Success in CRE & What it Takes to Get There: From 3 Women Who Know
The following post was co-written by Christina Balas, National Director, Strategic Implementation, Field Services, and Christina Carlino, Director, Business Support Operations
In honor of the annual CREW conference, Coldwell Banker Commercial (CBC) facilitated a discussion about what it takes for a woman to build a successful career in the industry. At Realogy, parent company of Coldwell Banker Commercial, women executives make up 25% of the Top 20 Women Leaders on the 2018 Swanepoel Power 200, a leading industry ranking. Coldwell Banker Commercial is a brand with strong women who dominate in their market places, and we were lucky to get a little perspective from some of them this week. We talked with Suzanne Hill from Coldwell Banker Commercial MECA in Charlotte, NC a rising star in the brand; and with CBC top producers Cathy Holmes from Coldwell Banker Commercial Brokers of the Valley in Napa, CA, and Debbie Cowart from Coldwell Banker Commercial Arnold and Associates from Beaumont, TX to find out what it takes to be successful in commercial real estate.
Confidence is a common theme among women who have created successful commercial real estate careers. Confidence to create a name for yourself. Confidence to take ownership of the room. Confidence to understand your clients. Confidence to continue to learn. Confidence to balance work and life. These are just a few common themes that you will find when talking to some of our top women in Commercial Real Estate at Coldwell Banker Commercial.
Q: How did you get your start? Who helped you along the way?
Suzanne Hill: My first opportunity out of college was in commercial real estate although not on the brokerage side. Finding an opportunity in brokerage can be difficult and finding a spot with opportunity is a function of having relationships.
Cathy Holmes: I started in the mortgage business. I realized that the brokers were having a lot more fun. If you can work for a commercial property manager or a commercial real estate development. You should not just jump into this.
Debbie Cowart: I started in property management and leasing for a REIT as the result of a mid-career job change. Commercial real estate provided me with a good work-life balance.
Q: How do you get yourself a seat at the table?
Suzanne Hill: In my market, there are so few women that it can be an advantage, so it can be easier to get the name recognition. It is about getting yourself in the room where important conversations are being held.
Debbie Cowart: You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s never comfortable going by yourself but getting to the table no matter what is key to developing rapport and that has to happen before anything else. All relationships are driven having them feel comfortable with you. If I can get in front of someone, I can win the job.
Q: In what have you been most satisfied with your life?
Cathy Holmes: Each time I complete an off-market deal. We will go knock on the door and every time we do one of those deals that is when we are most satisfied. Currently, in our market there is a lack of inventory. These off-market deals are easier to do due to our reputation of who we are and what we do.
Debbie Cowart: Hard question I don’t know that I am ever satisfied. Too much of a competitive gene. The age that I am at now I do not think I am on the downhill side but in the prime in my career and you can tell in my production at CBC and has a lot to do with the team and Sheri. Satisfied now as it is a sense of accomplishment. Raised my 2 sons and husband proud of who they are. Hit this position at work where I feel confident.
Q: We talk about what makes us stand out in our business, so what is your superpower?
Cathy Holmes: Tenacity. Hard work ethic. Be[ing] a problem solver.
Debbie Cowart: You have to work hard. You have to put in the hours. My super-power is probably multi-tasking. When you are building a business and a team, you have to be able to touch many people every day to keep your pipeline full.
Q: What tips do you have for other women who would like to start in CRE?
Cathy Holmes: Too long of a climb to understand this business. You need to work in other aspects of real estate. If you can work for a commercial property manager, you will see the full cycle and the end of the chain of what we do. The devil is in the details. Another idea is to work for a commercial real estate developer someone buying land, entitling it, building it, leasing it, tenant improvement packages. You should not just jump into commercial real estate.
Debbie Cowart has a list she has posted on her desk that reminds her of how she got and will stay successful. It’s her special sauce, but some of her biggest tips include, “Be unique, have confidence, take accountability, and [that] there is no substitute for hard work. If you do not do it someone else will.”
It is apparent that the talent at CBC has the confidence and skills to win business, and we couldn’t be more excited to have such great conversations with these women. There will certainly be more to come from them and others in our great network.