“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained.”
In my post, When you have no choice but to BOSS up and create your own lane, I wrote about seeking out the experience and education I didn’t have. After not taking the position I was offered, I applied for the inaugural Diversity Mentorship Program held by the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors (ACBR). The Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors is the premier association for professionals in all segments of the commercial real estate industry who ascribe to the highest standards of ethical conduct. It is also largest commercial board in the country with over 2,200 members. The ACBR recognizes the disparity of women and minorities in commercial real estate and have taken measures to address it in the Atlanta market. I was one of the fortunate 12 individuals accepted.
I was paired with Mrs. Kay Davis, an Executive Managing Director of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, who has 30 years of experience. Kay specializes in tenant representation of law firms in the office segment. At first, we both questioned the pairing and wondered was it because I had a legal background. Based on appearances only, I knew Kay had fabulous taste and if nothing else, I knew I would be able to find a common ground to break the ice. In short, she was fly! The first day I arrived at Kay’s office it was apparent that she was a force and highly respected in the Atlanta commercial real estate industry. As we exchanged pleasantries, an industry award arrived at her office to be added to the numerous others. She was named one of Bisnow’s “Power Women in Atlanta Commercial Real Estate” for 2014. Bisnow is an editorial powerhouse that is the largest platform of commercial real estate news and events in North America.
There were several more meetings and lunches. Kay took the time to not only answer my questions and provide insight but also to understand my goals and explore ways she could assist me. Even though she worked in a segment that I initially had no interest in, she explained to me the pros and cons and introduced me to someone in every niche. One of her main insights was to focus or specialize, which has been tough for me because I was of the mindset that I’m not missing any money if a deal outside of my “niche” comes along. I like the option of doing a variety of deals. The segments of the industry include Office, Retail, Industrial, Land, Mult-family and Investment Sales, with specializations within each category . A lot of these categories do enable you to deal with other areas, so I realize its okay now to be known for one thing. I have used her guidance as well as others to determine what type of client I want to focus on and how I can assist them. I chose investors and small companies who will need investment properties as well as lease negotiations.
Over lunch one day, Kay asked me how much money I would like to earn annually. I gave my minimum six-figure number and then she showed me the numbers on just one of her deals. It put a lot into perspective, I may as well said a couple of hundred dollars in comparison. I realized leasing isn’t too bad (LOL) and the deals close a lot faster than most of the others. As I sat there ruminating over what she showed me, I immediately started having doubts about how I could accomplish that. I started saying to myself, “I don’t have the network, it’s a good ole boy’s club and she’s the exception, I don’t know people with that type of money to spend on a property…let alone a lease.” I had to shake it off and know that God will provide me the ability and the wisdom to get the clients I need to change the face of this industry. I asked my mentor how she dealt with working in a white male dominated industry as a woman. She said that a lot has changed but she shared stories how clients or other brokers were outright disrespectful, which was more than likely because she was a woman. She used being different from the norm to her advantage and worked her butt off to provide excellent service to her clients.
In addition to the mentorship provided by Kay, I met and spoke with others in the industry. From developers to educators and brokers, the common theme was FOCUS. There were some discussions that could have been a bit discouraging if I didn’t know any better. For instance, one really successful man in the industry told me I needed my law license and a CCIM certification (a highly respected and recognized certification, I will discuss the certifications in another post) in order to get in the door. Hogwash! There are some people with no degree who are successful. I also got the feeling that my familial status was an issue in some instances, when I was told how some managers prefer people fresh out of college with no responsibilities in order to groom them for the business because you have to be able to be in the office for 50 hours/week. These were codewords for young and male. I haven’t let any of that discourse deter me. I eat, sleep and breath real estate while raising children and being the sole provider for my household. There have been days I’ve been a little short on cash but never on effort.
My mentoring experience confirmed that I can build my own company by building the right relationships. This business is highly dependent on relationships almost more than talent. It also reminded me of how God is no respecter of persons and if they can do it, so can I. Claiming that Million Dollar Club honor now!