The Head Hunter: Avison Young’s Greg Kraut on the Art of the Big Poach
At CBRE Greg Kraut always seemed to be cut from a different cloth.
The real estate services firm is the biggest in the world, and in Manhattan its brokers handle many of the city’s largest commercial leases—deals that are often hundreds of thousands of square feet in size. In his mid-30s at the time, Mr. Kraut wasn’t focused on becoming a master of the city’s dealmaking universe. He liked to work alone, and he dedicated his time to smaller and mid-size deals—anywhere from 5,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet or more—and churned out transactions with notable consistency.
His track record earned him a different kind of reputation. From the list of deals he amassed at CBRE, it was easy to tell he had an undeniable knack for connecting with start-up companies and smaller tenants who had blossoming space requirements.
At a firm widely considered the city’s epicenter of brokerage, Mr. Kraut had carved out a quiet niche for himself. By building a stable of clients and sticking with them over the long term as they expanded, Mr. Kraut seemed to have firmly embraced a patient approach to the business that, with a lot of luck and hard work, could have, one day, placed him near CBRE’s top executives.
As it turns out, however, Mr. Kraut isn’t patient at all.
Last year he abruptly left CBRE and joined the Canada-based real estate services company Avison Young in order to establish a New York branch for the firm. No big announcements were made trumpeting Mr. Kraut’s departure, but the move drew notice in the city’s real estate industry and for good reason. Months later, it’s clear just what a seismic bet Mr. Kraut had made and how it has instantly propelled him from being just another broker slogging away in an endless sea of competitors to a recognized industry executive poised to rise to even higher reaches of the business.
“It was just the right move for me,” Mr. Kraut said during an hour-long interview last week in which the commercial brokerage veteran repeatedly stayed on message, especially when asked about his job shift.
Of course, the move wasn’t an obvious choice from the start. Avison Young has an established presence in Canada, but in New York the firm is little known. And just as tenants are often reluctant to work with unproven companies in the city, so too are many brokers loathe to move outside of the established players in the business. Many brokers knowledgeable with Mr. Kraut’s move saw it as a blunder, a half-baked stab at advancing his career. After all, whom would he be able to convince to follow in his footsteps?
“I wanted to build a brokerage company from the ground up, with the best people and the best culture,” Mr. Kraut told The Commercial Observer. “The thought of that was exciting beyond words to me.”
Not that it’s hard to sympathize with Mr. Kraut’s dream. One of the underlying truths of the city’s brokerage business is that firms are often rife with internal competition that is sometimes so fierce it can become antagonistic. Almost every firm has its tales of epic rivalries and rifts, stories that oftentimes need not be told in past tense.