Insights and Advice Gained from 30 Years in Business
As Cresa proudly embarks on its extraordinary 30th year in business, we find ourselves not only at the cusp of a new decade but also filled with deep reverence for the remarkable journey that has propelled us to this momentous milestone. It is an immense privilege to still count among our ranks several of the visionary individuals who laid the foundation for Cresa back in 1993, generously sharing their invaluable wisdom and guidance with us to this day. Among our founding team members are Gerald Porter (Jerry) and Matthew Feeney, and in the Q&A that follows, we delve into their captivating stories and glean profound insights as we embark on Cresa's next 30 years in business.
Cresa in 1995, two years after the company was founded.
You’ve been with Cresa from the very beginning. What was it that made you stay?
Jerry: The personal relationships I have built within Cresa are the key reason I’ve stayed, although the great financial success I’ve had here hasn’t hurt, either. Clients see loyalty and stability as something they can trust in a person.
Matt: I truly believe in the work we do, and the platform we have to serve only the occupier. The work varies from day to day so there is good mental engagement. When you couple these factors with great people it is a place I continue to want to be. Some of my co-workers think it’s only because I’m not employable elsewhere and they may be right!
In your opinion, what sets Cresa apart from our competitors?
Jerry: Our high level of collaboration and information sharing is unique within this industry. The fact that we openly share prospects in Salesforce and are not competing with one another, unlike other companies, is key.
Matt: I think our singular focus on the occupier and the ability provide service globally along with our culture of collaboration and cooperation truly sets us apart. The first one is easy to quantify and discuss. The second is more important but also more difficult to quantify and have an occupier understand.
A lot has changed in 30 years. In your opinion, what change has made the biggest impact on the industry?
Matt: I would say that technology has made the biggest impact on the industry. Thirty years ago it took days to put together a survey. CoStar didn’t exist and we had Black’s Guide. A printed book that listed the properties in the market, the leasing agent, how much space they had and asking rent. It was published annually! The currency in the business was information and this was protected fiercely. It was extremely inefficient. The sell was based on “having better information”. Now we all have access to reams of information and knowing what to do with this information and how to integrate numerous other services is critical. The industry has become far more professional and consultative which is a good thing.
What inspired you to join Cresa, and how has the company's approach evolved during your tenure?
Jerry: My personal commitment to corporate tenant representation on a national basis led me to find and work with other independent brokers around the country. Cresa was really a mutation of all those relationships into an alliance of otherwise independent, but similar, companies into Corporate Real Estate Service Advisors or “CRESA”.
Matt: I was fortunate to be there when we created Cresa which is different than joining. Our approach has remained consistent. Occupier only, client first, long-term relationships and 'Do the Right Thing'. Our services have evolved dramatically. In the early days we were brokers period, as was the industry. We are now so much more.
Can you highlight a key lesson or piece of advice you've learned over your 30 years in the industry that has been instrumental in your success?
Jerry: My first corporate client came from asking a local Los Angeles real estate director for a transaction and being given an 800 square foot tenant assignment that required several two-hour round trips by car over a couple weeks and dozens of telephone calls to brokers in order to survey available space opportunities in the days before CoStar existed. Subsequently, the real estate director was so surprised by my efforts for such a small transaction, and that I then asked for more work, that the next deal he gave me was a ten-year, fifty-thousand square foot office lease for his next office in Atlanta. That was the start of a multi-year relationship with that company and a huge financial success for me that launched my career.
Matt: Apologies to those who have heard this before and it comes from before I joined Cresa. I was at Texas Instruments and was going to visit customers with a regional manager. He is driving, looking straight out the windshield and says, “I don’t care what you tell a customer. But whatever you tell them you better do. If you don’t, I will fire you”. End of conversation. That conversation was 38 years ago and I still take that lesson with me every day.
In your opinion, what are the most important qualities or skills a successful commercial real estate advisor should possess?
Jerry: Easy – total honesty and hard work.
Matt: Listening. We often don’t listen and then provide solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist and miss solving the real problem.
What advice do you have for new advisors looking to build a successful career in commercial real estate?
Jerry: Always do what is best for the client, even if it costs you all or part of a commission. One of my most profitable long-term clients came as a direct result of telling him why he should do the deal his current landlord was offering him before he hired me, even though I wasn’t going to earn a commission. After I had carefully surveyed the market alternatives, I was able to do a detailed financial analysis on Excel and explain the economics of the relocation costs involved in moving. It is all about trust. Again, this resulted in a very profitable multi-year relationship with this corporate client after this real estate director understood that he could always trust me to tell him the truth.
Matt: It’s a long game with lots of ups and downs. Stay focused, be persistent and ask questions. Ask for help and seek out a few mentors. Listen, observe and them, try different approaches and figure out what works for you. There are many paths to success in this industry.
How do you see the future of commercial real estate shaping up, and what opportunities do you anticipate for both clients and brokers?
Jerry: Unfortunately, I think it might be difficult for the next few years for office tenant representation due to the lessons learned by some clients during the pandemic quarantine. Some specific segments of the traditional office-user market have discovered the financial benefits of remote work and may choose to shrink their office footprint upon lease expiration going forward. Look for more opportunities to advise clients on right-sizing their office spaces and provide accurate financial estimates of all of the costs involved, such as moving costs, furniture relocation or reconfiguration costs, downtime, etc., while also providing rent and operating expense comparisons over term. Those are the future clients who will give you more business and recommend you to their peers.
Matt: We will continue to evolve into a more sophisticated and complex business. Clients will have a growing need for services and outsourcing is here to stay. Advisors will have the opportunity to fill those needs.
Can you describe your most rewarding experience in helping a client achieve their real estate goals?
Jerry: In every way, it was always the largest deals. I was fortunate to do several headquarters deals in excess of 100,000 to 500,000 square feet. Not only were they the most profitable, but the collaboration with upper management and boards of directors was always challenging and inspirational.
Matt: This would be for LPL Financial in Fort Mill, SC. We started with a blank canvas and were able to help them create an environment that was truly world-class. We were able to work with a world-class team from architect, landscape architect, MEP, Facilities, GC, Developer and deliver a vision from what was 600 acres of raw ground. The entire team met in what we called the “big room” and took the project from concept to delivery and it was a privilege to see experts at their craft work. The end result was a huge success for the client (awards, great employee satisfaction scores, record numbers of applications, large economic incentive award, numerous visits from politicians etc.) but our reward was being part of a great team and seeing how excited the employees were at work.
What exciting projects or initiatives are you currently involved in?
Jerry: As I’ve now been at this for forty years, I’m just enjoying my work with the County of Los Angeles, along with a great partner in Dennis Miller, and whatever odds and ends that seek me out as past clients’ leases roll and several of them still call me. I’ve been very fortunate in every way. I still enjoy the work and have great affection for all the people at Cresa and everything that we stand for.
Matt: We are bringing the HQ of a global firm from Poland to Philadelphia and while not large in numbers it is nice to see our area get recognized as a great place to hire talent and locate a business