Insight

Meet the queens of commercial real estate

January 29, 2016
  • This isn’t their first rodeo. Many of these women broke into the industry in the ’80s, so they’re no strangers to the tough times that lie ahead. And nearly all of them were some of the first women in their workplaces, helping pave the way toward a workplace that doesn’t place inherent value on one gender or the other.

Their resilience in a tough market, commitment to family and advocacy and nonprofit work make them more than forces that have shaped Houston’s skyline. These women are shaping the core group of tomorrow’s powerhouse brokers, entrepreneurs and leaders in Houston’s commercial real estate scene.

Houston, meet your reigning queens of commercial real estate.

Sue Rogers, principal, CRESA

  • Specialty: Tenant representation, office and industrial
  • Years in commercial real estate: 37
  • 2016 outlook: “Obviously, education and health care are still on huge growth curves. You see cranes in the sky but they might not be for office buildings. They might be for medical and multitenant housing. Houston’s still seeing a lot of growth.”

You know, that age-old adage of “Geez, the harder I work, the luckier I get,” has always rang true to me.

I think people make their own challenges. And it sounds funny, but if you don’t think you have a challenge, you don’t have a challenge. My first job in commercial real estate was with the Horne Company, and they hired me because of the analytical skills I learned while working at Gulf Oil Company in the production and geology department as an analyst. I was analyzing and tracking wells that were being drilled in south Texas – it was my first job after college.

So, anyway, I guess the guys at the Horne Company assumed that if I could track oil wells, I could track real estate. My degree was in interior design, and I really wanted to use my skills in space-planning architecture in real estate, so I sent my resume out. I became an analyst in its research department, which is where real estate icons like Howard Horne and his brother, Robert, and all the big guys were working.

And, I’ll also remind you that this was in the ’80s, when we built 40 million square feet of office space from ’80 to ’85, and we had to track all that new development. I could’ve made a challenge out of that, you know. But I didn’t. We had to track all of that new development, so we’d go out, drive and take pictures of all the buildings that were being built. And we’d go take those pictures, show the brokers and tell them what was being built and what the availability was. That job got me really, really excited about real estate.

Houston’s a funny town, and there are a lot of tenants in this city and a lot of office buildings. And people starting out in this industry need to be tenacious, diligent and resourceful. I especially think young women working in this industry need to keep a positive attitude. You have to work harder than everyone else and you have to deliver a better service project than everyone else. But I think if you’re committed and passionate, you will be successful. You can’t let yourself drift off track. I know it’s easy to look at this industry, which is so competitive, and think, “I really can’t do this.” But you have to own this business and make it your own.

Commercial real estate is a lot like a puzzle. It’s not rocket science, but there’s some finesse involved, and you have to be able to negotiate with a strategy in mind. You have to fit some pieces together. You have to be able to bring architects, contractors and project managers together, and you can’t just pick a hodge-podge group of people. You have to pick the right people to accomplish the task together.

At the end of the day, you want to be your client’s trusted adviser, and that’s no easy task. Think that anything is possible, because it is.

The Rogers file

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri; raised near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Family: Husband, two daughters

Education: University of North Texas

Mentor: “Art Baylis when he was alive. He was a mentor for me for many years.”

Dream job: “I do a lot of work for nonprofits, I always have. I love that balance in my life. I was on the board of TUTS for six years. One of the things I’ve enjoyed throughout my commercial real estate career is my nonprofit work. I love it. There’s so much work to be done. … Look at the plight of the homeless people in this city. There’s so much that still needs to be done with them. Also, as a woman in business, I don’t think any girl should feel like she’s held back for any reason. I could see myself doing nonprofit work full time.”

Most impactful deal: “My relationship with Cemex, which has been ongoing for almost a decade, is one of my most rewarding adviser/client relationships. Working with them as their adviser, we have successfully negotiated three transactions for their U.S. headquarters totaling over 250,000 square feet in the last five years. These have all had significant and positive impacts on their business and allowed them to align their current business goals.”

How 2015 was: “I had one of my best years last year, and I expect to have another good year this year. … You can use the market as an excuse or as a challenge to succeed. … Houston’s going to continue to grow, with or without oil and gas. And with everything else in the oil and gas markets, it’s just the same old business cycle that many of us have lived through many, many times. So, it’s just a matter of getting through the (downturn) and finding opportunities. … In this market, tenants and occupiers have such a great opportunity to negotiate some really, really good deals right now.”