Bet on Brett Maslin, Adams & Co.’s No-nonsense Broker
Al Barbarino April 9, 2014, 2 p.m.
A lot has happened since Brett Maslin of Adams & Co. made Commercial Observer’s 30 Under 30 list in 2012. He’s fully blossomed into one of the firm’s top-producing brokers. He also got married, so after eight grueling years climbing the company ladder, he finally got a break with a skiing trip in Vermont at the end of January—the first of two trips he and his wife would take to celebrate their vows.
Unfortunately the trip happened to coincide with the “polar vortex” that barreled through the northeast during that period, and by the time he and his wife hit the slopes, the temperatures had dipped as low as -21 degrees Fahrenheit.
“You couldn’t ski. It was absolutely terrible,” Mr. Maslin said. “You can’t feel your feet, your face, your hands, and you just want to pick the fastest way down.”
Undaunted, Mr. Maslin bundled up and braved the weather, making several trips down the mountain during those excruciatingly frigid days up in Vermont.
Similarly, when Mr. Maslin first took up skiing four years ago, he “fell down the entire length of the mountain.” But, he said, “Once you realize that you don’t die when you fall, it’s less scary, and you just keep getting up.”
For a now-seasoned broker who knows that “this business is really based on the cold call,” Mr. Maslin’s reluctance to give up on the slopes was akin to the determination that has helped him in real estate. It might sound cliché, but Mr. Maslin has gotten up over and over again in the commercial real estate business, despite the cutthroat environment that at first could have turned him away like so many others.
“When I first started, I was fresh out of college and I was intimidated by everyone because there are a lot of ‘Nos’ in this business,” he said.
His persistence has helped him sign more than 70,000 square feet of leasing deals so far this year, including a 11,289-square-foot sublease deal on behalf of Jun Group, a 13,400-square-foot deal for Man of the World & Weeplay Kids Magazine’s headquarters and dozens more.
While still a student at Indiana University about eight years ago, Mr. Maslin needed to complete an internship in order to graduate when he came across a listing for a summer position at Adams & Co.
“I loved the people and I loved the business and the fact that there was no real ceiling to how much you can earn,” he said. It was a perfect fit, but that’s not to say it was easy. “It took probably three years before I started making any money,” he said, noting that he made $19,000 in his first year.
Despite a modest beginning, Mr. Maslin would become a top producer by earning the trust of company head David Levy with that never-give-up attitude and honest approach.
“I work on a handshake with clients, and I say, ‘If you don’t like what I’m doing, fire me,’” he said. “I find that as long as I am as honest as possible and not bullshitting the tenants left and right, I will stand out. And I work my ass off. It’s all about working hard and honesty.
“But it’s never about the one deal. It’s about keeping the tenant for the next 30 years while I’m in the business,” he said.
As he stuck it out, in many instances learning the ropes and working behind the scenes to make things happen for the greater good of the firm, Mr. Levy started to present his young colleague with new opportunities on the landlord representation side.
First came 34 West 33rd Street. “He saw that I did a good job with that and so he gave me another building,” 110 West 40th, a 125,000-square-foot property with 120 tenants in spaces ranging between 3,000 and 7,000 square feet. That assignment taught Mr. Maslin how to “shuffle people around and appease everybody.” Then, there was 312 Fifth Avenue, followed most recently by 42 West 39th Street. The mix of experience representing both tenants and owners has been a great competitive advantage, giving the senior managing director an ability to understand what both sides are thinking. Mr. Maslin also emphasized his extensive experience canvassing buildings as something that allows him to make the right match.
That said, he admitted that sometimes the right match isn’t so clear. A prime example stemmed from the run-up to Jun Group’s 11,289-square-foot sublease that Mr. Maslin worked out this year at 650 Fifth Avenue.
The video advertising company had outgrown its previous 3,000-square-foot space, which was complete with 20-foot ceilings, brick walls and an open floor plan. It was the kind of office that “spoiled” the tenant, but it was simply too small. Finding new digs at an affordable rate for Jun Group was perhaps the most perplexing of the deals Mr. Maslin has completed to date, as the company continued to add employees over a six-month real estate search period, until it eventually required at least 10,000 square feet.
“The requirement went from 3,000 to 5,000 to 7,000 square feet—that was the quickest growth I’d ever experienced,” he said, noting a search area that spanned from 30th to 55th Streets, between Park and Seventh Avenues.
“Over that period of time I must have shown them 60 properties, all without an exclusive, so at any point another broker could have come in,” he said.
Ultimately, Mitchell Reichgut of Jun Group gave into Mr. Maslin’s incessant but respectful prodding: his firm was exploding at the seams and would be willing to jump ship on its previous office (which had two-and-a-half years left on its terms) for the right space.
“At that point, I took home 25 properties, I laid them out on my floor and I did a pros and cons list of every building, narrowed it down to five and crossed my fingers,” Mr. Maslin said.
The process culminated in a six-year term for the firm in a space complete with “polished concrete floors, open floor areas, great light, great views, glass offices and all in a very nice office building.”
Mr. Maslin’s tireless door-knocking days and canvassing of buildings within his Midtown and Midtown South focus areas also paid off with a 13,400-square-foot deal at 25 West 39th Street for Man of the World & Weeplay Kids Magazine’s headquarters, a space that he had surveyed during the mad dash for an appropriate home for Jun Group.
“I had been cold calling and following up with Weeplay for five years,” he said. “If you find something that is going to knock my socks off, I’m happy to look.” Alan Maleh, the magazines’ founder, finally agreed.
“It was probably the coolest space I’ve ever rented and [Mr. Maleh] just fell in love,” Mr. Maslin said.
Mr. Maslin, who grew up in Woodbury on Long Island, will be the first to tell you he loves New York and loves the business. Spare time is admittedly hard to come by, but when he isn’t working, the self-proclaimed foodie is out with his wife, checking out new restaurants and shows. He’s at the gym every night too. “It was the wrong time to go,” he said, recollecting a subzero Vermont. But that trip was just a “mini-moon,” he said, followed in February by a full-tilt honeymoon in Costa Rica. Out of the polar vortex, Mr. Maslin was especially quick to say, “I love the beach.”