From Rookie to Rockstar: The Role of Mentorship in CRE

Paul Kluck and Murray Platt, first vice presidents with CBRE in Denver.

By Paul Kluck and Murray Platt

There’s an argument to be made for mentorship in any industry, but when it comes to commercial real estate brokerage, it’s critical. Most people who pursue brokerage do not study it in school. The reality is there’s an incredible amount of boots-on-the-ground training that goes into a real estate career, and a good mentor can mean the difference between success and failure.

Factors of a successful mentor and mentee

On the mentor side, there’s a degree of selflessness that goes with being a good mentor. Mentors are not paid to spend their time and energy helping others. An effective mentor is someone who finds fulfillment in coaching others. It’s an innate character trait that is not always easy to find in this industry. The brokers at the very top of the heap may not make the best mentor as they simply do not have the time to spare.

We were both lucky to have access to outstanding mentors when we were beginning in the industry. From Ann Sperling to Sherm Miller and Bob Coldwell, we benefited from talented, intelligent and caring people taking an interest in our success. It was rare to find brokers willing to mentor decades ago. Today, most firms have managing brokers that are excellent candidates for mentors. These folks have often been through the brokerage side and are now in a position where there’s a mutual benefit in bringing up the next round of talent. On the mentee side, it’s important to be humble. You have to be willing to admit what you don’t know and to ask questions instead of fumbling around and trying to do it all yourself. It’s not easy in an industry where we all tend to be

Type A go-getters. You will achieve success quicker if you are willing to accept help when you need it. We have witnessed this first  hand on our team with young brokers who have demonstrated humility and have risen through the ranks, achieving promotions in the fastest timeframe possible.

Common mentorship mistakes to avoid

Even when you have an available mentor and a humble mentee, mistakes can still be made. On the mentee side, you have to stay focused. We work with our team on both short-term and long-term goals. The short-term goals are a set of specific tasks that must be achieved every three months. Long-term, we set goals for where the person wants to end up. One of our favorite adages is, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” Both the short and long-term planning are important as it is incredibly easy in this industry to be distracted. Deals pop up that look bright, shiny and easy, but in reality, you are never going to close that deal. Staying focused is the surest route for success.

Another mistake we’ve seen mentees make is trying to lone wolf it and work without any partners. It’s certainly appealing to not have to share commissions, but in a risk-heavy industry like commercial real estate, you will be happier in the long run if you have people in a similar circumstance to share in your success and failures.

On the mentor side, the mistake comes when you agree to take on a mentor but then do not make yourself available. It only works if you are truly invested in the success of your mentee, and that means devoting time to the relationship.

How to get started

For people new to the industry, a great way to start is to get involved with an association like NAIOP, DMCAR, ULI, etc. Some of those groups offer mentorship programs of their own. By getting involved you also gain access to their leadership, which is a great crop of talent from which to find a mentor.

A specific piece of advice we’d add is to “be the bus driver, not the passenger.” Don’t just join an industry organization and become a passive observer, pursue a role where you can make a contribution. If you attain a leadership position, you will get visibility to some of the top folks in our industry.

Also, look for opportunities to contribute to your own firm, from events to networking groups, to philanthropic endeavors. There are likely several ways you could get more involved right now that would expose you to people outside your singular focus.
Having spent a combined 60 plus years in the industry, we have seen brokers come and go — some who rise to great heights and some that never get off the ground. Ultimately, you can make cold calls until you’re hoarse, and study comps until your eyes bleed, but nothing will make a more monumental difference in your success than a strong focus and mentor.

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