Looking Back on Early Days in Brokerage
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” People love to ask kids this question, expecting answers like “a firefighter,” “an astronaut,” or “a movie star.” A kid who answers, “a commercial real estate broker,” would probably elicit surprise. Yet commercial real estate is an ideal profession for many, including several SIORs we interviewed who revealed what initially attracted them to the profession and what keeps them there.
Paths into the field differed widely. Some SIORs were born to it, literally: Commercial real estate was the family business. For example, the family of Joyce Slone, SIOR, managing broker and principal of Slone Commercial LLC in Elmhurst, Ill., owned a construction and development firm. As the only early riser among five kids, she was the one who joined her father on Saturday mornings to clean buildings under construction, after which he treated her to breakfast or lunch. When she was a teenager, he asked her to fill in for a secretary who had called in sick. The secretary never came back, so Slone became the firm’s part-time secretary throughout high school. During college she worked for her father full-time and obtained her real estate license.
Grant Pruitt, SIOR, co-founder, president, and managing director of Whitebox Real Estate in Dallas, started following in the footsteps of his father—also an SIOR—in high school. The younger Pruitt recalls that one summer day, his father came to him and said, “I want you to understand how I make a living. Put on a suit; you’re going to come work for me.” The teenager enjoyed meeting people and learning the ins and outs of the business, even though he experienced “humbling” rejections during cold calls.
Early-career experience working at his family’s construction company benefited Ernie Wronka, SIOR, president of Wronka, Ltd. Commercial Real Estate Advisors in Woburn, Mass. Although he subsequently served as a national marketing manager for a pharma company, Wronka’s years at the family firm—along with his studies in civil engineering—helped him land his first job in commercial real estate brokerage.
Jeff Hoffman, SIOR, principal at Cushman & Wakefield | The Boerke Company in Milwaukee, had no family ties to real estate, nor was his introduction to the industry positive: The flashy realtor his parents used when selling their house was an enormous disappointment. He had assured Hoffman’s parents that he could easily sell their house within 30 days, but the process took 10 months and, as Hoffman recalls, was “about as unprofessional as it could have been.”
Yet despite the experience, or perhaps in part because of it, Hoffman was sufficiently motivated to enroll in a commercial real estate class at his college. Eventually he decided to major in finance with an emphasis in real estate. Soon he had an internship under his belt and a real estate license—all while still in school. Two days after graduation, he started a full-time job at the business where he had previously interned. “I loved the career from day one,” he says.
Read the full article in the Winter 2021 issue of SIOR Report now!