Dad, I Will Never Work in Commercial Real Estate!

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In 2016, my dad unexpectedly and quickly passed away. Every year on the anniversary of that day, it is an incredibly tough day. It was exceptionally hard to review this blog that I originally posted one month before he died.

However, as I read it now, I smile. And as I see more and more generations of commercial real estate experts in my travels, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this blog.

“Dad, I will never work in commercial real estate!”

Yes, those were my exact words to my father as I packed up my beat up, white TR7 and left my parents’ house in Stony Brook, NY — headed to Durham, North Carolina to attend Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business back in the fall of 1985.

You see, my father, who had me reading leases when I was in my pre-teens — insisted understanding leases was a great way to understand business. Ha! – what did he know that an 11-year old didn’t? Then he had me work as a gopher, runner, general garbage collector for the various projects he was consulting on — before once again insisting that it’s better to work for yourself than be an employee.

Well, now I was much smarter – I was a college graduate, headed to Duke to get my MBA, and this time I knew (or at the very least had a strong feeling) that I knew more than my dad. So, off I went. I got my MBA, and then landed a consulting job in New York City — proving him wrong! Who the hell would want to work in commercial real estate? I had a Duke MBA and was working with a top-notch consulting firm in the biggest and best city in the world.

Well, that was until I realized I was nothing more than a pathetic employee, a number, and had a hard ceiling on my income…like, forever. Not only that, but my work was BORING!

Damn, perhaps my dad knew what the heck he was talking about after-all?

Within 15 months, I left that job in New York, and headed to Florida to get my real estate license and become a commercial real estate agent of all things! My first job was a runner for a startup CRE firm, making less than half of what I was making in New York — and I LOVED IT!

Over the next 30 years I would occasionally fall back into the trap of leaving CRE (COO of a telecom firm, CFO of a law firm), only to realize that this CRE thing was best for me. I certainly learned my lesson to never be an employee again.

And yes — for every year of my professional career, except for the past 2, my dad was the first person I would call when I needed advice. Turns out he did know what he was talking about, and was always smarter than I. My father was a wonderful man who led a phenomenal life. I miss you, Dad.

5 Responses

    1. This is a great story Rod. My son who is a junior in college always says the same thing about him not wanting to go into commercial real estate. Let’s see where life takes him?

      The irony of your story is that my Dad was a healthcare executive and that is how I was attracted to healthcare when I started my brokerage career. I have had a worthwhile career in healthcare real estate thanks to my dad as well.

      Now brokers and brokerage teams from all over JLL are now reaching out to us to ascertain how they can successfully build their own healthcare brokerage practice’s. In a very short time we have become a leader at JLL.

      I also owe a ton to you and your organization for steering us in the right direction over the past three years.

  1. Shed a tear reading this ! Sent it to my father in the business and my 13 year old daughter who tells me the same thing .. #neversaynever

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