What’s the most profound change you’ve seen in the commercial real estate business since you started Divaris Real Estate in 1974?
I’d say the biggest change has been the advent of women in commercial real estate. The commercial sector had traditionally been dominated by men, whereas residential real estate was dominated by women. However, retail is the province of women; typically they handle the household budget and do the shopping, so they are better suited to understand retail. In reality, the key to any success doesn’t depend on ones DNA, but rather on one’s interest and ability to communicate effectively.
Retail is primarily an objective business (the expectation of a certain return from a particular location) while office is more subjective (desirable space based on good parking, a nice view, a fitness center, close to home, etc. – all separate from the economics of the transaction). The ability of a person to communicate on an objective or subjective level determines the success of any effort.
In an incredibly competitive marketplace, how can young CRE agents differentiate themselves? What are the most important skills they should focus on?
There are three things:
1) Do a lot of listening and absorb as much as you can from your surroundings and the people with whom you interact. You should read the newspaper every day, read industry journals, understand the realities of the marketplace and get out in the community to talk to people.
2) Attend as many functions, events and programs that are also attended by other decision makers. Meet them, interact with them and try to learn from them, without seeming precocious. Being involved in community activities helps you recognize important connections to make, and when to make them.
3) It’s crucial to be outgoing. You have to be able to talk to anyone, ask questions and know your subject matter extremely well when making conversation.
How do you feel the role of social media fits into an agent’s success?
The “old guards” like me don’t really understand the true role of some social media outlets, like Twitter and Facebook; it’s not in our daily vocabulary. Young people are being brought up with this as part of their toolkit – and they have so many more tools at their disposal than we ever had! From what I understand, social media has an increasingly important role to play and I encourage our people to learn about it and utilize it as much as possible.
What is your favorite project you’ve worked on in the past 10 years?
The Town Center of Virginia Beach, of course!
What is one project you are looking forward to being a part of in the next 10 years?
I have a great yearning to be involved in a large-scale hospitality, entertainment and retail orientated project that is located in a major urban center. I’ve always wanted to be involved in hotels, as I understand what it takes to be an effective “mine host,” however; I’ve never had the opportunity to work on this directly. I’m looking forward to finding that opportunity soon!
Do you consider DRE a small-, mid- or large-sized company in the CRE world? What are the advantages of this?
I would say we’re a mid-sized company, which really enables us to take more of a hands-on approach. The owners do not spend time running a business, managing people, dealing with bankers or going to board meetings; this gives us the opportunity to work closer with our clients. Divaris strives for the opportunity to work diligently in all aspects of commercial real estate. We’re problem-solvers and pride ourselves on each creative approach designed to resolve difficult situations for our clients.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received in your professional career?
The best advice I ever received was never to look at things as being half empty. You should always see the positive side of something rather than the negative. If you can see the silver lining in every situation, you’ll always lead yourself towards progress. My father gave me that piece of advice years ago, and I’ve always adhered to it.