By Erika Morphy | June 03, 2019 at 9:00 AM | GlobeSt.com
How easy is it to identify a “best boss” anyway? We at Real Estate Forum had the experience of finding that out as we shifted through numerous nomination forms that contained shining examples of leadership from colleagues, employees and team members. Surprisingly, it was a hard decision to make. We say ‘surprisingly’ because statistically speaking, best bosses—or put another way, good leaders—are hard to come by. For instance, only 14% of CEOs have the leadership talent to execute on their strategy, according to one survey. The effect this lack of leadership talent has on a company and its workers cannot be overstated. According to another estimate, there is a 50% difference in the impact that a top performing leader has compared with an average performing one.Perhaps it is different in the commercial real estate space. Perhaps the rigor needed to navigate our industry and the ease at which it is possible to fail intuitively attracts the best of the best. To borrow from a well known expression, if you can make it in CRE you can make it anywhere.What is perhaps most astounding about the leaders you will read about in the following pages is the way they make it seem so easy. Juggling multibillion dollar books of business, implementing vision statements and strategic goals and they still always seem to know the name of even the lowliest employee in the office. Smarts, intuition, honor, skill and charisma. You can read about it over the next few pages.
The Visionaries: Evan Gentry and Gary Bechtel Based in Ladera Ranch, CA, visionaries Evan Gentry, CEO and founder, along with Gary Bechtel, president, are responsible for executing the business and expansion strategy of Money360—a vertically-integrated, nationwide direct lender that sources, underwrites, closes, sells and services small-to mid-balance commercial real estate loans ranging in size from $3 million to $25 million.
With more than 20 years of experience, Gentry is an entrepreneur and innovator with a strong background in the application of technology to the real estate, lending and investment industries. Prior to the creation of Money360, Gentry founded two highly successful real estate investment and finance firms, G8 Capital and MoneyLine Lending Services. G8 Capital is a real estate private equity firm founded in 2007, which has acquired more than $700 million in distressed real estate loans and properties, and has delivered 20%+ annualized returns to investors.
For more than 30 years, Bechtel has been one of the most active individuals in the commercial real estate industry across the nation. He has served in roles ranging from lender to intermediary, and has been involved in all aspects of the commercial real estate finance industry including the origination, underwriting, structuring, placement and closing of over $9 billion in commercial debt transactions ranging in amounts from $1 million to $150 million.
Evan Gentry, CEO and founder of Money360, has been a visionary throughout his career, founding three successive companies to build on emerging opportunities in real estate finance, and each time building out expert teams to help those businesses achieve unparalleled results.
Gentry’s dedication to pushing an industry forward is most apparent in his latest venture, Money360, which, since its inception in 2014, has been working to address the commercial real estate industry’s growing need for alternative sources of financing. Following the 2008 financial crisis, banks, which traditionally were the largest lenders to the CRE industry, faced new regulations that inhibited their ability to provide CRE loans profitably. According to one senior CRE loan administrator, both Bechtel and Gentry are as genuine as they get and both have similar qualities but in different ways. “Both are equally inspiring us to reach for the heights.”
The Best Boss: Real estate investment industry veteran Robert E. Hart is currently the founder, CEO and president of TruAmerica Multifamily, which has rapidly become one the nation’s largest investors in apartment communities with $8.3 billion of assets under management. But dig a little deeper and you will see that Hart brings much more to the table than just his present leadership creds.
Prior to founding TruAmerica Multifamily, Hart earned industry accolades as the transformational CEO from 2000 to 2013 of Kennedy Wilson Multifamily Management Group, a part of the NYSE-listed Kennedy Wilson global real-estate concern. Hart envisioned and launched Kennedy Wilson’s value-add apartment portfolio strategy that profitably acquired and disposed of more than 20,000 units in 13 years, with a total transaction value of more than $4.5 billion. Kennedy Wilson went public in 2009 with a market cap of $400 million, and in 2016 reached a valuation of $2.4 billion, a major component of which is its holdings of multifamily residences.
Then came July 2013 when Hart and The Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America founded TrueAmerica as a joint venture. Today the company’s portfolio of approximately 39,000 units is located in prime locations throughout Northern and Southern California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Maryland, Florida and Georgia.
Along this journey he has developed strong ties with his colleagues and employees for many reasons. Some of these reasons are due to his personality—he’s a witty person and his team affectionately calls this wit “Bobisms”—and to his charisma. His colleagues agree, for example, that when Hart enters a room, everyone not only knows it, but also gravitates toward him.
His leadership abilities are renown. One employee says Hart perfectly fits the description of a great leader, which this employee says is someone that is able to guide a group of people (such as, in Hart’s case, the senior team) to identify what they want (such as the senior team’s needs for their respective departments) and how to get it, all the while keeping the overall goals and objectives of the firm first in their initiatives.
This ideal leader, per the employee, then influences that group without obvious micro-managing of the process, to take collaborative and strategic executable action to achieve the firm’s desired outcomes.
A good leader also knows how to deal with risk. The risk that Hart takes is measured, strategic and almost always creative, genius and out of the box thinking, a colleague says. “He is a conscious and responsible fiduciary steward of his partner’s investment and when he shakes their hand, signs his name to the partnership agreement, his expectations of his team is that they represent exactly what his word said he would. No exceptions.”
For all of these reasons, Hart is highly sought after to speak at industry and industry affiliate events. One team member has observed that Hart can be the last speaker on a panel where the other panelists all in theory agree with each other on whatever topic, yet if Hart differs in his opinion, he states it—albeit graciously—but the outcome is always the same in these instances: “The other panelists as well as the audience lean in, take note, and change their own opinions to his,” the team member says.
Hart is also recognized for his philanthropy. Case in point, a very special award from City of Hope. The Spirit of Life Award is given to individuals who exemplify the ideals and values that have guided City of Hope for a century, and whose professional and humanitarian accomplishments are worthy of celebration. Hart attacks fundraising for his charitable endeavors the same way he does business. He has held weekly fundraising meetings with close business associates, some of his senior team and other close colleagues.
Hart comes from very humble beginnings. He started working when he was 14 years old. Through hard work and a tenacious attitude to succeed, he is the quintessential self-made man. Colleagues say that his story, which he does not share readily, is inspirational as is his top rule in life, which is to never fail. “He will not allow himself to—he takes the responsibility of other people’s trust in him to an extreme level,” says one person.
When asked what has made him successful Hart’s answers only vary slightly. Either it is an answer that pays homage to his team—the people he trusts, hand selected and counts on. Or, a favorite answer is “You can do good while doing well. Making a profit and investing in our community are not mutually exclusive goals.”
The Advocate: Diane Danielson For the past seven years, Diane Danielson has been COO of SVN International Corp., a commercial real estate brokerage franchisor with more than 200 offices and 1600 staff and advisors. Simply being a woman in the C-Suite means she stands out, but instead of trying to blend in, she not only has been instrumental in leading the SVN brand to its best year ever in 2018, she has also been a force in trying to make the CRE industry more inclusive of women and people of color.
As outlined in her recent White Paper on Diversity & Inclusion in Commercial Real Estate, Danielson has been integrating inclusion into the company’s value proposition while implementing systems to increase the percentage of women and people of color that are hired into brokerage positions.
Deborah Brody, a communications consultant, met Danielson when she was heading up the Downtown Women’s Club, which was a venue to allow women to build their networks and businesses. “I was impressed by her passion in promoting women,” she tells Real Estate Forum. “A few years later, she gave me the opportunity to work with SVN on a consultant basis, working on writing, social media and the SVN blog. She always considered my ideas, and supported my initiatives.”
Often speaking and writing about the need for the industry to become more gender balanced and inclusive, Danielson is a real role-model for women in the field, according to the firm’s VP of marketing, who added that she promotes the idea that women should be seen and heard at all levels of all organizations.
“Diane is always thinking out of the box. She allows those who work for her to also think in different directions and celebrates our ideas,” explains Garrigues Wier, project manager. “She is an advocate for diversity, her community and for all those who work for her.”
The Altruist: Bruce Percelay Bruce Percelay is chairman and founder of the Mount Vernon Co., a real estate investment firm considered among the leading apartment landlords in Massachusetts. The company has grown over the past 30 years to include approximately 1,600 apartments, five hotels, as well as select commercial and vacation properties.
In that time, the company has demonstrated a dedication to service and attention to its properties that has enabled them to win virtually every award available in the real estate industry. From historic Back Bay and Beacon Hill brownstones and renovated apartments in Allston-Brighton, to cutting edge environmentally-advanced new communities, MVC takes pride in every aspect of its business.
Much of that achievement is due to Percelay. “He expects a lot, which helps employees to stretch and grow,” said one colleague. “He leads by example that you ‘suit up and show up’ no matter what.”
Percelay single handedly created the Allston Green District, an eleven-building assemblage which was the largest new construction project in Allston in over half a century. The three newly-constructed buildings in the Green District have set a new standard for environmentally-sensitive living and have won more than nine awards for their forward-thinking sustainable design. The development has been credited with revitalizing the entire neighborhood and has helped launch Allston’s apartment building renaissance.
Extremely active in support of the communities in which he lives, Percelay was the driving force behind the construction of Nantucket’s new whaling museum, the most significant new building on the island in the last 100 years and is chairman of the $120 million capital campaign for the new Nantucket hospital. He is also a council board member of Massachusetts General Hospital and was the chairman of the Massachusetts chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helping it to become the most successful in the country, and chairman of Habitat for Humanity in Boston where he launched the largest urban project ever built in America during his tenure.
The Collaborator: Mike James In 2009, Mike James graduated college with a degree in marketing and an understanding of commercial real estate that could be described as rudimentary, at best. But soon after, he found that he had a passion for identifying untapped investment opportunities and the determination to forge his own path in a niche sector of commercial real estate.
It is those characteristics, and his vision of creating a new-age brokerage firm, with a sharp focus on hypermarket specialization and innovative information technology, that drove him to found James Capital Advisors in 2018.
Based in Los Angeles, James Capital Advisors is an authority in innovative real estate investment sales strategies. As a national advisory firm, the firm’s success is attributed to hyper-market specialization, integrated information technology, and a client management approach that ensures a unique singular advisor client experience.
With over a decade of professional experience, James boasts an undeniable track record of success in managing large portfolio sale-leaseback transactions. A graduate of the Argyros School of Business and Economics, he shares his expertise with his clients, advising them on matters great and small in the world of commercial real estate mergers and acquisitions.
James Capital Advisors is on pace to more than triple its market share in 2019. The firm has experienced 250% growth going from 16 to 40 employees in its first year of operation. James created the firm with a commitment to collaboration. He founded James Capital Advisors with a policy to split fees 50/50 with all buyers’ agents on their listings. “This brokerage views buyers’ brokers as clients and welcomes outside offers as they allow the company to develop new relationships, which translates into positive results for actual clients of James Capital Advisors. Many people don’t realize this about Mike, but every single dollar he has made in commercial real estate has been earned through a cold call,” said one colleague.
The Diplomat: Becky Sullivan Raised in a family of developers and construction executives, Becky Sullivan has literally worked her way up from the bottom from an entry-level job as assistant to DJM President Lindsay Parton to the position of COO of DJM Capital Partners Inc., a private real estate equity and development firm based in San Jose, CA. In her earlier roles, she learned the business from the bottom up, starting with managing $50 million of construction to finish the Bella Terra project for DJM. Within a year of working for Lindsay, Sullivan was named a project manager and began managing an entire development process for the Montgomery Ward property adjacent to Bella Terra, with more than 200,000 square feet of retail and 467 apartments approved within 18 month of commencing.
During her 14 years at DJM, she has demonstrated exceptional talent and determination while overseeing some of the largest and most complex projects undertaken by the firm. She has proven herself to be a creative, focused, detail-oriented leader capable of driving large-scale initiatives while creating a creative and collaborative work environment that is well-positioned for growth.
As COO, she is tasked with managing all processes and procedures across of DJM’s sales, marketing and development teams. She is in charge of enhancing and improving communication between DJM’s 45 employees and institutional partners. In addition, she manages recruitment and staffing for all of DJM’s projects.
Her influence on the team is undeniable. With several offices across California, she has been able to unify the company through her management style of empowering others. Each employee at DJM is instilled with an “entrepreneurial spirit” that comes right from the top. Because of this unique approach to management she has been able to create clarity through communication paired with empowerment. Her colleagues says she leads by example and is someone that has always worked hard and pursued excellence. “Having someone like her in her position that showcases the meaning of hard work is extremely important. Leading by example and inspiring others through empowerment is the quickest way to success as a leader and as an organization that is focused on growth and scaling upwards.”
The Innovator: Craig Deitelzweig “It is an unbelievable privilege to work under the guidance of someone who is an innovator in the field of commercial real estate.” That is according to one colleague describing to Real Estate Forum Craig Deitelzweig, president and CEO of Marx Realty and Merchants National Properties.
Marx Realty is a division of Merchants National Properties. Founded in 1915, its current portfolio of properties includes over 4.7 million square feet of commercial office, retail and residential space as well as five mixed-use projects currently under development. Marx Realty is vertically integrated and involved in all phases of real estate management, development, construction and leasing. The company’s assets comprise 68 properties in 17 states across the continental US.
According to the colleague, “It’s leaders who push the envelope and set new standards for the spaces in which we live, work and play that inspires young professionals to do the same. This, in turn, is what changes the game for the industry as a whole and leads to tangible success in CRE.”
When talking about Deitelzweig, the colleague says that while every firm endeavors to stay relevant in commercial real estate, only a few rise to the top. “I have worked closely with Craig on several high-profile projects in two of the most important office markets: New York and Washington, DC. Office tenants in these markets—and indeed across the country—office and retail tenants are seeking spaces that are more than just a place to do business. They want to be in a place that is an extension of their brand, where they and their employees can ‘see and be seen.’ While there are many ways to accomplish that goal, Craig has a knack for raising the bar via forward-thinking design and I can’t say enough about what that has taught me as I move through my career in commercial real estate.”
One particular thing the colleague learned from Deitelzweig was the importance of being thoughtful and purposeful. In one particular project they worked on together, for example, the colleague said that Deitelzweig didn’t seek to just add amenities for the sake of adding amenities but instead, he transformed this property into a trophy asset.
The Midas Touch: Don Ankeny When Don Ankeny joined Westcore Properties as president and CEO in early 2005, he gave up a comfortable retirement from investment banking to allow the company’s prior president to move his family abroad. Since that time, he has made significant personal financial investments in Westcore and changed its focus from operating on a transactional basis to implementing a comprehensive institutional investment and capital strategy.
Recognizing the value brokers add to Westcore’s success, he has led his team to create long-term, mutually profitable partnerships that have resulted in Westcore being among the first to know of deals coming to market (or off market) that match its acquisition criteria or leasing availability.
He is also actively involved with Westcore Properties’ key drivers of financial success, which typically include larger property acquisitions and dispositions, raising new capital and key tenant relationships. According to colleagues, Ankeny is extremely adept at identifying opportunities and attributes others may not see in a property and bringing those opportunities to fruition to significantly increase the value of a property. “His tremendous vision when evaluating a property purchase has helped solidify Westcore’s place at the top of its field.”
Under his leadership, Westcore not only survived the Great Recession but thrived and Ankeny continues to guide the company to be nimble, opportunistic, geographically diverse and, most importantly, conservative with the balance sheet but aggressive with strategy.
He has successfully secured growth capital for Westcore in the amount of $337.5 million from Almanac Realty Investors, following Almanac’s initial investment of $197.7 million. The second investment from Almanac was a testament to his ability to provide healthy returns to a discriminating investor.
Now, he is actively seeking institutional capital to fuel growth for Westcore indefinitely.
The Miracle Worker: Kathy Anderson Progress Capital is a commercial mortgage banking firm that has successfully closed in excess of $40 billion in commercial loans and directly funded more than $150 million since 1990. Some of that success is thanks to Kathy Anderson, founder and managing partner of the firm.
Anderson has more than 25 years of banking and finance lending experience under her belt. Her proficiency in originating and underwriting commercial loans with regional banks, insurance companies and investment banking firms has earned her recognition within the industry.
Highly regarded by both her clients and lending sources, Anderson serves on the board at Regal Bank, which is headquartered in Livingston, NJ, and has often been retained as an expert legal witness in commercial real estate litigation. She is also frequently featured as a speaker at industry conferences.
On more than one occasion, clients have referred to Anderson as “The Miracle Worker” because she has a way of bringing dead, unviable business deals to fruition. According to one colleague, she built a successful business out of nothing.
Lilly Preziose, marketing coordinator at the firm, says that in addition to being personable and easy to relate to, Anderson has always shown to be considerate to the feelings and emotions of others. “She speaks to you as a person first and a boss second.
She also goes the extra mile, says another colleague. Vice president Brit Zamoyta notes that Anderson has a proven track record and says that her ability to close opportunities with long lasting clients as well as managing the lines of business for the firm is a task only the founder or president can accomplish. “She is a great leader and provides support to all staff when needed. Kathy is the kind of boss every employee aspires to have.”
The Motivator: Yat-Pang Au Motivation, both for himself and instilled in colleagues, is a natural skill for Yat-Pang Au. Currently the CEO and founder of Veritas Investments, his intellectual curiosity and eagerness to learn provide a platform for sharing his passion in real estate. Colleagues, clients and other associates often remark at his unusual ability to elicit open dialogue and collaboration that enables the best ideas and strategies to come forward.
For example, one colleague said that Pang constantly reminds employees that their input is not just welcomed but is needed to make Veritas successful, adding that “He engages in personal conversation throughout the day as well as in structured feedback loops such as the firm’s all-hands meetings, internal surveys and supervisor/manager relationships.”
Au has demonstrated vision for the firm through constant, strategic evaluation of the company’s near-term and long-term operations. He initiated an analysis in 2017-18 combining both internal and outside expertise to question and explore improvements from top to bottom. A business process analysis led to developing seven core values and a vision statement tested and vetted throughout the company. That particular effort also led to streamlined management that combined once-siloed departments and reduced layers of supervision.
In another related example, Au reevaluated the firm’s brand position and, after another collaborative process involving employee input, the company decided to move away from a structure of three separately-branded business units to one unified brand, Veritas.
A San Francisco Bay Area native, Au has 20 years of real estate investment and management experience under his belt. In his current role, he is responsible for the operations of the firm and its subsidiaries. Prior to founding Veritas, Au was CEO of AEC Alarms and held executive positions at several technology firms.
Au is also an active member of the Coalition for Better Housing, San Francisco Apartment Association, Bay Area Council, National Multi Housing Council, and the Young Presidents’ Organization. He has also been honored by the Northern California Real Estate Council for the City of Hope cancer hospital as its 2018 Spirit of Life honoree.
The Outlier: Scott Panzer Scott Panzer, vice chairman of JLL, has been one of the leaders in developing an enhanced level of services for the real estate industry. Since becoming a service provider in 1992, he has completed more than 40 million square feet of assignments encompassing all facets of real estate.
He is head of the strategic occupancy solutions practice, which supports the Interpublic Group of Cos., Canon, TP-ICAP, NEX, First Data, Kaplan Inc., Nespresso, and a variety of portfolio companies for KKR, Apollo, and Carlyle as well as major private equity corporate offices. Panzer’s value-add for his clients is evident when one is looking at the financially-driven results.
What can sometimes be overlooked about Panzer, is the personal time he dedicates to the client throughout the entire project process leading to both quantifiable and qualitative value-add. For example, during the negotiations for a renewal of IPG’s headquarters at 1114 Ave. of Americas, he found a significantly less expensive sublease alternative at 909 Third Ave. The alternative provided for important capital savings due to acquisition of newly built space. When compared against the fully negotiated renewal, the deal achieved average annual rent savings of nearly $1 million and annualized NPV savings of nearly $1.25 million.
Similarly throughout the recent transaction for NEX (formerly ICAP) at 4 Times Square, Panzer had not only negotiated a favorable deal for NEX but he stayed intimately involved in the construction and project management process as the management team for NEX was largely based in London and not in close proximity to the project site. He went above and beyond his role as the tenant representative and guided the client through the process of selecting a team of vendors NEX was comfortable with to get their space build in time.
One of his strengths, according to one colleague, is that he knows how to listen and absorb the client’s message. “He can immediately adapt a presentation to suit the client’s requirements. In addition, his collegial managerial style invites debate and dialogue, thus ensuring that all sides of an issue are looked at prior to making a decision.”
According to JLL managing director Rod Barnes, Panzer is a forward thinker who always looks for creative ways to service clients, optimize their portfolios and drive cost out. “Though a tenant rep broker who focuses on office transactions for global portfolios, he has a deep understanding of the totality of the real estate process, from the importance of engineering’s management of the base building operations, lighting systems, the built environment and more.”
The Paragon: David Amsterdam At 37 years old, David Amsterdam, president of investments and the eastern region and co-head of the US capital markets platform at Colliers International, directly oversees 900 employees. His responsibilities include advising investors, corporate users, and landlords across the full spectrum of commercial real estate transactions and he is focused on driving revenue for the publicly-traded real estate services and investment management firm. Amsterdam also has added responsibility for managing and executing transactions in critical markets across the country and around the world.
Before joining Colliers, he held leadership positions at Cushman & Wakefield, SL Green Realty Corp. and has received numerous awards recognizing his accomplishments. Since joining Colliers just over a year ago, he has been responsible for bringing some of the best talent in the industry to the firm, and, according to his colleagues, has been able to succeed in this mission by instilling a culture of teamwork.
In addition to adding industry stalwarts to Colliers, Amsterdam has also made it a mission to serve as an active mentor within the company, taking the time to work with young brokers. He has instituted cooperation and teamwork-building events such as company-wide business development meetings and team dinners aimed at building morale and creating a positive culture.
According to his colleagues, Amsterdam leads by example when it comes to instilling a sense of civic and community duty within his team by devoting time to nonprofits and charitable foundations. He currently serves on the board of the nonprofit organization Friends of Hudson River Park.
According to one of the firm’s SVPs out of the Boston office, he is by far the most communicative “boots on the ground” regional president to occupy the role. “He regularly checks in with the Colliers Boston team—as well as with me individually—to see how we are doing and to make himself available if there is anything he can do to facilitate support,” he explains to Real Estate Forum.
The Warrior: Matt Tucker Matt Tucker joined the Gladstone Cos. in May 2005 and has risen to senior managing director of Gladstone Commercial Corp. where he is focused on sourcing and executing net leased real estate acquisitions and sale leaseback investments in the Northeast and Midwest US, as well as overseeing the company’s portfolio in the Northeast and Midwest regions.
After a reorganization in 2018, Tucker runs the largest portfolio in the company with gross value of more than $500 million and revenues exceeding $50 million per year.
With extensive experience in real estate investing, real estate asset management, real estate finance, corporate private equity and leveraged finance, Tucker has weathered two down cycles. When times were tough, he volunteered to take on the role of treasurer. In this way he was not only the ultimate team player stepping up when short staffed, but learned an entirely different part of the business, making him that much more valuable in the future.
Even under the tremendous stress of the recession, Tucker was able to keep his portfolio highly leased and profitable. More recently, he suffered a completely ruptured Achilles tendon (only a few years after a torn ACL) and still maintained a positive attitude throughout his recovery, while also continuing to perform all of his workload amidst the many doctor’s visits and physical therapy appointments. Rather than let his injury drag him down, and the team in turn, he has led by example and showed the value of a positive outlook.
The firm’s CFO tells Real Estate Forum that “Matt is a tremendously bright and thoughtful senior leader that cultivates a fundamentally sound, driven and ethically contentious workplace environment on a daily basis. In addition, he is a terrific mentor and advocate for those that are within his professional purview.”
Another colleague pointed out that he is also a natural leader, and says that a big part of that is his calm, collected demeanor. “Matt doesn’t get flustered or knocked off course by problems big or small. When you work with Matt, you believe you can successfully achieve whatever goal you’re working towards because you can tell Matt believes it.”
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