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Putting A Face On Commercial Real Estate – Adapt or Get Eliminated

Pinstripes and hats

Putting A Face On Commercial Real Estate

I have been involved in the past few months with my state commercial board  on a committee for membership issues and member involvement. Don’t click off; this is not about how we (the committee) are saving the commercial real estate world one member at a time.  The important part of my involvement was somewhat of a revelation I had personally.


The committee started out with a very thorough and in depth survey of its membership, and one of those whiteboard, breaks into groups SWOT type things.  Stop giggling, it was actually very productive.  The interesting part of the data for me was the total disconnect that the membership has with not only segments of commercial real estate industry but any other affiliated industries.  You would think that there are some very obvious connections.  It may seem pretty ridiculous in this day and age of world connectivity that this could even be possible.

Bars Backrooms and Broads

Hey,let’s remember, we are in the land of Big Boy Commercial Real Estate.  Not only is the industry perceived as back room deal makers, it does everything it can to perpetuate the image.  Downtown high rise offices, pinstripes suits( I do love mine), LinkedIn profiles with all kinds of BA.MBA.CCIM SIOR IREM ICSC type of destinations.  I have even seen some with Low GHIN  numbers from their home club.  Unfortunately, I can include myself in that group with the exception of the low GHIN.  Check out a quote from me at a Commercial Real Estate conference  “I golfed and drank whiskey for 10 years to get clients.  What’s the ROI on that?”  Not one of my finer moments.  I can’t even begin to count the “charity”golf,drinking,dinner events I spent $250 per day to attend.  As for the subtitle of this paragraph, Don’t Ask!  While I’m sure these things were and are useful to some.  What type of business was or is really created?   What real long term connections are made?  I’m sure that plenty of business does get done.  Is it my own fault that I look back at some of this as a complete waste of time?


Here we stand today with the real world market staring us right in the face.  Many jobs and brokers have been eliminated from the business..  No one will or can deny that reality.  Think about the top two Commercial Real Estate brokers that you know personally.  Can you call them on the phone right now?   Are they still filtering their calls between putts?  Are they approachable at all?   Do they specialize in specific areas or can you ask them anything about real estate and get some guidance.  What events do you see them at if any?  Do you think they have ever heard of a Tweetup?  I am a member of a local networking  group with 2500 members and I am one of 3 commercial brokers in the membership.  That’s all?  I like my odds.  Here is a good question.  Are they still in the Commercial Real Estate business at all?  Or did they just bail out when the order taking stopped?

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My little revelation

Change adapt or get eliminated.  Simple statement.   While serving on the committee one of the conversations led to our want need or necessity to create value to our membership.  Several suggestions were made but one hit like a nuclear bomb.  The membership needs to put a face on commercial real estate.  In simple terms no one really knows who the hell we are.  And we do a piss poor job of not only telling anyone who we are and what we do, but the culture is encouraging this practice.


So, what to do?  I raised my little hand, (My military experience aside, I did it anyway.)  Our state commercial board is made up of districts.  Each district has a designated representative.  What do they do?  Who knows.  I think they are suppose to communicate to the membership…stuff.  I have never met,talked to or been contacted by whoever has or is representing my district.. EVER.  Shocking?…not really.  Each district can pretty much do whatever they want.  Which to my knowledge has been …nothing.  I digress.   So, again in my opinion what to do:

  1. Mandatory (as in you can’t be a member if you don’t show up) quarterly meetings with commercial membership. We don’t even know each other so how can anyone else.  Gee, we might actually work on some deals together.
  2. Create and sponsor events in local markets that let other industries understand what a vital service we provide. There are some really smart people in Commercial Real Estate . What is our story?  Why do they need us?
  3. Yearly testing to maintain membership. (Always lip service, nothing ever done) Sleeping through Continuing Ed… embarrassing.
  4. Advertising campaign…Hell no! There is this new thing called the Internet. You are on the the memberships sites and groups with updated profile information.  Or you get fined. Hey, maybe a client might find you,want to know a  little more info about you and the property you represent and do some actual business.
  5. Mandatory standards for technology. This list could get extensive,but let’s start with turning a computer on. I know F to F and Belly to Belly.. but save it for now.
  6. Genuine connections. Don’t just connect the old way.  We have a chance to truly connect in ways never thought of and create  beneficial relationships.
  7. Accountability. To our clients… for the suggestions above.

I have two conference calls this week to discuss some of the this.  I wonder how it will be received?

Written By

Broker/Owner in Lafayette, IN, whose passion is Commercial Real Estate with focus on Technology, Social Media, and Networking.



  1. Janie Coffey

    January 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Duke, after spending years in the commercial RE world (as a GC, not a broker), I know exactly where you are coming from. It’s like the dying dinosaurs of our industry. Still trying to rely solely on the old ways and not adapting. I think the agents who stay abreast of the profession, the market, technology and become swift and nimble at moving around are going to do the best. With tenant after tenant defaulting as they finally give up the last of the good fight, we’ve got high vacancy and a tough market. While the residential market might start to recover I think that the slide is not yet over for commercial. The fittest will survive and you have laid out a pretty strong strategy to be fit and nimble.

  2. Michael Dean

    January 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Great article. You get a coupla stars from me. I echo the comments. The order taking is over. Remember what happened in the residential markets back in 2005-2006, or maybe not. Anyway, as we have always been told (and experienced) the commercial market follows the residential market by 18-24 months. So, here we are in the trough of the Tsunami looking up. Its time to follow the residential agents and cold call (Ugghh), knock on doors (double Ugghh), and actually go to a networking meeting and schmooze.

    I recenlty heard some stats (again) about how much communications is lost when you call someone on the phone or email as opposed to F to F (face to face) meeting. I was shocked! No wonder people hate to cold call. The odds are stacked against you already. So, suit up and show up. As for Duke, maybe you should leave the pin strip at home for awhile. LOL. Remember that Mary Poppins song that went something like, ” A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”. ok, maybe some readers are not that old. Anyway, I’m not any different than most of you in that I don’t like rejection either. I look at each week with 30% lost productivity from rejection or whatever. If it happens early in the week, I’m glad to get it out of the way. And, if I get an appointment, there is the spoon full of medicine.

    Until next time….

  3. Duke Long

    January 18, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I have probably 25 more years to go.I have no choice. Thanks for the comment. Your posts are always filled with great stuff for every agent.

  4. Greg Schenk SIOR

    January 18, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    sounds good which networking group has 2500 members?
    Do you know Sam Smith in Indy he has been killing it for 25 years and a good friend
    I am the only exclusive tenant rep broker in my market and have been very blessed with all my business is personal introductions
    We teach that in our preferred vendor classes and our relationship approach to business
    See under Greg Schenk SIOR
    good stuff you are doing

  5. Ken McLaughlin

    January 19, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Duke, Well written presentation of our past & present&industry. i am fortunate to live in an area which is somewhat insulated due to a number of reasons…..mainly a temparate 4 seasons climate, beautiful lake, 26 golf courses & 4 ski hills. I too remember the many sports gemtlemens’ dinners, golf charity events, etc., that can lead to many other social consequences.
    i am an old schooled Realtor who has drafted my IT savy 28 yr old son into the comercial business. Amazing, when we compare our daily regime…as he says: “Dad. change or be changed!”
    Keep writing this type of article…you’ve got my attention!

  6. Duke Long

    January 19, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Ken, At least you were smart enough to see the IT skilz your son has and put them to use. Thanks for the comment. Oh and Ken…Cheers!

  7. Sherry Canterbury Woods

    January 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I have belonged (as a founding member) of CREW Commercial Real Estate Women, but we have a lot of men as members too, for the past 15 years and we are undergoing some of the same challenges, we are actually starting a new chapter in the Palm Beach/Treasure Coast because that is where the future growth lies and we need to network in these areas with the developers, brokers, appraisers, bankers, attorneys, etc. The statistics are that over 75% of all tope deals in the US, part of the team were CREW members. maybe you should join a chapter…….

    • Janie Coffey

      January 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm

      Small world Sherry, I was a 7 year borad member of the Miami Chapter and a past president. One of the best group of professional women I know!

  8. Duke Long

    January 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    First thanks for the comments. I have very fond memories of the Palm Beaches. I met the wife at PGA National. (I can beat her at golf if I cheat.) Second the issues seem similar and yet still varied for many parts of the country. The conference call I was on today was a huge leap forward for my specific market . Third, I don’t know if you have read some of my other posts but I am a huge advocate of the CREW. As for joining a chapter…I’m to scared !

  9. Dino Busalachi

    January 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Interesting article I think in many ways you are correct about the traditional ways of doing business and how they may be obsolete. I look at the problem from a technologist point of view and I can appreciate Ken’s comment about his tech savvy son. Ken’s point has allot of merit and he makes a good point. Imagine a building with a technology footprint that not only maximizes building automation system operations effectively and efficiently, but also provides tenants with technology services that they use every day to run their business integrated into the fabric facility, like a utility. I come from an IT engineering and manufacturing background and we use to have this saying about the future of automation in plant operations. All you need is a man and a dog to run the plant. The dog is there to keep the man from touching anything and the man is there to feed the dog. The technology exists today. The problem is the guy running the plant does not trust or understand technology well enough to see the value of how IT can solve real business problems. Hopefully all the old guys have tech savvy kids moving their businesses into the 21st century.

  10. Duke Long

    January 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Wow Dino,
    Brilliant comment. If you don’t mind ,I will probably use your response as an example in about every possible situation I can for the next year. Thanks for the fuel !!!

  11. David Nugent with some letters SIORCCIMPDQ

    January 20, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    DukeWhile I agree with a number of your comments and the “adapt or perish” sentiments, much of your arguement for me was lost on you utter lack of knowledge of what is going on, especially in the past 2 years in the board, and particularly the districts. I am currently the Vice President of the Board and formerly the District 2 Director. That district, along with Distict 4 led the state in it’s universal adoption of the ICREX system. That adoption has now led to an agreement that will put the state and local ED websites in the link with ICREX. The impact on broke relationships with LEDO’s, I believe will be huge. Having chaired the district rep committee last year I can say they’ve made unbelievable progress on “putting a face”, and on many other fronts. I also admit though there is a long way to go, especially in the two districts that are more spread out, Northwest and southeast. Rather than spend half my night informing on your misconceptions about the board and its accomplishments I simply suggest that you keep the drive and commitment to our profession that compelled you to write these comments but hold off on your conclusions until you’ve actually met the board members themselves and learned what is going on. Further, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to learn more by employing one of those archaic methodologies you referenced by inviting you to join me for a face to face meeting, possibly lunch. A golf game is not likely to break out.
    Final comment. Your spirit is exemplary. Your love of the profession inspiring. The laws we have guiding us today are a direct result of realtors 100 years ago coming together, recognizing that “times are changing” and then setting out to make a difference in our profession. That group eventually became NAR. All the best.

  12. Duke Long

    January 21, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    First. I have been a member of the board for many years ..and of course we have never met..have we. In other words ,I did not just show up yesterday and start letting it rip without previous knowledge .I have no idea who the rep is for my district simply because my efforts to communicate and attempts to engage them have gone un answered and obliviously until I write something with an opinion needed or warranted any attention. second. I would love to meet you face to face and disuss any and all issues. But David think first. How many others in our profession don’t have a soap box ,but have a 1000% more than me to give back to it.

  13. daltonsbriefs

    January 21, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    At least someone finally responded Duke, I’ve reached out to the “powers that be” a couple times in mortgage lending and home building (my chosen fields here in NW Indiana) and they not only don’t want to talk, they deny there’s a problem in either industry.

  14. Duke Long

    January 22, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Thanks for the comment.

  15. Jason Sandquist

    January 31, 2010 at 12:51 am

    After being on the residential side of real estate for the past 5 years, I switched over to a commercial brokerage at the beginning of the year. After not even being in CRE for less than a month, this industry is so A** backwards it’s unbelievable. Information is scattered all over the place, brokers work on PDF’s only, the MLS search is obsolete even though it’s web based, might as well have the books back. I have to use 3 different systems to find property and even then it is out dated.

    It’s absolutely pathetic (and I use the term loosely) the ego issues some of these old school dudes have. They refuse to show property if it isn’t between the hours of 8-5 Monday to Friday and if you are lucky enough to find the agents cell phone, it is usually off on the weekend.

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again, dinosaurs will die. Say buh-bye to the “good ole boys club” as long as I’m involved. They are in for a rude awakening.

    Keep fighting the good fight Duke

  16. Office Space Chris Hancock

    February 26, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Nice hand, well played. The beauty of this article is how relevant it is to what I envisioned as I walked through the doors into the commercial real estate world 2 years ago. Having just recently hopped on the wagon, I don’t know any different than where the current market is performing. Good market? Bad market? Its the only market I know, and the guys of yesteryear are gone. There is a new identity, especially in the newest generation of commercial deal makers. Its time to adapt or find another game to play.

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