Like Father, Like Son: Jeff Buslik on Updating Adams & Co. for 21st Century
Daniel Edward Rosen July 31, 2012, 7:15 a.m.
He admits he wants people to know him by his first name, not his last. But broker Jeff Buslik, the son of Adams & Company head James Buslik, is bringing youth and vigor to a brokerage firm (and family) that has been around in New York City for as long as The Helmsley Building. After he joined his dad’s firm in 2003, it took the now-32-year-old just three years to lease over 1 million square feet. Now a director at the firm, Mr. Buslik spoke to The Commercial Observer about Adams & Company’s new development: three exclusive leasing assignments at 5 West 37th Street, 385 Fifth Avenue and 390 Fifth Avenue, totaling 350,000 square feet of space.
The Commercial Observer: Would you say that these new leasing assignments can be seen as a new strategy for Adams & Company?
Mr. Buslik: I am not going to say it’s necessarily a new strategy. I think what’s happening is we’ve been in business for almost 100 years and in order to get better, we need to keep expanding. We’ve been successful in continually looking for ways to expand our business, and I believe my youth and my energy have contributed to that.
How does that differ from how your family has conducted business in the past?
My dad has been in the real estate business for 40 years. He and his partner, David Levy, purchased Adams & Company in 1999, and I arrived in 2003. I think prior to coming here, my dad and his brokers also did brokerage outside of their own buildings. But when they came here, the portfolio was significantly larger; the majority of their attention had to be spent on taking care of the buildings. So the tenant representation side was there, and producing, but it needed help to get to the next level.
And how does one go about taking it to the next level?
What I did to get to the next step was I just pushed, I worked hard, I learned the market and really tried to convey to tenants that we were more than just landlords. By being landlords in part of our day-to-day life, we have a unique knowledge to help them navigate any and all transactions. What it has also spawned is that we’re getting looked at by other landlords as possible representatives for them. In the last couple of months, my team and I were hired by another owner in our neighborhood to represent three buildings of theirs that total over 350,000 square feet, which is an additional wing. That’s not just representing a tenant. That is representing another landlord. So those are two ways of growth for us.
How did the leasing assignments at 5 West 37th Street, 385 Fifth Avenue and 390 Fifth Avenue come about?
They’re owned by Hilson Management, and actually we got that assignment because in the six months prior to their hiring us, we rented two separate units in their portfolio and they were impressed with our professionalism.
Ultimately I feel our experience from running our own buildings and our experience from representing tenants in buildings that are not necessarily our own make us really ideal candidates to represent owners looking for experienced real estate brokers.
Are you planning to reposition any of these properties?
Let’s use 390 Fifth as an example. In the past 390 has been known as an accessory building. As the accessory market condenses, we have branched out two office tenants in that building. I believe the owners are happy with that and are looking forward to the broader horizons different tenants will give them.
We’ve made a deal with a company called JC Edward—they were in the Empire State Building [350 Fifth Avenue]. We brought a tenant, an accessories company that was located on the far West Side, over to 390 Fifth Avenue. There’s a couple more in the works, but I can’t speak of those yet.
Taking this new direction, how are you going to differ from your father’s approach to tenant representation?
My dad and his partner, David Levy, are in charge of running the buildings here and running the company on a day-to-day basis. My direction is really to expand in other areas. So I have a team of two people currently … and I am hoping to add more. We’re out meeting with tenants every day, we’re talking to landlords every day about possibly hiring us as their agents. And really that’s what I am doing to expand beyond what my dad does, his partner does, what people in general have perceived as doing.
Is it hard for you to differentiate yourself from your father? And do you think the general perception of your company is a tough one to shake?
I think initially it will be. But I believe we’ve done a good job of shaking it thus far, which is why we’ve had the recent success that we’ve had. When I started out, I worked at Insignia ESG, and when CBRE purchased Insignia, I felt that was an opportune time to make the jump to a smaller, more boutique-operation.
Why didn’t you instantly jump into working for the family company?
I felt that I needed to prove to myself and to others that I could do something on my own and it was important to me, and it still is important to me, that people do business with me because of my first name.
How would you like to see your team grow these next few months?
I would love to see our growth include not just the growth of my team, but more brokers here with their own teams as well. I think that our history and position in the market make us an attractive place for brokers to work, and I would love, in the next three to five to seven years, to see that happen.
This is such a highly competitive environment—you have Avison Young expanding, you have other brokerage houses growing. You already have a foothold in the market, but is it easy to expand on that?
I think there is always going to be competition. If you’re good at what you do, you’re not scared of the competition. I am not concerned about competition when I compete for business. I am confident in what I do, how I do it, and my ability to get it done. However, I do believe we are more of a niche player. The companies you say are expanding, they have global platforms. We don’t. We are a New York City-focused company, and that’s who we deal with, that’s where we operate from, and that’s where our expertise is.