20 Simple Rules for Success in Commercial Real Estate


Succeeding in the commercial real estate is a topic I’m often asked about. Even if you don’t technically start your own business, if you are a commercial broker, you essentially have your own business. Below is a list of 20 lessons I have learned over the past 30 years that you may be able to benefit from:

1. Be passionate.

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 The most successful people are those who truly love what they do. Follow their example.

2. Your partner(s) must have a similar work ethic.

 Most partnerships that fail do so because the partners are not pulling equal weight. Paul Massey and I have had a successful partnership because our work ethic is identical. We have gravitated toward different aspects of the business, but maintained our commitment to the collective good.

3. Rules apply to everyone equally.

After establishing the guidelines under which you operate, make sure there are no “special deals” for anyone. If the rules apply equally to everyone, all participants feel equally valued.

4. Have a long-term perspective.

The brokerage business is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t let short-term objectives get in the way of maintaining relationships with your clients in the manner in which they should be. If you have a long-term perspective you will always act in the client’s best interest.

5. Know what business you are actually in.

Our business is not the real estate business. It is the information business. Real estate just happens to be the objects the information is based on. Realizing that allows you to focus on the important elements of the job.

6. Have a game plan.

 It is easy to sit at your desk and react all day long. But you need to be proactive. The only way to do this is to have a game plan: write your goals down and attack the list. Go into each week with a specific list of goals and objectives.

7. Be special.

There are thousands of brokers trying to do exactly what you do. Come up with some way to differentiate yourself from the pack. Specialization is a great way to creates a distinct competitive advantage.

8. Know your weaknesses.

Self-awareness is easier said than done. Recognize your strengths and work like heck on your weaknesses. The more you improve weaknesses, the more successful you will be.

9. The client’s interests always come first.

Commissions come and go; however, they will come again and again if you are focused on what’s best for your client. Never put anything ahead of what is best for your client.

10. Work hard!

In our business, you only have to work half a day. It doesn’t matter which 12 hours you work, but that’s what it takes. And that’s for six days a week. Luck also plays a role, but the harder you work, the luckier you get.

11. Ask senior people for advice.

Rather than relying on trial and error, ask folks who have “been there” and “done that.”

12. Mistakes are O.K.—just don’t make the same one twice.

If you are not making mistakes, you are not pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.

13. Confront brutal reality.

Don’t hide from the fact that sometimes things won’t go your way.

14. Have faith you will succeed.

Courage is a wonderful thing and can go a long way towards inspiring those who don’t have it.

15. Strive to be the best rather than the biggest.

Simply, quality is more important that quantity. If you take the time to make sure you are doing your best on every assignment, your volume of business will grow.

16. You must be willing to delegate responsibility.

You can’t do everything. Hire great people to leverage your efforts.

17. Realize that your main assets are your staff and reputation.

Treat those you work with well and always act like the whole world is watching what you are doing. Your reputation is critically important.

18. People work with you if they like you.

Being likeable is more important than being a real estate rocket scientist. You have to be proficient but being likeable is a key.

19. Honesty and integrity are at the core of success.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. People see right through those who are not honest.

20. Clearly convey the company’s core values.

Know what you stand for and what your mission is. Also, clearly articulate those values to those you work with. They will feel as if they are part of something special.

Bob Knakal is the chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services.