Starboard Commercial Real Estate

Hans Hansson | January 25, 2010

2009 is my 25th year as a commercial real estate broker and it certainly was one of my toughest years. The worst year in my career closings was 1990. The worst year in my working life was 1976 and it was actually my most rewarding year of knowledge that I learned from surviving it.

Cycles in business happen. We all know it but we never prepare for it and never take the necessary steps to succeed in one, rather we enter a positive cycle or a negative one. Most of us don't see a cycle coming or there are those that see a cycle change coming, but we rarely allow ourselves to actually make the necessary changes to our business to deal with them.

If you started 2009 as a commercial real estate broker and ended 2009 as one, Congratulations, you have "potentially" survived a real bummer of a year. I say potentially because 2010 is not expected to be a whole lot better. Business activity is improving but actual deal flow is still down for virtually all businesses. The jobs report continues to be a real concern and without true job growth the economy will not expand greatly any time soon.

A experienced broker friend of mine recently reflected that the difference between (1991) the last major full economic downturn and this severe recession (2009) is that back in 1991 he was young and could live on pretzels and beer, now with a family and large financial obligations he has entered 2010 with much more concern and conviction to succeed. He also indicated that it would the veterans that will ultimately survive while the younger inexperienced salespeople will leave the business. Once business comes back, the veterans will be full of business opportunities and businesses will start hiring younger salespeople to take the load of smaller deals while the veterans work on larger deals.

I disagree in some cases with that thought. Veterans that are used to success in most cases do understand what it takes to succeed but how many of them are ready to go back into the trenches - because that is what its going to take. Sales are going to be tied to smaller deals. Is a veteran prepared to do a 1,500 square foot deal and properly service that client?

The inexperienced younger agent may in fact be the survivor in this market. I started at the beginning of a down market in 1984 and did not know what a great market was. I just worked my business and succeeded. My early years in a down market would be considered solid years, even in a good market. So market conditions does not necessarily always equates to results.

As we enter 2010 creating a business plan for yourself and staying with your plan is more critical than ever. Do this before the year begins and really spend time developing that plan. It could be the difference between you ending in this business or not when 2010 comes to a close.
Posted 9 years, 9 months ago on January 25, 2010
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Re: 2009 is Over are you Still in the Business?
Hans, are you based in San Francisco?

2010/01/28 by Scott Johnson • • Reply
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Re: 2009 is Over are you Still in the Business?
Yes I am.

2010/02/04 by Hans Hansson • • Reply
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Re: 2009 is Over are you Still in the Business?
You are right on with everything you mentioned. We are rolling out a new commercial real estate site/service. It has been 2 weeks and very slow to get people in the industry to use it. We decided for the forseeable future to give the service away....
Again thanks for your insight.

2010/01/28 by Robert White wwwReply
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Re: 2009 is Over are you Still in the Business?
I have to agree with you, Hans, and thank you for scripting this out for all to read. My most successful year in brokerage was 1991, following one of the most tumultuous hits to the commercial real estate market in decades. It was the 'recession proof' types of deals, and many of them small in nature, that kept the keel even, and those relationships, both with the brokers and the developers/landlords who were willing to think 'outside of the box' marked new ground in deal structures. Most of those players are still standing, and landlords will do well to not be too shrewd but know their tenant(s) well and look to the core of the business and its longevity in marketplace.

2010/02/04 by from Boston • • Reply
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