Building a Successful CRE Team

by | 15 March 2019

A client-centric approach to recruiting commercial real estate (CRE) talent is essential to growing strong teams and serving evolving client needs—for the short- and long-term. Identifying the proper skill sets, then locating the right talent ensures our teams and our clients are positioned for success.

The importance of building a successful CRE team is a topic as broad as the industry itself. Real estate attracts talented professionals with dynamic personalities and strengths, and innovative CRE teams who deliver positive client outcomes use those strengths to their advantage.

CRE teams are as diverse as the people within them. They can be structured with as few as two to four advisors or as large as 30 or 40 team members with varying levels of expertise and specializations. Adding the right people, at the right time, is an important skill that can be developed over time as a team’s CRE operation grows and changes, and as team goals evolve.

Evolving Teams for Growth

The size of a CRE team is often determined by their product type specialization. In specific sectors and when working with private client investors, a smaller specialized team is ideal due to the limited product availability and the resulting smaller client and opportunity pool. On the other end of the spectrum, triple-net (NNN) and retail sectors lend toward a high velocity of transactions. When working nationally or internationally, larger CRE teams are often necessary to ensure client coverage and positive outcomes.

For example, there is a current Colliers professional who has successfully grown and expanded his team substantially over the years. This professional came to Colliers with experience and established client relationships in the private-client and middle-market space. He’s grown his skill set, expanded his team and is currently focused on the institutional market — multifamily real estate valued from $40 to $50 million and above with several hundred units.

His team now handles the market he used to cover, with some team members working in private-client in the $1 to $10 million range, and others focusing on the middle-market space. This successful model can be scaled appropriately to provide growth opportunities for all members of a CRE team, as well as in every product sector.

As a CRE professional grows and matures in their career, they often gravitate toward larger and more complex deals. The rapid velocity and supply of smaller deals in the private-client space requires team members to be focused on that market in order to successfully execute a variety of deals and deal sizes in support of their client base.

Built to Scale

As senior professionals become more sophisticated in their skill sets, it’s natural for them to gravitate toward larger challenges. To continue facilitating the transaction velocity in the private-client space, senior professionals often add a junior member to their team. This junior team member, often with three to five years of experience, primarily serves clients with smaller deals, and provides additional support that allows the senior professional to focus on business development and supporting larger opportunities.

Other teams can be specially structured to focus on one specific geographic market, client type, deal-range or product type. In this approach, it is advisable to add a new professional with five to ten years of experience that possesses strong analytical skills, who can also work directly with clients.

With this type of team structure, a newly-added professional could provide expertise to the team in:

  • Comparative market analysis
  • Financial analysis
  • Underwriting, with a firm understanding of deal processes
  • Loan originating to structure the debt or equity piece of a deal—someone who can provide quick and accurate financing

Accordingly, some brokerage firms have recently acquired smaller loan origination shops and grown their own debt platforms. Successful firms help facilitate merging and growing CRE teams by providing recruiting, onboarding, training, management and administrative support to allow senior professionals to focus on what they do best — serving clients.

Framework for Growth

When the time is right to expand a CRE team, there are four steps that will provide a framework for growth:

  1. Take stock of your scenario

What does your team look like today? How does your team work together and interact with clients? As an exercise, map existing team activities and schedules over one week to establish a baseline for your team. Using your base analysis, evaluate how you can create additional efficiencies. Utilize the services or technology platforms your firm provides to automate tasks and avoid manual systems and processes.

Inc. suggests some of the metrics to measure success include productivity, efficiency and client and personal satisfaction. Analyzing your team by these metrics will aid you in properly assessing team strengths.

  1. Analyze the strengths of your existing team

Take inventory of your team strengths. You can do this using your own evaluation, an internal survey or a preexisting strength-finding exercise. There are several strength assessment tools readily available.

Using the results, align roles on your team to better match team members’ strengths. Ideally, you should be working in your areas of strength 80% or more of the time. Determine what gaps exist that may need to be filled, and if these can be filled with existing team members or potential new hires. This analysis will help guide future recruiting efforts.

  1. Decide how to organize your team

There are several ways to organize your CRE team. Here are just a few:

  • By territory (sub-market, region, state etc.)
  • By size of opportunity (square footage or value)
  • By asset class (e.g., multifamily)
  • By sub-specialties within asset classes (e.g., affordable housing is a specialized niche within multifamily)
  • By client type or industry (e.g., law firms)

Choose one of these categories or combine several to create a custom solution that maximizes your team members’ strengths and expertise and best serves clients.

  1. Create a business plan

Determine what roles are needed within the team and their associated skill sets. What is the ideal timeline for these additional hires? What technology and resources can you leverage to increase productivity? How will you measure success? How do you plan to continue to scale and expand your business?

Begin with a business plan outline, or customize your plan depending on the specifications of your team and your internal needs. Colliers is known for our unique entrepreneurial approach to CRE — our professionals are empowered to expand their businesses through collaboration with local market leaders and practice group leaders.

Many professionals enter the real estate business because of the uncapped earning potential. A growing and evolving CRE team allows for that potential to be realized—for both senior professionals and junior team members. And just as CRE professionals grow in their careers, so do their clients’ needs. Creating a custom growth plan that maximizes your team’s strengths and expertise also serves evolving client needs, at every phase of their operation.