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Thursday, Feb 9, 2023

Strength in Numbers

Jeff Albee, senior vice president of Colliers International, is a “big picture guy,” when it comes to piecing together commercial real estate transactions in the greater San Fernando Valley region. With more than 20 years experience in the business, his strength lies in qualifying clients, matching-up disparate components of deals, intuiting whether or not the numbers make sense, and most importantly, closing transactions. But Albee’s success largely relies on the support of his larger real estate team, Jeff Gould and Chris Itule. Known as the Corridor Investment Group, the trio specializes in office and some multi-family from North Hollywood to Santa Barbara. Gould knows the numbers inside and out, rather than trying to “intuit” them. And Itule sees opportunities where others don’t. The group’s synergy is what really makes the deals happen, said Albee. “This industry is part sales, part analysis and part consulting,” he said. “That’s why you need a team…to draw upon all of these different disciplines and strengths. It’s absolutely critical in the current market.” Real estate teams can be duos, trios, or groups of four or more. Regardless, Valley brokers said there’s strength in numbers. And at a time when there are fewer deals to be had, working with a team increases every member’s market reach and motivation. David Young, 47, and Chad Gahr, 37, of NAI Capital’s Encino office have been working together for more than a decade. They represent industrial landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers primarily in the San FernandoValley. The relationship started as a friendship 14 years ago when the two worked in different parts of NAI Capital. Young, who has 24 years experience in the business, mentored Gahr in the industrial sector. The two joined forces shortly thereafter. “Chad was a quick study,” said Young, adding what he most appreciates about Gahr is that he brings a different perspective to the mix. “We start from different points of view and that process distills down over time. It’s the simple concept of two brains are better than one.” Working as a team increases the overall quality of client service, said Young and Gahr, because their friendly disagreements result in a more realistic view for everybody involved in the transactions. They’re both veteran brokers who do not pass day-to-day client interactions down to junior brokers. If one can’t meet with a client, the other one steps-in, no matter the time of day. And if Young is consulting a client, Gahr is drumming up new business. Commissions are split 50/50. “In the current economy, we’ve been able to advise clients in a unique way where they see value,” said Gahr, adding this is especially important now since the preponderance of deals have shifted from sales to tenants and landlords being as opportunistic as possible. David Harding and Gregory Geraci of CB Richard Ellis’ Universal City office grew up in the same town. Over the course of a couple decades they also periodically worked together on commercial real estate deals, even though they worked at separate CBRE offices in the Valley. Every time they interacted with each other, they walked away with previously unknown and useful nuggets of market information. In 1999-2000, Harding, 47, and Geraci, 43, joined forces to work the Valley’s industrial market. “Maybe there was that familiarity with us,” said Harding, “but we found that the better way to do business was to do it together.” Matt Dierckman, 32, joined the team in 2001 after training with the duo in the industrial sector. And Billy Walk, 29, came-on in 2002 as a marketing assistant who worked into a brokerage services position. The group said they deal with plenty of successes and failures. But clear communication, well-defined roles, and a clear compensation break-down that rewards initiative are what keep them motivated and together. “There’s no ego,” said Walk. “That makes being the younger guy on the team a lot easier.” Geraci is adept at the negotiating side of the business. Harding works on business generation, client services and marketing. And Dierckman and Walk excel at marketing and deal analysis. All team members jump in to service clients if another cannot. In the down economy, the four-top has its eyes and ears focused on a lot of different markets, they said. And working in a cubicle-type environment, they constantly share information, talk about transactions, and plan how to better work deals in the future. Business has slowed lately, but dialogue and running a tight ship have buffered the team to some extent. The group also takes full advantage of CBRE’s wider network of professionals who specialize in areas they’re not familiar with. “As we’ve grown we’ve streamlined the business and increased the amount of listings and tenants,” said Geraci. “It’s rare a deal happens in the Valley and we didn’t know that the tenant was in the marketplace.” However, all teams agreed there are plenty of challenges when melding different personalities. And the fact is many alliances simply don’t work. Being the oldest member of the Corridor Investment Group, Albee, 46, echoed the CBRE team’s statements that the key to success is communication, defining roles and having a set break-down of compensation. He works on some deals primarily with Gould, 28, and others primarily with Itule, 28. Compensation is split accordingly depending on who’s leading the transaction. And Albee said you have to set ego aside. “I have to let these guys take the lead sometimes,” he said. “I’m kind of like an old school quarterback and I’m playing with two superstars.”

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