CCIM, the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute, recently interviewed Louisiana Commercial Realty for their publication on entrepreneurs in commercial estate. Founded over 50 years ago, the CCIM Institute is commercial real estate’s most influential professional organization, with members closing $200 billion annually in commercial real estate deals. The CCIM designation represents the highest achievement in commercial real estate because it usually takes members 3 years to earn due to its rigorous education and testing requirements.
The CCIM Institute’s award-winning magazine isCommercial Investment Real Estate which covers the latest analysis and insight into all facets of the commercial real estate industry. Recently their executive editor interviewed Louisiana Commercial Realty president Robert Hand on topics ranging from how entrepreneurs think differently to how they utilize technology to help clients make better decisions. Here are a few insights:
- CIRE magazine executive editor Sara Patterson: Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur rather than join a large firm or franchise?
Hand:I worked in large commercial real estate firms for several years and always felt I could do a better job. The large commercial real estate platform added no value to me or for my clients and stifled my creativity. By owning my own firm, I can make immediate decisions and respond more quickly to market opportunities, providing a higher level of service to my clients.
- CIRE: In what ways have you been able to set your business apart from your competitors?
Hand: I call it my competitive advantage. It is what I do differently than my competitors, and it is simply working harder but also smarter. I use the CCIM designation to give me access to resources so I can provide a higher level of services to clients. I rarely lose even in a competitive presentation for a listing because I put more thought into the highest and best use for the property and I use all the tools available through the CCIM Site To Do Business to really make an impact.
- CIRE: Does your business have a specific niche? If so, what have you focused on?
Hand: Our specialty is that we generalize. Louisiana Commercial Realty is based in New Orleans which is a small market, so we work in all sectors of commercial real estate. The only sector we don’t operate in is residential single family homes, and we refer that business to residential agents we trust. We specialize in large, complicated properties and have brokered the sale of the largest land disposition in the area, one of the largest industrial sales, assembled property for most of the new apartment developments, and negotiated the largest Class A office lease. I also own Mississippi Commercial Realty which is based in Hattiesburg, an even smaller market but with a thriving retail sector.
- CIRE: How have you developed your team to support and to advance your business?
Hand: When I started my business, I wanted to keep my costs low so I did all the marketing research, advertising, web design, graphic design and presentations, contract drafting, and accounting. I even put up the for sale signs myself. I wanted control to produce the highest quality product, down to the smallest details. Now I have a support staff that works for me on a project basis as needed, and I handle all the sales. But I needed that early experience in each job function to be able to delegate and train support staff how to provide the same quality product.
- CIRE: Has your business evolved into other sectors of commercial real estate? And have you expanded the type of clients beyond the local marketplace for your business?
Hand: We look for interesting projects where we can make an impact and are constantly working in new areas with new clients. There is a real need for the services we offer, and I am often told by clients that our advice and services are far beyond what other brokers are offering. We like to think we are good for the industry and try to help other agents even when they compete against us. I opened an office in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, because there is a growing retail sector there that is underserved. I look for markets where I can add value, and even though there is a “good ol’ boy mentality” I usually find clients will do business with you over their high school buddy when you put more thought into their situation.
- CIRE: How has your CCIM training helped you launch and expand your business?
Hand: It is the first thing I tell people I am considering working with. I explain what the CCIM designation is, and how it benefits clients. Hopefully, the CCIM Institute can get the word out so clients will start asking for the designation. The residential agents have a national lobby group, state lobbyists, and even city lobbyists, so the commercial real estate trade associations need to get on board.
- CIRE: Do you use CCIM technology in your business? If so, how does it help you compete for clients with larger firms?
Hand: Yes, technology is a tool we always use to add value. The CCIM designation gives me access to technology through the Site-To-Do-Business database. I am able to create reports including the latest lifestyle demographics, pictometry satellite photographs, flood maps, consumer spending spreadsheets, infographics and market prices that we use in every presentation. It takes time to learn the technology and deep thought as to how to organize it, but it makes a commanding marketing plan and helps clients understand they are hiring a professional. But the secret is not just gathering information. I spent time in the appraisal industry, writing 100 page appraisals that required opinions and judgements in addition to data, and clients need that same honest judgement and somebody with real expertise putting serious thought into their situation and sometimes having difficult conversations but providing real insight because they have worked hard to add value to the relationship.
For published articles on commercial real estate by Robert Hand, read: