Being a young commercial real estate broker is brutal

Industry’s top dogs chat about their work-life balance (or lack thereof)

New York /
Oct.October 24, 2016 09:00 AM

If you want to make it to the top of the commercial brokerage heap, forget about work-life balance, at least in the beginning. Take it from Savills Studley’s CEO Mitchell Steir.

“Early on in my career, over the first 10, 12 years, I never took a personal call,” he said Friday at SIOR’s annual conference in New York. “I think time management is critical, I mean all we’ve got is our time.”

Steir shared the stage with CBRE’S Darcy Stacom and Stephen Siegel and Cushman & Wakefield’s Bruce Mosler, and one of the topics they talked about was how successful brokers manage to strike a work-life balance. Turns out it’s pretty difficult.

Early in her career, Stacom was as staunchly anti-leisure as Steir. “I never really entertained outside of the office — no breakfast, no lunches, no dinners, no entertaining. None,” she recalled. “I just went hardcore at work and differentiating myself through knowledge of the market or research, etc.”

Later Stacom had kids, and she said she managed to make time for them by living close to her office. “And then finally I built a team because I was like, ‘I want to be able to take a vacation and actually enjoy myself,’” she said.

“My daughter remembers picking up the phone (…) and saying, ‘Mr. Trump, my mom is on vacation.’ Click.”

Siegel said he managed to spend time with his kids by coming home between work and dinner functions, and eating breakfast with them. But he acknowledged that success in commercial brokerage requires grueling hours. “If you’re looking at the clock to see what time you can get the hell out of there, you’re in the wrong business,” he said.

Mosler added that part of the challenge of being a broker is being forced to manage your workday independently. “You do have to have the discipline to define your workday,” he said. “Work-time management is the most important ingredient to whether you succeed or fail, and having good judgement.”

The good news is that once brokers are a bit older and a lot more successful, they can afford to spend more time away from work. “At this point in my career I obviously say hello to my family and do things and enjoy myself a little more,” Steir said. “But early on I was all work.”


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