How to Win at Commercial Real Estate Brokerage

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As an adult, have you ever wanted to learn a new competitive sport? For me, it was competitive sailing. I moved the San Francisco bay area in my mid-30s, and had my first opportunity to go on a bay sail. I never dreamed that I would become a strong competitor in sailboat racing. How does this connect to winning in commercial real estate? The answer is, it connects in many ways.

Shortly after that first sail, I entered a boat partnership with somebody who knew how to sail. They were going to be my mentor. The problem was he had very little time, and we only sailed together a couple of times. I did not learn enough in those session to be able to sail alone. What was the solution? Learn quickly! To get started, I bought a handbook on small boat sailing. I had to learn the language of sailing. Commercial real estate has a language, and we must know it too. I had to learn all the component parts of the boat and how things worked. Commercial properties have a large number of components that we must learn. There are certain principles on how to approach the winds, tides and currents. We must understand commercial real estate principles, and there are also market winds, tides and currents. They can run can fair and foul. I also found some videos that taught me how to maximize my sailing progress.

After working on the basics and practicing, I had learned the fundamentals well. It took me substantially less time than a lot of people because I was willing to study and learn from a variety of sources. One day I had the opportunity to go on a sailboat race. The truth is, I really knew little about what was going on during that first race. But my sailing fundamentals were solid enough that, as long as I was directed properly, I could do my part. In essence, I was a junior team member, in the same way that newer commercial agents are junior team members. I quickly recognized that I didn’t want to be a junior team member. I wanted to win races! To do that I needed to learn to do two things well:

1) How to make the boat go fast, and
2) How to sail the course intelligently.

Fortunately, in my area, there were courses that taught these skills. The first focused on how to get the boat to perform at the highest levels. The other taught intelligent racing strategies, such as, how to get a great start, which way to go, when and how to maneuver, and how to perform in the presence of other competitors. Even if you have never sailed, I hope you can see the similarities to what we experience in the commercial real estate world.

Later, I found a next-level course on racing strategies and tactics taught by people who owned Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals. That allowed me to move into a class of boats called sports boats. These are high-performance sailboats. In that fleet, I had the opportunity to compete with some of the best sailors in the U.S. In order to be able to race with them, I needed coaches who had sailed at that level. Two of my coaches sailed in America’s Cup races and one of them, in the Olympics. In just a couple of years of sailing, I was able to compete effectively with people who had been sailing all of their lives. Trust me, that’s not easy to do, and it wasn’t based on luck. I made a fast rise in sailing for someone who came to it late in life, becoming a strong competitor and I won my share of races. During these years, I also raced on other people’s boats, many of which had done very little to prepare to win. And while I could help them to move up in fleet, I couldn’t help them win, because they were not prepared to win.

To win at commercial real estate, you must be prepared, you must learn the fundamentals and practice the skills needed for success. The reason that so many people struggle and fail for several years before they make it, if they make it all, is because they are not willing to do what it takes to win. They dream about competing with the gold, silver, and bronze level commercial brokers in their market, but without doing the heavy lifting. Winning at commercial real estate can be done fairly quickly. It takes proper preparation, planning and execution. And like earning a trophy in competitive sailboat racing, you must learn before you earn, so you, don’t get burned.


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