to do was copy and paste it into one, one-page Word file. It was quite possibly the least complicated and least time consuming thing ever. But instead of taking a minute to do it himself, he lectured me for 30 minutes about why I should have, even though I was doing this last minute work via my iPhone…while driving home. Caffeine, shower, shave, and I'm on the road so that I can get in early to copy and paste this info.
7:28 am: Turn my computer on
7:29 am: Load email & Word
7:30 am: Copy and paste emails into word
7:30.5 am: Re-email Word file.
7:35 am: Principal decides that we only need the first part that I sent him, rendering the work, the lecture, the bad mood, and everything else associated with it absolutely pointless.
8:45 am: The same Principal and I have a 9:30am tour of a new construction office park we represent in a high-end suburb. 15 minutes before we are even supposed to leave, the tenant rep broker emails both the Principal and me saying that he is way ahead of schedule and will be at our site within minutes. Terrific. My Principal emails him back seeking clarification and direction. He doesn't respond. My Principal calls him. No answer.
This is incredibly annoying for a couple of reasons. Times change – that's life - , but as a tenant rep broker, you are supposed to set a schedule and control your client's expectations and pace during your day tours. More importantly, you are supposed to be responsive, especially when times change. Instead, this guy thought being a clown was a better game plan.
8:55 am: We powerwalk our way to the parking garage only to finally get a call from the tenant rep broker to say that his client liked the space, that it is in his top 3, and that he will be starting proceedings soon. This is good news, because he liked it, but also frustrating news because we weren't there. No relationship was formed. No questions were answered. No questions were asked.
Dumbass broker was from a top three firm, as are we. You don't expect these people to fumble along.
9:00 am: So, now we have an hour and a half to kill. My Principal asks if I want to get coffee, and considering the week and a half he and I have had, I know what's coming. Still, like the proper caffeine addict that I am, I can't turn down an invitation for coffee. Well, plus he's one of the bosses, so I can't turn down an invitation for coffee.
"I've been kinda hard on you lately," he started. At least he doesn't beat around the bush. "I think I've been unfairly busting your balls."
You see, my good friend who is a couple years older than me got an offer from an elite boutique real estate financing firm in NYC. This guy went to college with me, introduced me to the industry, got me a call with his managing director that I used to get an interview, and everyone at our office knows we are close. Usually, that was a good thing – he's a smart guy. Since he announced he was leaving, however, it has not been a good thing…with this one principal. While everyone else in the office, including the other three principals, thinks it is a great opportunity and are proud of him…my principal feels betrayed.
"I've been guilty by association for almost two weeks now," I said, matter-of-factly. "You even told me I was disloyal. …I didn't do anything."
"I just meant your generation," he tried to explain. "You guys jump around too much. There's no loyalty to those who give you your opportunity."
"You specifically said, ________, I don't think you are very loyal, professionally," I replied.
"Oh, well, uh, I apologize," he said. "That was unnecessary. I'm sorry."
What came next was a long time coming.
"____," I shook my head. "I drive an hour here and an hour back every day. I work longer than most of the office on top of it. Since I got promoted, I set us up for what will be our biggest tenant rep account in our branch's history if we get it and work on our largest landlord rep account as well. At the same time, I still do absolutely everything I used to do as Head Research Analyst, because my previous position hasn't been filled. I also check all of the admins' work, if not do it myself, because it is awful." I tried to pause, but I was pissed. "I'm getting paid for half of one job while doing three."
"We've talked about this," he countered. "Come January you're going to get a raise. Maybe five thousand more."
"No," I shook my head. "I'm almost 26, living with my Dad and stepmom in the middle of nowhere because I don't make enough to live on my own, I'm spending $350 a month on gas, I'm paying a fortune in student loans, I can't afford to do anything, and day to day I'm miserable." Oh, why not… "I need a 100% raise in January. Double."
The conversation twisted through all sorts of topics from there, including other people in the office, how my principal thinks I'm going to bolt to a competitor or something, how he thinks I don't actually like real estate, how he thinks I'm too egotistical, and a million other things.
Ultimately though, a couple of things stood out:
1. He was 100% receptive to my demand, making me think that they knew they were fucking me on pay and it was just inevitable that one day I would wise up to it.
2. I'm pretty much in an abusive relationship. I get told I'm egotistical and out for myself but then I get told how amazing I am. I get told I'm not doing enough but then get lauded for how well I'm performing. I'm the girlfriend my boss hits for washing the dishes wrong but then tells me how much he loves me and buys me a designer purse or something.
11:30am: The awkward "heart to heart" lasted two and a half hours. Two and a half hours. Two and a half…well you get it. It ended well, with my role more defined, my boss more aware of my expenses versus my income and how horribly unsustainable my income in, and the foundation of a plan for next year started. I of course have to talk this all over with the other four principals, but the ironic thing is that the one I work for most is of course my biggest proponent and supporter…to the other principals at least. It is a very weird relationship.
I tell this story not to make a diary entry to but to illustrate a main point about commercial real estate brokerage that doesn't always come up: You are a pledge.
You make no money starting out, you don't do anything cool, and when you find a way to do cool things, as you'll see a couple paragraphs down, they get taken out of your control and then messed up.
While in banking you are anslave, you at least get paid well for it and you aren't expected to produce until the VP level. Here, you're supposed to produce right away and you don't get paid much of anything, if at all.
I am 25, poorer than dirt, and live with my parents an hour outside of the city. I work 60-70 hour weeks and can't afford basic things.
12:00pm: Back at the office, I order food. It comes late and it sucks. I spend some time browsing MBA, MSRE, and MSF programs as well as WSO and twitter while I eat. I've heard girls call shopping when they're unhappy "retail therapy." I have "grad school therapy" or "post grad school therapy" where I daydream about not being pissed off.
1:00pm: I find out from another principal and VP that the major tenant rep account that I personally sourced and everyone loved me for and would have been the biggest ever for the branch fell through. It went to another top three brokerage firm. I had a terrific relationship with the CFO and he loved me but because I'm a younger guy I was only marginally involved in the account winning process. We didn't win it. Probably not because I wasn't more involved, but I did source this company myself…
Worse, this one account would have made me about $250,000 over the next 12-18 months. With $2,000,000 in fees, 25% of which would have been mine, and a 50/50 company split, that $250,000 pre-tax would have made all of the difference, not to mention deals after the original 12-18 month timeframe, and not to mention other smaller deals.
Also, in my short career, sourcing this client had been my claim to fame. It made me a badass in the office. People looked at me like a hero. Now, well I suppose I still sourced it and I wasn't the one who didn't land it, but it still doesn't carry anywhere near the same weight. Results matter.
2:00pm: Cold calling is not something that is very effective when you're in an awful mood. You need to come across immediately, within seconds, as someone worth listening to who can help the other person's problems.
Lucky for me, I've been practicing fake happiness routinely as of late so this shit comes easy. I dive into the phones and score some meetings.
5:30pm: I'm about ready to leave. Early, sure, but it's been a long day with a long week coming up. Predictably, at this point, my phone rings. All of the admins and staff are gone but my Managing Director needs a project done ASAP. Remember, I am not the head analyst anymore, but of course I am still the head analyst when a head analyst needs to be found but not paid for.
The senior analyst at the national level is FREAKING OUT because CoStar changed the classifications of industrial properties and it is messing up all of the numbers. As I look at the email my MD forwarded me, I realize immediately that I had noticed the discrepancies when running the end of quarter industrial market report (because again, I am still in charge of that for some reason), adjusted the previous quarters accordingly, and everything was fine. Literally, everything in my report, using the format provided, was accurate.
However, this senior corporate guy made a new report that EVERYONE HAS TO CONFIRM. Time to play in Excel for a bit.
8:30pm: Done. Email it to the Managing Director and explain to him how stupid that all was on the part of the senior analyst. He was impressed that I caught it beforehand and he thanked me for doing it again. Maybe my day will finish strong.
9:15pm: I drive through a yellow light. There is another car right beside me that does the same thing. I am not speeding or drunk or anything. A cop flies out of a speed trap, driving in the middle of the two lines, lights ablaze. Doing the right thing, I pull over. The other guy drives on ahead.
I get a ticket for "running a red light."