Whether one works as a broker, builder or developer, much goes into becoming successful in commercial real estate.

According to Michael Cantor, managing director at Allegro Real Estate Brokers & Advisors in Cleveland, and David Wagner, principal and executive managing director at Hanna Commercial Real Estate in Cleveland, firms hire individuals from a number of backgrounds and utilize their diverse skills.

“Everyone has their path and there are different ways for people to enter commercial real estate,” Cantor said. “As I think about people in my office, there are over a dozen different career paths. For example, of the three founders, one is a scientist, another an engineer and the third is a lawyer. From an educational perspective, we all came from very different directions. Additionally, there are many ways to enter this industry, such as development, mortgage, banking, law, accounting and brokerage.”

Wagner said, “It helps to know someone in the field and it also helps to do the research. You can get online now and learn a lot about the industry. Also, many universities offer major and minor programs in real estate now, whether that’s brokerage, construction management or finance. Find out what it is like and learn why you should go into it.”

No matter one’s background, both professionals said there are a number of things one should do before professionally entering the commercial real estate market.

Cantor said aspiring professionals need to pursue a real estate license.

“More than 90 percent of the brokerage industry focuses on the residential sector,” he said. “Yet, people who want to go into commercial real estate need to take the same courses as if they are going to list homes for sale. For my firm, in addition to already having a license, we like to see people have a couple of years of relevant experience in the commercial real estate industry.”

Wagner said, “We’re always looking for the best and brightest we can, regardless if this is a first career or a switch in careers. At what age is it best to think about this though? I would say the earlier you can plan for any kind of career path, the more you can get those studies under your belt.”

Cantor said recruiting at Allegro occurs mostly through their networking.

“It’s simply good people who knew good people and had experience in commercial real estate and wanted new opportunities,” he said. “We had a few people who got to know us through business transactions and others who found us through job postings. 90 percent come through relationships though, which probably isn’t uncommon for any industry.”

As for retention of employees, Cantor said firms do things in specific ways.

“Our people are attracted to that Allegro, an exclusive tenant/buyer representation firm, has chosen to do business in a way that eliminates a lot of conflicts that other firms have,” he said. “We retain our people by investing in them and giving them direct client interaction that they might not be able to get at competing firms.”

When it comes to recruiting for Hanna, Wagner said the recruiting part is the easiest. 

“We’re the dominant real estate company in Northeast Ohio through upstate New York and Michigan,” he said. “It’s very easy to find us and contact us.”

The other end of the scope is retention, and Wagner said that is where the real work begins.

“We have some phenomenal education programs that are great and help people understand the industry,” he said. “There is a bond of collegiality in helping people appreciate the family essence of being part of Hanna. If people make money and they feel comfortable in their surroundings, they tend to stay.”

Wagner said the biggest piece of advice for industry newcomers is to know what they want.

“Educate yourself on the market,” he said. “Educate yourself on the process. Real estate is a very sophisticated industry. It requires knowledge about sales, marketing, economics and finance and bringing those together to help clients transact real estate. So, go online, learn a little about the industry so you can be conversant and then reach out to professionals to ask how to get started.”

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