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In a challenging, competitive field, principles and personal traits can help you find an edge

By Mike Migone, CCIM
Senior Investment Advisor

Commercial real estate (CRE) is an exciting and rewarding field. But it does have challenges. That’s why it’s important to cultivate personal traits and principles that help drive your success.

One important skill is learning to deal with discouragement. Even the most successful advisors will have deals fall through at times – it’s just part of the business. For example, a prospective buyer can be well into the process of acquiring a property and change course suddenly, deciding not to pursue it after all. Or an inspection can turn up some serious structural problems in a building, putting the whole transaction on ice. There are many other reasons outside the advisor’s control that can immobilize a deal. It’s disheartening when that happens.

How the advisor deals with such setbacks is important. Here’s a trick I’ve learned over my many years in CRE: I give myself exactly 24 hours to mourn the loss of a deal. For one day (and only one day), I let it bother me. Then, I let it go.

This works for a number of reasons. It’s unrealistic to say, “I won’t let this bother me at all, ever.” We’re human, subject to discouragement. On the other hand, letting these upsets linger can negatively affect other deals. I’ve found a 24-hour period to be the sweet spot, at least for me. 

Another skill that a successful CRE advisor should possess is self-motivation. As in any work, some parts of being an advisor are tough and there’s a temptation to put those things off. Maybe it’s giving a client bad news about a given transaction, like an offer being rejected. Or it could be making a cold call – some CRE people find that uncomfortable. Whatever it is, it’s helpful to take action as soon as possible.

Procrastinating on difficult tasks doesn’t make them any easier. I like to pause, sit down, think it through, then walk into the fire and get it done. The sooner you deal with it, the less you have it hanging over your head. It’s a good practice, both in business and in life.

Patience is another trait that goes with the territory, especially during negotiations. Waiting and knowing when to act is a skill that comes with experience. You don’t want to push too hard on the deal, to overreact. 

That goes double for over-eagerness. When you’re “champing at the bit,” you sacrifice leverage. I sometimes have to remind clients of that. When there’s an offer on the table, a client may want me to keep checking again and again with the seller for a status update. That’s only natural, but there’s a time to check and a time to hold back. A skilled CRE professional will exercise sound judgment in such an environment. That’s why our clients hire us.

One component of patience is the ability to delay gratification. CRE deals can take a long time before they come to fruition. For that reason, it’s advisable to have as many deals in the pipeline as possible. When I have a slow-moving transaction pending, I try to keep occupied with other deals that close more quickly, such as leasing deals.

Assertiveness is another indispensable attribute in a CRE advisor. Sometimes you have to hold the line, standing up for yourself and your client. You bring a lot of value to the table, so remind yourself of that. It can hurt your career when you don’t.

And here are two final thoughts on CRE success: Be scrupulously honest and love doing this work. If you don’t enjoy it, your career may not survive the difficulties that are bound to crop up. And if you’re not completely trustworthy, cracks will begin to show – clients will be hesitant to secure your services. Be a person of your word, always.

These are just some of the things that have helped me navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of CRE. They can help anyone.