8 CRE Experts Share their biggest Career Failures

We’re excited to bring you the first post of our new series highlighting CRE industry expert experiences and advice, covering topics including career progression, learning resources, technology, and much more.

This first one is a juicy one…

People love talking about success stories. It’s exciting to share our triumphs compared to failures, but those losses are our best teachers. Sometimes, we get lucky enough to learn from the errors others make without having to go through the turmoil ourselves…this is that moment!

We reached out to experienced brokers from our nationwide network to discover some of their worst career mistakes and lessons learned. Whether you are just starting out in commercial real estate or a seasoned vet, these tales of woes provide valuable insights and actionable advice.

Here is what they said…

Jamie Palmer – President at Power Properties

Jamie is a licensed Realtor and Broker, as well as a Certified Property Manager (CPM). He started at Power Properties in 2003, before buying it in 2011. Jamie loves helping people build generational wealth through investing in real estate.

“We took on a major client that was not a values/culture fit. The client consumed enormous amounts of time and more importantly energy, they were a massive energy vampire!

This strained me personally, and professionally (I’ve never called our regulator so often with “these instructions are completely unethical but legal, do I have to follow them”). I learned that it is not worth any amount of money to work with someone who doesn’t share your professional culture and values.”

Seamus Bailey – Broker at William Wright Commercial

Seamus specializes in income-producing properties and development sites in Vancouver, along with the marketing of strata sales and leasing. Prior to joining William Wright, he spent four years at the University of British Columbia, studying economics and statistics.

“Not adequately staying on top of solid leads. If you chat with someone who says they’d be looking to sell 1 year from now. Don’t follow up a year from then, follow up AT LEAST every 2 months following that conversation.”

Ian Fletcher – Associate at MaxWell Polaris

Ian began his real estate career right out of High School in 2006. The type of properties he is involved with are office, retail, and industrial land & buildings. In 2010, he started and finished the four core courses for the CCIM designation (Certified Commercial Investment Member).

Ian is a member of the Realtors Association of Edmonton (Commercial Division), the Alberta Real Estate Association, and the Canadian Real Estate Association.

“Brought an offer on an unlisted building without having them sign my listing docs. Brought it to the finish line, and they refused to pay. I still helped my Tenant, as it was my fault, not theirs.”

Megan McGowan – SVP Retail Consulting and Leasing at S & H Realty

Megan has non-stop energy and a depth of retail real estate knowledge that allows her to move seamlessly from strategy to execution. For 30 years, Megan has been increasing cash flow and asset value for landlords and developers.

With over 300 leasing deals completed in the last decade, Megan sees the uniqueness of each property and builds strategies on the right fit between location and target customer, ensuring long-term value.

“I once agreed to join a team that was leasing a centre that was already built, but a long way from fully occupied.

While we made good inroads, I learned two things – with a centre that is in danger of becoming a white elephant, it not only takes years of focus and elbow grease from the site team, but the most important ingredient is the ownership commitment.

If they are not prepared to support the onsite team through thick and thin, it is not possible to turn the site around. Ensure you set expectations with the ownership at the outset and get their commitment for a defined period of time.”

Mark Allen – Vice President at Real Estate 360

Mark leads Real Estate 360 in the Maritimes. His entire working life has been in retail real estate in one form or another. Before he was a retail real estate specialist and licensed broker, Mark spent many years in the front lines of 24/7 service and retail businesses.

Mark worked as an advisor and leasing consultant from the Toronto office of Canada’s preeminent retail tenant representation firm, helping national and international brand name retailers and food service names grow their businesses all across Canada.

“Naming only one is tough! With a previous employer, I once was assigned a heavy and important administrative “Gantt chart-ish” project to oversee and update, and I’m not a person who is geared to the heavy admin, techie type tasks, not by a long shot.

I was terrible at it and it showed, I shouldn’t have accepted the project. I’m a free-flowing sales and ideas guy! I learned to have a good understanding of who you aren’t and focus on work that focuses on who you are and allows you to flourish.”

Denis Shank – Managing Principal at Capworth Realty

Over the last several decades, Denis has provided his clients with a seamless point of contact for a wide spectrum of transactional and advisory commercial real estate services.

Denis has a breadth of expertise in the areas of site selection, design-build, client requirements analysis, negotiation and transactional coordination that leads to positive results.

“Trying to do everything myself. Being able to leverage your time and invite younger, talented agents/brokers to assist you in multiple tasks has been beneficial to me as a professional and also to my firm.”

Chad Griffiths – Partner at NAI Commercial Real Estate Inc.

Chad entered the industry in 2004 and has completed over 400 commercial transactions with clients ranging from small, local companies to large institutional owners. Chad has been a top 15 producer Canada-wide since 2013.

“Early in my career, I used the measurement provided by the owner of a building (who also built it) and did not independently verify it.

The property ended up being close to 6, 000 sq ft smaller. I now verify every measurement.”

Gavin Brar – Director at KW Commercial

Gavin is one of the leading industrial brokers in western Canada for KW Commercial, specializing in the sale and leasing of industrial properties. Gavin specializes in finding off market sale opportunities for owner occupiers, private investors and large institutions.

Gavin’s clients include companies engaged in warehousing, distribution, manufacturing, technology, aviation and recreation throughout the Greater Vancouver Region.

“Early on in my career, I made three investments where I failed big. One was in real estate and two were completely different business ventures.

I replay the events that led up to those failures to help me better understand what I could have done differently with the information, knowledge and experience I have today.

What I have learned from each of those experiences was to ask harder questions. Have set criteria when investing, and do not waiver from your criteria. Be okay with walking away from the deal. It is better to walk away from a good deal, than to invest in a bad one.”

Big thank you to all the pros for contributing and telling their stories. We hope that you’ve gathered some valuable nuggets or at the very least enjoyed reading this post.

Key takeaways:

  1. Make sure your clients align with your values and culture
  2. Time is money, so act quickly and remember to follow up regularly
  3. A deal is not a deal until it’s signed on paper
  4. Invest in strong leadership who is committed to the project and team
  5. Focus on doing the work you’re good at and enjoy
  6. Don’t do everything yourself
  7. Do your due diligence and stick to your philosophy when working on a deal or investment

Keep an eye out for our next instalment!

If you are interested in being featured or have suggestions of topics you would like us to cover, then please connect with us at info@spacelist.co!