We sat down with CRE expert Ken Ashley to find out what advice he has for new commercial real estate brokers.

It’s no secret that getting started in CRE can be difficult. Even as vast swaths of information become available online, knowing who to trust and what to ignore is crucial.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Ken Ashley is a seasoned industry pro with over 20 years of CRE experience under his belt. He gets it. He understands the inevitable setbacks new brokers face, in addition to the many upsides of a successful career within the business — in particular, the opportunity to control one’s own schedule and priorities.

Based in Atlanta, Ashley works as an advisor and advocate for companies who own or lease real estate, helping company leadership translate their business strategies into real estate solutions with the goal of cutting costs and boosting profits.

An Early Adopter

Throughout his career, Ashley has witnessed a variety of major, industry-wide shifts that have changed the way he conducts business. Most significant? The transformative impact of commercial real estate technology — a force that has accelerated both the pace of communication between brokers and clients and increased the volume of those interactions. With so much conflicting information now available to both brokers and clients, Ashley says, it has become more important than ever to have a firm grasp on specialized knowledge — and communicate it effectively — to set yourself apart from an already informed crowd.

In the face of the 2008 recession, Ashley took his own advice to heart. Realizing he needed to make changes in order to differentiate his business, he became an early adopter of Twitter and started to blog about his business learnings and thoughts on CRE industry trends.

And while he was initially concerned that offering his insights at no cost would be a mistake, Ashley soon found that his online presence was helping him generate new business. When potential clients would Google his name, his social media presence and breadth of work gave him an authority other brokers hadn’t yet developed online. Ashley was able to leverage social tools to distinguish himself within the already competitive CRE space, and believes there are number of ways for those just now entering the commercial real estate industry to continue doing precisely that.

Below, we’ll take a look at the 5 tips Ashley has to offer any broker on the path to success.

Five Tips for Success

  1.  “Don’t believe the advice that it takes three years to be successful.”Ashley encourages new brokers not to place limits on themselves when starting out. “That’s just establishing expectations that could keep you from accelerated success,” he says. “What if you were successful in a year — or in six months?”
  2. “Be honest with yourself about the risk.”
    “There aren’t any guarantees in CRE,” Ashley says. It’s a competitive field, with many qualified professionals vying for a finite amount of business. Brokers and producers who make their money through commission structures aren’t doing themselves any favors by ignoring the obvious risks associated with building their business.
  3.  “CRE can be a high income business — but don’t go into it expecting to get rich.”
    Don’t go into CRE for the express purpose of making money. While attaining wealth is certainly achievable in CRE, brokers would do well to remain be client-focused. If you can create wins for your clients, everything else will follow.
  4. “Less is more and more is less.”
    “CRE is such a vast industry, it’s impossible to do and to know everything” Ashley says. “Focus specifically on the vertical or market that interests you and master that space.” The rise of CRE tech has convinced many industry professionals that they can do everything at once. More important than the breadth of a broker’s information, however, is the strategy he or she uses to implement it effectively.
  5. “Fail up.”
    Failure is inevitable, but when framed properly, can lead to success down the road. In a business that’s about building relationships, an immediate “yes” isn’t the most important thing. Focus instead on building long-term trust with partners and companies that will allow “nos” to lead to a more significant “yes” down the road.

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