Executives explain why working with property is the real deal

Real estate professionals talk to a Marketing 495 class

The Oxford Dictionary defines real estate as “property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its natural resources such as crops, minerals or water; immovable property of this nature; an interest vested in this (also) an item of real property, (more generally) buildings or housing in general.” Laura Dietzel, a partner at RSM, has a slightly different take on it.

“Somebody once said, and this stuck with me, ‘Real estate investment is the bet on the future of a place.’ And I thought that was so beautiful when I heard it, because I'm investing here because I believe in this place. I believe in the long-term value creation around this location, this town, this spot.”

Dietzel, a 2005 FSB finance and accounting graduate, was one of nearly a dozen real estate professional who spent two days meeting with Farmer School faculty and students to talk about the real estate business, their roles within it, and why they enjoy working in this field. “I think it’s fun having tangible physical assets that we're working with at the end of the day. Something you can see, feel and touch,” Taylor Hawkins, a 2010 finance graduate and senior vice president at Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital, said. “When you're involved in all these different transactions and knowing the people that were involved in them and why they did what they did, why companies chose to locate where they did, it makes you look at the world totally differently.”

“Real estate is the byproduct of every other industry and what's going on in the greater economy. So themes and trends have real estate outcomes,” Dietzel explained. “I think real estate professionals have to be the smartest in the room because they need to understand all of the other trends, capital markets, financing, demographics, and diversification of our economy in order to make good real estate investment decisions and to find yield or create value for investors.”

So how does a student go about becoming the smartest person in the room? “You're naturally curious. I think the Farmer School of Business creates a well-rounded business professional. It's not any one industry focus that you're going to come out of here and be technically proficient in,” Dietzel said. “It's that curiosity of being a well-rounded business person that makes you get up and want to read the Wall Street Journal to know what's going on or you look past your day-to-day job because you're naturally curious about our world and what's going on.”

“It's not just the bricks and mortar, which is exciting, but you're following trends in what the bond market is doing, what the stock market is doing that drives the bond market and how does that impact real estate finance and drive the cost of capital, which in turn can affect rental rates and other things. So it's really a broad spectrum of knowledge base that you need to have, and it all impacts your day-to-day real estate decisions, “James Doyle, principal at Bellwether and a 2000 finance graduate noted. “When you just think about going to a shopping center or living in an apartment, you don't think of all those things that go behind it.”

Between working lunches and talking with students about capstone projects, the real estate executives also passed on things they’ve learned through their experiences that are useful for any business student, not just those interested in real estate.

“Don't start looking for your second job when you're at your first job,” suggested Michael Moses, senior managing director at GBX Group and 1989 accounting graduate. “Whatever job you accept, be comfortable in that job, be happy in that job, add to that job and be happy there. There will come a time, you'll sense it, when there's a time to start looking forward into something else. “You'll run into some bumps along the way, but I would tell you to really be happy there. It's where you belong. If you've chosen that path, so I would make the best of it.”

“Always raise your hand. So many opportunities are often are disguised as hard work. So if you're not raising your hand, you’re not getting those opportunities to learn, to advance,” Dietzel noted.

“Surround yourself with mentors. Talk to people about what they do, what you want to do, what your strengths are. Part of my success and my growth hasn't all been attributed to my motivation and the decisions I've made. It's really about the people that have helped pull me along and brought me up,” Andrew Lallathin, co-founder & managing partner at Coastal Ridge Real Estate and 2004 marketing graduate, explained. “If you really build that contingency of supporters, you're going to get to where you want to be.”

“Be authentic. Be who you are. Be patient. Network. Meet everybody,” John Latessa, Midwest division president at CBRE suggested. “The more you get out there, the more you work to have conversations, you'll be amazed at where that will take you.”

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Real estate executives talk at the Real Estate Forum in Taylor Auditorium