In June 2010 I founded Lighthouse Commercial Real Estate to be the premiere commercial real estate provider in the greater Madison, WI area. Having spent several years at a large global brokerage company, I had successfully sold and leased tens of millions of dollars of real estate for companies large and small.
My brokerage experience included retail, office, industrial, multifamily (apartments), vacant commercial land, tenant rep assignments, buyer agency representations, listings for lease, listings for sale, commercial real estate advising, broker opinions of value, NNN investment sales and acquisitions, as well as, mentoring and training other commercial brokers.
Whether you hire a commercial broker at a large global firm or a broker from a local boutique firm, at the end of the day, you are hiring one, or maybe two people, to represent you.
You are not hiring a global army of brokers at a global brokerage. You are hiring one broker and he or she may have a junior broker who assists them. This same thing holds true with a local shop. You are hiring one or maybe two people to go to work for you.
I share this important detail with you because having worked on the inside of both types of firms, global and boutique, the individual broker you hire is more important than the company they work for.
While working for a large global firm I certainly experienced working with some of the finest brokers in the industry. Many of these brokers were mentors and coaches for me and I consider them amazing colleagues even today. I also witnessed brokers at this large global firm who probably couldn't sell boots to barefoot Eskimos. They hid behind the company name on their business card.
There is a wide spectrum of talent at any firm, large or small.
Another important reality you must understand about commercial brokerage is this...
Commercial brokers are some of the most competitive, driven, extroverted, and tenacious people in business. They have to be to succeed. This is due in large part because most brokers are paid 100% by their commission. There is no steady paycheck or guaranteed income. In a commercial brokerage you will hear things like, "We eat what we kill. Coffee is for closers. Go pound sand."
Another reason commercial brokers have huge personalities is because they work with some of the biggest egos in any city across the nation. People who develop massive commercial projects have massive personal egos. People who run incredibly successful businesses have massive egos.
One of the most memorable stories I've heard was from a long time seasoned veteran of the business and he told a story about how they decided to reply "no" to an offer to purchase. The offer they had received was insulting. This was back in the day of fax machines. So rather than reply with a simple no over the phone, or not respond at all, the guy grabbed the offer, went to the signature page, put his hand on the paper in the shape of a middle finger, outlined it with a big thick black sharpie marker, and faxed it back.
This was a multi-million dollar offer and he replied with a faxed F-Bomb.
If you are not in the business it can be difficult to understand just how much these types of personalities drive commercial real estate. There is the up-front show piece that you will see at a listing presentation or a coffee shop interview. Everyone dresses and speaks their best. And then there are the behind the scenes battles that happen all over the place.
This highly competitive, ego driven, industry creates an environment ripe for the types of people I would refer to as sharks and snakes. Fortunately, there are also many successful people in the business with impeccable integrity and the types of values we all want to see in people.
But because the sharks and snakes exist, everyone in the industry, good and bad, is prepared to do business in this environment. If you are unprepared for this environment, you need to prepare yourself for it.
Part of your preparation should be creating the right team.
The nature of this environment was the driving force behind my creation of Lighthouse CRE back in 2010. My original slogan for Lighthouse was, "Client Focused Integrity. Always." This is something I believe in very strongly still today. Lighthouse has evolved (as you will see below), so our slogan may be updated. This is still a core value though.
So what does Client Focused Integrity mean?
In real estate, when you sign an agency agreement with a real estate broker, you become their Client. You are no longer just a customer. Being a Client is a legal distinction that means, by law, the broker has to hold your interests to a higher standard than a customer. If you are not a Client, then you are a customer, and the broker you are "working with" is actually working for someone else.
Because I have worked on hundreds of deals and leased or sold well over a hundred million dollars worth of commercial real estate over the years, I have been on the inside and seen it all.
It really bothers me when I see dishonesty and corruption in business. Call me old fashioned, but my parents and grandparents raised me to believe that a person's word was their bond and that one's integrity is priceless. If you ever sell it, you can't buy it back.
Those personal convictions drove me to start my own firm back in 2010.
What Client Focused Integrity means to me is that no matter what happens throughout the course of a commercial real estate transaction, every decision, every thought, every action must pass through the lens of these simple questions, "What would my client do right now? What is in the best interest of my client with the decision that needs to be made at this moment?"
The reality is that when you hire a broker, this broker will be making decisions on your behalf without you always knowing what decisions they are making.
For example, a broker must decide:
- To show you all properties or just the ones that pay them the most commission
- To show you all properties or just the ones they won't pursue for themselves
- To show you all properties or just the properties of their friends and buddies, and not the properties of property owners they have double crossed in the past
- To push you towards the best lease terms for you or the terms that earn them the most money
- To push you towards paying more for a property, even though they know they could save you money
- This list could go on and on and on
I provide a glimpse of such scenarios because sometimes there are things going on that affect you, that you don't even know about. You can actually lose out on the very best opportunities for you and your business by choosing the wrong broker.
If you are in need of commercial real estate brokerage services, there is nothing more important to you than choosing the right commercial agent and brokerage to serve you.
This is why I created Lighthouse Commercial Real Estate. There is nothing more important to me in commercial real estate than making sure you are expertly taken care of at the highest possible standards.
This creation story is how Lighthouse started. So why does it appear that we have evolved to something beyond a 3rd party brokerage?
Because we have.