Do the Right Thing: My Career at Cresa Minneapolis
What does it take to be successful in commercial real estate?
For me, the answer has stayed the same, even as the industry and our city has evolved: Do the right thing.
Earlier this year, I was honored to be named on the Twin Cities Business list of Notable Women in Commercial Real Estate 2020. When I first became a broker more than 20 years ago, I don’t know if I could have imagined being named a leader in the industry. But this year has pushed me to reflect on my career and what has kept me working so happily at Cresa for more than two decades.
A quick magazine blurb can’t tell the whole story, so I hope I can shed more light on my career and what makes working at Cresa Minneapolis so special.
Our Focus: Do the Right Thing
As I said, “do the right thing” is my personal motto, and it’s also the driving force at Cresa. That message of simple morality has always resonated with me. I grew up as one of six kids on a dairy farm, and I learned the lessons of working hard and treating other people well.
Business can be complex, but when you zoom out and focus on simple truths, the complexity falls away and the right answer is clear. At Cresa, that answer is to consistently serve our clients well, make sure they understand all of their options, and lean into building relationships. I’ve found that Cresa’s model makes it easy to do the right thing, because we don’t own, manage, or list any properties. Our motivation is simple: to help our clients make the best decision.
Even though my day-to-day life as a broker doesn’t look much like working on the farm, the central principles are the same: Work hard, stay humble, treat people well, and do the right thing.
Real Flexibility and Support
Working from home is, necessarily, very popular right now. But people are often surprised when I tell them that I’ve been working from home since the 90s. In 1998, I had several years of experience in property management — and three young kids. Gwen Schultz asked me to consider coming to work as a broker at Cresa (then Tobin Real Estate). I was excited about the role, but I knew I’d need to work from home a few days a week. I didn’t want to commute every day. I asked my new bosses to trust me, and they did.
Working from home was not common then. At first, people didn’t know what to make of it. But as I showed my clients and colleagues that, yes, I was actually working from home, and I could do the job and give everyone the attention they needed, everyone got used to it.
Cresa offers true flexibility and support for employees. I learned early on that if I worked hard, I’d get any support I needed from Cresa. At Cresa, we help each other, cover for each other, and take care of each other.
A Team Environment
Cresa has a unique compensation model for the real estate industry. Everyone who works at Cresa is salaried — no commission. Removing any conversation about money or back-of-the-napkin math about a broker’s cut in a deal means that we’re free to just focus on what’s best for our clients. If I ask someone to help me on a project, they don’t have to worry about whether they’ll be paid. They can focus on serving the client.
Working in a team culture means I’m not working alone. We team up on every client project. If one of my clients needs help with property tax appeal, for example, I know that I can call in Sue Grimm, one of the sharpest tax experts I know. At Cresa, I’ve learned to forget any sense of ego. If I’m not the best person for a project, I find the person on my team who is.
If you scroll through the headshots of the team at Cresa Minneapolis, you’ll notice that about half of our senior leaders are women. That is not the norm for the commercial real estate industry, even today. I’ve had strong female role models and mentors the entire time I’ve worked at Cresa. I saw a career path modeled for me, and I’ve been encouraged to grow and follow opportunities.
But importantly, gender doesn’t feel important on our team. We hire the best people, we tap the best people for each project, and we all work together seamlessly — men and women together. I appreciate the broad range of experience and perspectives we have on our team.
As I look back on my career, I’m grateful to everyone who has mentored and helped me along the way. My advice for women (and men!) who want to grow a career in commercial real estate: Look for the opportunity all around you. Work hard and stay humble. Empower other people and you’ll lift yourself up.