Russell J. Verducci, Associate Vice President
I started my career in commercial real estate 12 years ago. To put that into context, I started using email in high school and I did not have a cell phone until college. Mark Zuckerberg was still a normal (if not eccentric) college student and social media pretty much only consisted of MySpace and LinkedIn. I reference this period because I feel fortunate to have been born at a time that put me squarely between Gen X’ers and Millennials. This means I was young enough to pick up on these technologies and their uses rather quickly, while being old enough to remember a time when calling on your friend meant riding your bike to their house and knocking on the door. How does this put me at an advantage in my career? I’m glad you asked.
There is a generation gap in commercial real estate and I believe that this gap is most evident in how real estate professionals engage with one another, with their clients and with potential clients.
The older generation, the ones who I learned from when I entered the industry were not privy to email marketing, or social media. They would pick up the phone a few hundred times a day and go around knocking on doors to source leads. Things were done in-person, face-to-face. If you were not on the streets you were not finding deals. There were billboards and ads, direct marketing tools and flyers, sure, but a commercial broker would not be successful if they were not visible. A client was not found and a deal was not done until you looked someone in the eye and shook their hands.
That mentality still exists in commercial real estate and that is still a very important part of this business, but it is a skill that a lot of younger professionals just now entering the industry do not have inherently. Many of them are mavericks when it comes to technology and finding creative ways to connect with potential and current clients from a computer screen or tablet. There is email marketing, social engagement, real estate applications, virtual reality tools and new technologies every day that are being utilized by this generation as powerful tools to generate business and maintain relationships. The way that people are searching for properties, whether that is a cold storage facility or a one-bedroom apartment is entirely different today and it’s their generation that is changing it. They want as much information as they can get and they want it at their fingertips with the click of a button and a flick of the wrist. It really is revolutionizing the way we live our lives, but there are still some things that you can’t do digitally, behind a computer screen no matter how effective those resources are and that this industry will always value.
That has put me in the position within this company to serve as an intermediary between two generations in commercial real estate and with the opportunity to impress upon my younger colleagues the importance of in-person engagement and my older colleagues the importance of digital touch-points. It has been a fascinating undertaking and it is one of the reasons that a company like NAI Hanson, a company with 60+ years of experience, is investing great resources into the future of commercial brokerage and property management giving us an advantage over some of the larger, national companies and some of the smaller companies. We learn from each other, we guide each other and we invest in each other.
I expect that when I am ready to retire from this industry and these same younger professionals are running things it will be the ones who were willing to work on the skillsets that separated a successful commercial broker when I started, while also embracing the emerging technologies that will be in charge. Digital touchpoints are not going anywhere and the way people look for properties will continue to evolve, but I suspect that a handshake will still be the most important part of closing a deal.