We interviewed Brandon to learn what advice he has for brokers starting out today.
You entered the commercial real estate industry in the height of the 2008 recession — what was that like?
I dove right into CRE after I graduated from college. Due to starting in the midst of the Great Recession, I quickly learned the benefits of providing value to clients at a time when most were not participating in buying/selling activity.
You don’t have any money your first year or so anyways, so I took that time to focus on building relationships, rather than worry about how much money I was making. It took some of the pressure off. I think for young brokers, regardless of what’s happening with the economy, you need to focus on building a foundation of quality relationships early on.
How did you choose your specialty? What advice do you have for brokers trying to determine their niche?For me, it was a mix of interest and opportunity.
Multifamily sales was something I had always had an interest in and when I started at Marcus & Millichap I had the opportunity to focus on a particular submarket I was familiar with and I jumped at it.
When you’re evaluating your options, consider talking to brokers who work in retail, industrial, office etc. and see who you relate to the best. Ask them what skill types are necessary and see where you can offer the most. You want to make this decision carefully because it’s important to stick with a specialty so that you don’t keep starting over.
So, you think it’s important to choose one specialty and stick with it?
What has been successful for me has been becoming an expert on one product type in one geographical location — multifamily in San Francisco’s East Bay. Personally, I think it’s important to specialize. However, some brokers have major success following their clients to different submarkets and product types.
What is some advice you would give to a young broker just starting out who wants to be in your shoes some day?
Set big goals but be ok with making mistakes and learning from them along the way.
When I was starting out, I was doing deals that were $1-5 million — what I would consider smaller, mom-and-pop type deals. Long term, my goal was always to do larger transactions. Slowly, we’ve transformed our business model to go after these larger transactions based on learnings we’ve made and the confidence we’ve built along the way. In order to have the confidence to go after owners of larger deals now, I needed to start small.
As a young broker you will make mistakes but if you always focus on looking after your client’s best interest ahead of your own, you’ll be fine.
What are some ways junior brokers can move up the ranks more quickly?
Keep learning and building your skill-set.
One way to keep learning is to develop good relationships with other brokers in the office. Talk to brokers who sell other product types — everyone does things differently so you can learn a lot from the people around you, even if they aren’t working directly in your niche.
In terms of getting noticed and moving up the ladder, work hard, keep a solid reputation and close deals. I made it my goal to be the first in and the last to leave every day.
When older brokers see someone coming in and asking for advice, they will take an interest because they see you working hard. Soon, my senior colleagues were willing to bring me in on deals and give me a cut because they knew I was willing to put in the time.
What are some common mistakes young brokers can easily avoid?
One thing all young brokers need to learn is how and when to be honest with your client about not knowing something.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t make something up! You need to be upfront and say you don’t know, but that you will find out. This builds trust.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a broker dig themselves into a hole because they were afraid to lose face by saying they didn’t know something. No one expects you to have have ALL the answers right away, that’s part of the learning experience.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions new brokers face?
I think a lot of people get into the industry because they see that you get to wear a suit and work in a nice office, but they fail to understand that it’s really about the hard work that goes into being successful, not the perks.
Then they really get behind when they fail to create a business plan that they can stick to. Your plan should be detailed down to the actives you’re going to do on a daily basis, otherwise, you get side tracked.
When I started, we had to make 150 calls a week, meet with 3 new clients a week and write one new proposal a week. If you don’t have a business plan, it’s hard to get momentum.
Today’s young brokers face a different industry than you did thanks to technology — how do think this will affect the average career trajectory in CRE?
People can get trapped in this idea that technology will help you close more deals. Some brokers believe that they can advertise on LoopNet or send out an email blast and that it can replace calling and meeting with clients. That’s a huge pitfall. Commercial real estate is still a people business and the technology we now have is a great supplement, but it’s still all about building relationships.
When I first started, we took a picture of every single building in our area. Yeah, Google was around then and we could have looked up the images but that wasn’t the point; the point was to get a feel for the market we were working in. I think the same is true today.