Solving Commercial Real Estate’s Demographic Crisis: How NAI James E. Hanson is Successfully Bringing Millennials into the Business
By: William C. Hanson, SIOR, President

A recent report released by Deloitte highlights an alarming trend in commercial real estate – our field is running out of experienced real estate professionals. As many workers approach retirement age, firms across the country are scrambling to replace the invaluable decades of accumulated knowledge and experience that are leaving with these brokers. Unfortunately, as an industry, some level of neglect has been assigned to the important task of attracting, training and retaining skilled talent from the younger generations, specifically millennials.

This trend is powered by a number of factors, but a great deal can be attributed to simple math. If more people are leaving the workforce than entering it than you are going to have a problem. However, we recognized this alarming demographic trend well before it would become a threat to our firm’s ability to function at the high level that our clients expect. Since that time, we have taken important steps to ensure that our team was built to not only be among the best in the industry in the short term but also well into the future. We have made a proactive effort to hire millennials and pair them with experienced brokers through our mentorship program.

I recently spoke with NAI James E. Hanson sales associate and millennial Christopher Todd to gain his insight on working in commercial real estate and what makes the NAI James E. Hanson team so special.

What attributes make commercial real estate an appealing career choice for millennials?

CT: Flexibility is often one of the most in-demand features that millennials are looking for in a career. Our generation was the first where both parents worked full time in 9-5 jobs and they didn’t always have the time to enjoy the money they were working so hard to earn. In commercial real estate, you are able to make your own hours and ultimately can tailor a schedule to fit your lifestyle. Unique to commercial real estate, flexibility is a differentiator for the field and can make it highly appealing to millennials.

This flexibility is also tied to the nature of our work. Every day at work is different. One day I might be helping tour a possible tenant through a new space and the next I could be at a broker networking event meeting interesting people from our industry. The high level of diversity in the day-to-day job tasks lends itself well to millennials searching for a job that is anything but monotonous.

What is unique about NAI Hanson when it comes to attracting millennials?

CT: When I think about what makes NAI Hanson so unique, the flexibility, mentorship, and earning potential immediately come to mind. As I mentioned, flexibility is one of the attributes that many millennials look for in a career and NAI Hanson does an extraordinary job of providing that high level of flexibility. Now that I have gained experience, I am able to create my own hours and am not tied to the 9-5 routine that many millennials dread.

It is during these hours that I am on a three-person team with Scott Perkins, SIOR, and Andrew Somple, SIOR. So, every day I have the opportunity to learn from two brokers with over 50 years of combined commercial real estate experience. Since our team consists of only three people, I am not tasked with solely making cold calls or updating databases but am able to work directly on every aspect of each deal with seasoned industry professionals who are willing to share their insights and experiences with me. This direct, hands-on relationship with two of the industry’s best professionals is rare at other, larger brokerages, and accelerates my ability to learn and gain valuable experience.

On top of that, commercial real estate boasts an earning potential that is almost unlimited. Through the empowering and educational work environment at NAI Hanson, I am gaining the skills and building the client base that will enable me to be successful in the field and, ultimately, decide my own financial future.

 You mentioned the future, what are the skills that millennials need to get ahead in commercial real estate?

CT: Because it is such a highly interpersonal job, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is something that every millennial must have coming into this field. Our team relies upon open and clear communication to enable us to work quickly and efficiently on behalf of our clients to close more deals. Much of my day is filled with sales-oriented tasks – communicating with clients, tenants, owners, and investors – and I must be able to offer clear and succinct information to them.

Something that also comes to mind is the ability to blend the interpersonal nature of our job with an understanding of technology. Our generation was the first to grow up with email, social media and smartphones. This provides us with the foundation to effectively leverage these technologies to enhance the ability of NAI James E. Hanson to secure more clients. However, it’s important for millennial employees to recognize that these technologies cannot replace the interpersonal relationships and networking that form the basis of the commercial real estate business. 

Chris’ thoughts are echoed among the 13 millennial sales associates and support staff we employ.  We make a committed effort to place our millennial employees in a position to build long and successful careers in commercial real estate by pairing them industry veterans that can help guide them but also learn from them as new technologies are adapted in our industry.

We also recognize that our millennial employees bring an understanding of technology and their fellow millennials that our older employees might lack. We seek to leverage these unique skills to deliver a high level of service to each of our clients on a daily basis. This focus on intergenerational collaboration has enabled us to build a stronger and more resilient company positioned to solve each of our client’s real estate needs well into the future.

Interested in starting a career in commercial real estate? Reach out to us at 201-488-5800 to learn more.