We sat down with one of The Garibaldi Group’s newest faces, Jackie Madden, to discuss her experience thus far working in corporate real estate. She discusses her favorite aspects of the job, what brings her the most energy and what are the key elements to make a productive team. She also provides her thoughts on why the CRE industry has missed out on some of the best and brightest coming out of college for so many years.
If you’re a young broker in the business, or someone considering a career change, this type of candid, first hand insight is priceless.
What part of the transaction or sales process in corporate real estate are you most energized by?
(laughter) Other than closing them?
Honestly, for both tenant rep or agency work, it’s fairly similar. My favorite part is actually going into the initial pitch and knowing that you worked so hard to learn everything you could about that firm. You thought outside of the box to come up with a really creative strategic approach that is innovative for either side, a landlord or a tenant rep client. Then after going into that presentation and leaving, knowing that you just killed it. It’s such a satisfying feeling.
Other than of course, getting the call and finding out that you won the business.
Is there one transaction in particular that was most satisfying to you in your career, and why?
Sure. It happened to also be one of the larger transactions that I’ve worked on to-date, but the Party City Headquarter location I helped execute in 2017, and it was for a lot of reasons. It was because of the challenges that we faced in getting it done, and also the relationships that I built with my clients. To me, the relationship I have with each client individually is very, very important, and the fact that they’ve become so close on a personal level means everything to me. When done right, the work genuinely becomes about more than just business. It’s building a relationship where these people care about you and your business, and vice versa. That helps make it a lot more exciting and rewarding than just closing a deal and making money on it.
Building on that, brokers will often reference the challenges of a deal. What were some examples of the challenges that made that transaction memorable or impactful?
At the time, it was all about the numbers, which isn’t necessarily unusual in a corporate real estate deal. In this case however, the numbers on the deal were extremely important because Party City was not a public company yet, but they had let me know that they were planning to file an IPO in the very near future. Therefore everything that we had to do pertaining to their Headquarter location would have a significant impact on them filing that IPO. In the end, the amount of money that we were able to save them was beyond substantial. We’re talking millions of dollars in cost savings.
So not only did we make our client, especially the CFO, look incredibly good to the corporation, but we helped the corporation itself feel great when they went to file that IPO. They were confident their headquarters and their real estate were taken care of, and that we had done the absolute best job we could possibly do for them. It was a huge challenge to be able to meet the numbers they had projected and to deliver on a quality office product, because they were low and very tight. So we didn’t have a lot to work with, but we did it.
Obviously as a tenant rep broker, you’re not picky, but what is the make up of an ideal client to you?
As I mentioned, I think that it’s always important that you have a close relationship with your clients. I would say for the most part, I don’t know how or why it ends up working out this way, but your clients personality tends to be somewhat similar to yours and it makes things a lot easier when it does work out that way because your communication and collaboration together on the transaction ends up being more efficient and successful. In those situations it works much more like a partnership. So rather than one person leading the other and directing the whole transaction, it’s really important that you’re connected and have a good understanding of what you are both trying to achieve and a healthy respect for each other’s opinions.
And when you’re sitting down to dive into a brand new business development campaign, on paper, what are you looking for?
I typically focus on square footage and finding businesses that are growing, and then really diving in deep and doing research on the companies before picking up the phone. I always want to have a good understanding of what their needs might be. I think that’s the better way to start any conversation as opposed to going in blind. I want to offer value the minute they pick up the phone. Anyone can call and say, “hey, I know your lease is expiring in May of 2020”. How many people though really take the time to learn about what it is that they do as a company, what their growth has looked like over the last five years, and where they are looking to go in the future. I will dig through any recent press releases they have to give me a glimpse into what they’re trying to accomplish, or into new strategies that they have for the future of the organization. Those are the things that really drive my searches. I am looking for a client whose business I can really dive into.
Are there any red flags that you look for in a potential client? Is there anything that makes you realize immediately like, that’s probably not the client for me?
I think that the only way I wouldn’t be willing to work with someone and I would essentially fire a client…because you can do that, is if they didn’t trust me. If I felt like it wasn’t a respectful relationship or that the dynamic between us wasn’t there, and I knew that I was just going to be wasting my breath because they were never going to listen to me anyway. That’s not a good fit for either party. That is where, to me, the money becomes secondary. It’s just not worth it. But I would say that’s pretty rare, at least in my history of being a broker.
What is the most standout piece of advice you’ve received specific to real estate or just business in general that you hearken back to often?
Keep the lows high and the highs low, especially in this industry, because sometimes you can be literally a day away from closing a deal and the next thing you know that company is acquired or something was going on and they end up filing Chapter 11 or the whole deal just falls through for one reason or another. It can come from somebody else too, not your client. The landlord could go behind your back and sign a lease with someone else and now you have to start all over again. So, take the losses with a grain of salt and try to stay on an even keel emotionally.
You have a history as a great team player and you have worked with some very respected teams during your time with Cushman & Wakefield. What type of person do you find compliments you the most in a team setting? Is there an attribute that they bring to a transaction that compliments what you bring to the table?
I think in any good partnership you definitely need to know the type of people that you’re going to work best with. I found, having worked with several different people since I started as a broker, that working with someone who is high energy, like myself, is probably the best fit because we understand each other. Plus, I think if someone is not having a great day but you have high energy people on your team, they’re always going to lift you up. It makes it easier to say, “Alright, whatever just happened, throw it away. Forget it. We got this, let’s keep going.” No matter what happens, at least for me, it is very helpful to work with people who are high energy, positive and obviously, extremely driven.
As someone who clearly has a talent for sales, what makes real estate interesting to “sell” in your opinion?
I think that the whole transaction process to me is very exciting in general. I love the industry because day one, you’re talking to people, you’re getting to know them on a personal level, becoming almost friends with these people since the length of the transaction is on average at least six months to a year, if not longer. So the amount of time that you spend getting to know the people involved in the deal is something unique about the business.
There are obviously challenges that come along the way and challenges that you face, but I feel like; What industry would you be in and what position would you be in where you wouldn’t be faced with challenges regularly? I welcome challenges. The more challenging the better, because I feel like that gives me an opportunity to be creative, think strategically, think outside of the box and accomplish things that not every broker would be able to do or get done.
Is there any part of the business, whether it’s something having to do with the sales cycle or just something that’s ingrained in the industry culture in general, that you hope changes over time?
Brokers in general tend to keep an old school mentality, like the idea that you need to bang out phone calls, 50 a day, 200 a day. It’s never enough! You need to foot canvas, walk through every single office building in the state with your card and hand it out. That way of thinking is just not inline with how business works today, in my opinion. Canvassing and cold calling are certainly part of the business, but information, access to that information and to people comes in so many different forms today.
So if there’s anything that I hope will change, which I’m confident it will, it would be for everyone to be more open about each individual broker having their own strategies that work for them and help them be successful. Obviously if it’s not successful, it’s not working, but if you have a different approach and you have a more innovative or creative way of getting in with a company and winning the business, then why wouldn’t it make sense to keep doing it that way?
One team that you worked with, and a team that everyone here at Garibaldi has always had a great relationship with, is the team of Ray Trevisan and Bill O’Keefe. A truly iconic team, not just for the projects they work on, but for how efficient and collaboratively they work together. From your experience, what would you say makes that team so successful?
Ray and Bill are both just wonderful people outside of the business and amazing people to work with. That’s the first thing.
Second, they are very different as individual brokers. Ray has a very strong personality. He was a former commercial real estate attorney, so he brings a unique business acumen to the table. He’s a little more intense and extremely focused on the details. He stresses one hundred percent accuracy at all times, relevant information, everything precise and in a very particular order. All of that is critical when it comes to your clients experience while working with your team. He also solely focuses on Tenant rep work and rarely deviates from that, which is important because he knows what he does so well, and never spreads himself too thin.
Whereas Bill is much more of a free spirit, extremely outgoing and very high energy. Bill solely focuses on agency work, which to me makes sense because on the agency side, networking and building relationships with all of the brokers throughout the industry is key. Building trust with them and being able to call those brokers and know that they will always bring their clients to your properties, that fits Bill’s personality and he’s exceptional at that.
It was amazing to see how the two of them are so insanely different, but how well they work together. It was so important for me, as a young broker, to witness. Ray was like the CEO, and Bill was like the COO. They never step in each other’s lane or on each other’s toes because they have had an understanding from day one that this is what we’re going to do to be successful. Then, the rest of us as team members know where we fit in and are able to fully support each other. It was just really cool to see that dynamic.
In more recent history, why do you think real estate has lost out on recruiting the best and brightest coming out of college? If you agree with the statement in general, of course.
Oh, I definitely agree with it. I think there is a huge need for schools to have some type of real estate program, for starters. Monmouth University has The Kislak Institute and they have a proven track record of producing high quality real estate professionals right out of the gate. All around smart kids who, if they had gone to a different school might have gone to Wall Street or other forms of sales.
When speaking to other young brokers in the industry, I think we all agree that the majority of us fell into this in one way or another. We didn’t go to school to be a commercial real estate broker, and we all really knew nothing about the industry until we physically started working in it or someone brought it to our attention. So I think it is tough to recruit new, young talent because the majority of students don’t even know what a commercial real estate broker does. I would like to think that that will change in the future.