Charles Dunn Company recently hired David Pinsel as president of brokerage services, a move designed to expand its Downtown Los Angeles-headquartered commercial brokerage platform.
The new hire told The Real Deal recent mergers and acquisitions and a market that’s slowing down could set the scene for a broker shakeup that works in his favor. He also said that Charles Dunn has cash on its side, and is eyeing M&A opportunities.
During his 15-year career, the outspoken Pinsel, who described himself as professionally “impatient,” expanded teams for Colliers International, beginning in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire before growing the company’s North Texas group from 16 to 80 brokers. Now back in his old stomping grounds, we caught up with Pinsel as he began his fourth day on the job, ready to share his take on why the potential for broker recruits is heating up — even as the LA market cools down.
Charles Dunn recently spent several months evaluating its strategy and goals. Was your hire a result of the findings?
The company has not grown at the pace the ownership would have liked. Everything they’re doing now is geared toward growth and adding the right collaborators, builders and entrepreneurs to move the company forward. That’s really the reason they brought me on board.
What makes you confident you can recruit brokers to Charles Dunn?
There’s been a tremendous amount of consolidation. I think there are a lot of brokers out there who have been disrupted by this, who are saying, “It’s not a people business anymore.” We want to be known for being very broker friendly, for being a very entrepreneurial environment. Charles Dunn won’t be for everyone, but it will be for those who are entrepreneurial. The right people will have all the tools and resources they need without the shackles that tend to happen with larger firms where they are told, “Don’t pursue this client.” That is a huge differentiator for us. If they have an issue, they can walk to the hall and get to a decision-maker in five minutes as opposed to going through all the layers of management. Freedom will be a word that is used a lot.
What’s the geographical scope of the expansion?
We may very well go into markets outside of California if the opportunity presents itself. Charles Dunn, financially, is in a great position for expansion. There is no debt on the company, so if there’s an M&A opportunity, we’ll take a look at it. We are very much a “go-forward” environment.
Some would say it’s going to be a tough go, considering the market is slowing down. What are your thoughts on this?
It is slowing down and that’s to be expected. I actually enjoy building businesses in down markets more so than in up markets. When the market’s strong, brokers are less apt to take a look at other options. It’s when things slow down that they wonder if there’s a better environment. If there is a major downturn in the next 12 to 24 months, that’s where I will thrive.
What do you see as your timeline or your “window of opportunity” for recruiting?
Recruiting is an ongoing process. There is no time frame for it. The main concern is making sure we have the environment and infrastructure that is inviting to new workers. Once that is done, I would expect rapid recruitment. I’m a somewhat impatient person and I have some lofty goals. If the response I’m getting back is indicative, I feel very confident we’ll get the right people in, in a short amount of time.
Who is your target recruit?
They’re collaborators, they’re builders, people who look at an environment and say, “How can I make this better”? We like outside-the-box thinkers. We like fun people. This is an extremely difficult job and if you’re not having fun doing it, it makes it even harder. We’re very conscious about culture and collaboration. The right culture will recruit itself.
You moved from Southern California to Texas with Colliers. Was that culture shock?
Moving to Dallas (in 2012) was the best thing I’ve done professionally in my life. I literally did not know where my office was on day one. I’d never been in the state of Texas before day one. I was able not only to learn how local customs and cultures worked in the business world, but to build the right team and get the right customers on board. The brokerage went from losing money to being one of the largest teams in Texas. There are a lot of parallels between what I did there and what I intend to do here in Southern California. I’m happy to be home and taking on this challenge.
Recruitment aside, what’s the rest of your strategy?
We have a phenomenal property management business (at Charles Dunn), and the clients we have are the same people (we want to be signing deals with). We need to leverage those relationships on the broker side.
About how many brokers do you expect to hire?
We don’t need to be the largest firm in the world. We want to be the Navy Seals. We don’t want to be the Navy.