Growing up in the shadow of New York City, I was constantly drawn to the bright lights. The silhouettes of the tallest buildings were just within an eye’s reach of Bergen County on a clear day. The draw to NYC was tantamount to the green light that draws Jay Gatsby across the bay to his beloved Daisy, persistent and almost daunting. It was exacerbated by the fact that everyone had a parent that worked there.
My Start in the Big City
When I began my commercial real estate career in NYC, it was everything I imagined it to be. It had all the pros and cons that I learned in that New Jersey suburb. The work style was fast-paced, buttoned-up, and intense. Each neighborhood in Manhattan was constantly evolving. Buildings were always rising or falling. New retailers were trying to make their mark in midtown. High-powered hedge funds consistently made efforts to establish themselves as premier office space holders. Industry-leading companies such as Amazon, Google, and Nissan were grabbing 20K+ SF office spaces at will.
It was a great learning experience and I truly feel that NYC has prepared me to tackle most challenges that lay ahead. However, there were facets of business I could not anticipate when I moved to Pensacola, FL to begin my career as a commercial broker. Each market is different. My hope is that the following will provide some guidance and insight.
Watch Your Pace
The first lesson I learned was being cognizant of each client’s need for speed. In New York, every deal needed to be done as quickly as possible and negotiating periods were short. In Pensacola, I was often asked to slow down when speaking and to employ more realistic timelines in the negotiation process. For example, presenting an offer to purchase a property and only allowing a couple days for a response. Each client is different. There are some who still require a quick turnaround, however, it is imperative to gauge the speed requirements early in the process. Given that, I still utilize a high-speed approach to the micro-tasks of my days such as research, prospecting calls, and an array of administrative functions that my job requires.
How We Met
Next, go out and meet people face to face. Because everyone’s schedule is so saturated in a city and travel times could be hours with traffic, most people were happy to conduct business over the phone, e-mail, or teleconference. Along the Gulf Coast, meeting face to face is the only way to go. Unlike NYC where most buildings and spaces are owned by commercial REIT’s or foreign investors, there’s a high probability that shopping centers, office buildings, and vacant land have been in the same family for multiple generations. Go hear their stories. Let them know how you can help their future interests.
Lastly and certainly not least, find the best way culturally you connect with clients in your market. In a metropolis, everyone connects through their diversity and similarities. For example, if someone is not from the metro area, we can share experiences being transplants from out of town (believe it or not, New Jersey still qualifies). And if someone is from the Tri-state area (NJ, NY, CT) we can find common ground in schools or with life in the suburbs. In Pensacola, a much better connection is made in similarity. For the Gulf Coast, and most of the South for that matter, college sports rule the roost. You need to have either an SEC or ACC team when you live here. It is also necessary to understand the deep-seeded rivalries that exist between schools. You wouldn’t dare say Roll Tide to a client who went to Auburn. Think of it like observing customs and courtesies like bowing instead of a handshake.
It’s all a question of how agile are you? At Team Beck, “Agile” is one of our core values that I truly relate to. Markets change all the time, that’s why they are markets. In this industry, you must be able to anticipate needs or put in the hours to determine the current needs of your clients.