Enhancing a Commercial Real Estate Career Through Reading


I have been quoted several times as saying that I believe reading is a key ingredient in the life of a real estate professional. Given my position as the chairman of Massey Knakal, I am frequently asked by young people I meet, who are either new to the business or are considering getting into it, about the role reading plays in my career and what I suggest they read. Before we get into specifics, we should address some macro issues.

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There are several benefits of reading in terms of supplementing a real estate career or any business career for that matter. In any service business, psychology and understanding why people make certain decisions play major roles. After all, most of what we do is try to make a switch inside a client’s head flip to “yes” as opposed to “no” when he has a decision to make about which service provider to select. There has been a tremendous amount written about customer behavior and the power of persuasion that provides a great blueprint for business people, especially sales people. And I am not just referring to brokers. Attorneys, architects, title closers, bankers and a host of other market participants are actually sales people in one way or another.

While reading is a key tool for business people in the service sector, I think it is particularly important in real estate because of the nature of our marketplace. Commercial real estate deals are not as transparent as many other transaction types. Knowing that the sales price of a property was $50 million doesn’t tell us much unless we know a lot more about that property. Understanding market metrics, trends and transactions allows market participants to learn the market and become better professionals.

One of my mentors, Steve Siegel, the chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, told me decades ago that he was a voracious reader and that reading was one of the best ways to become more knowledgeable and more effective. When Steve speaks, people should listen. I sure did. Since I heard Steve say that, I have tried to follow in his footsteps and read as much as I possibly can to learn things that help me maximize my market knowledge and productivity.

There is another reason why reading is important in our industry. As I often say, the reason Paul Massey and I set up the Massey Knakal operating platform the way we did was due to a recognition of what business we were actually in. We are not in the commercial real estate business. We’re in the information business. Reading, researching and studying expose us to a tremendous amount of information.

So what do I read? I think it is important to read newspapers regularly. They keep us up on current events and may provide insight into trends that provide an opportunity to adapt existing practices to new realities. At the top of the list for me are The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. I also read The New York Times, the Daily News and Barron’s and find that the greatest benefit from these papers comes from their business and op-ed sections.

Trade publications are also must-read periodicals and include this newspaper, Real Estate Weekly, Real Estate Alert, Commercial Mortgage Alert, Real Estate Forum and The Real Deal. I also enjoy Crain’s New York Business, which is not a real estate publication per se but does a good job covering the sector. There are also a number of online resources for market information, such as Bisnow’s Top Things to Know This Morning, email blasts that provide market information in real time.

As much as these periodicals provide valuable insight into our industry, newspapers also provide insight into the local political landscape, which often has a profound impact on commercial real estate.

In addition to these periodicals, books covering topics such as sales, economics, professional relationships and personal habits provide insights into how the business world works and how to most successfully compete in it.

Below is a list of the books that I have greatly enjoyed, in no particular order:

Getting Things Done, David Allen
The 4-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss
The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale
Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi
Bargaining for Advantage, G. Richard Shell
The Art of Woo, G. Richard Shell
The Power of a Positive No, William Ury
Negotiate This, Herb Cohen
How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, Harvey Mackay
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey
The Art of War, Sun Tzu

There are several wonderful lessons to be extracted from each of these books, and while there are dozens more that could be added to the list, these I think provide a good start on the reading road toward enhancing a career in the commercial real estate business.