CBRE’s top Arizona executives describe the company’s 100-year legacy and their vision for the future.
By Melanie Winderlich
Pete Bolton, senior managing director-Phoenix, seven and a half years at CBRE
A marathon, not a sprint: The key to CBRE’s sustainability is flexibility, awareness of market conditions and selection of excellent people (including staff, brokers, management)—we have been able to do this work for 100 years. Nearly 20 years ago, the company decided to do commercial real estate exclusively and walked away from the residential side. They understood market conditions and could plan for the future of the market.
Also, risk taking has been extremely effective here. Some competitors scoffed at some of the major risks we’ve taken and swore those risks would bury us. But we’ve always made strong, calculated risks. For example, Sears, Roebuck and Co. acquired 100 percent of Coldwell Banker commercial and residential in the early 1980s. However, in 1989, the employees invested their own money, and with others, acquired the company’s operations to form CB Commercial. The men and women who worked here invested hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the commercial side away from Sears. That was the launch, a very risky move, which could have been very tough if the market would have experienced a downturn.
Industry progression: In our business, if things aren’t changing, then things aren’t happening. We had a challenging, tough time from the beginning of 2001 toward the middle of 2004 because there was so much uncertainty and nobody was doing anything. Today, in Arizona we’re seeing far more than our share of expansions, which is extremely important for this state. Many companies are either completely relocating to Arizona or expanding by adding a regional hub in the Valley. Phoenix has proven in the last 15 years, to the national marketplace, that we’re a player, not a ‘boom or bust’ economy. It’s consistency from various sources—from the governor’s office to everyday people on the street—that generates interest about developing here.
I hope there can be more openness, from the community, in regards to change. I’ve been in the Valley for more than 52 years and seen so many people move here and give back to the community. What I see a lot of is newcomers (all types) pushing back against change and growth. Any kind of big project is always a battle with the neighborhoods. The change can be good, but they just vehemently resist. Our community needs to become more open to change, more open to density, more open to becoming the city we are destined to become. Luckily we have a very business-friendly government and a governor that listens to the business community and respects our concerns.
Greg Coxon, left, senior managing director-Phoenix and Pete Bolton, senior managing director-Phoenix
Tim Prouty, managing director—Tucson, six years with CBRE
|The 100-year legacy: CBRE is all about the client. We want to reduce our clients’ risk. These transactions can be massive, one bad decision can ruin a career, so you better be giving good advice and data. That’s our prime legacy, we’re very sure about the information we’re providing.
Vision quest: CBRE would like to continue to be the place to work. If you have happy people internally and continue to educate them, then your company continues to grow and benefits clients. We’re the only commercial brokerage company I know of that has its own university. About 40 minutes outside of Chicago, our teaching facility educates employees at all different levels. The intensive CBRE curriculum and professional coaches are all geared to create the strongest, most intelligent group to represent the company. CB Richard Ellis is the biggest, most profitable commercial real estate services company in the world, earning about $3 billion worldwide. Our closest competitor pulls in about $780 million. We would like to continue that tradition.
On-the-job satisfaction: I work at CBRE because it’s fun. When you think about it, we spend more time at work than with our families. I work about 10 to 12 hours a day—I get home at 7:30 p.m., spend a couple hours with my kids then go to bed. When you spend 40 to 60 hours a week with the same group of people, you want to be with people you enjoy. Not only is CBRE the No. 1 commercial real estate company in Arizona, the country and the world (by revenue), but our people are wonderfully intelligent, creative and fun. We truly make a difference because of the advice we give. This is a great place for me to apply my trade.
Greg Coxon, senior managing director-Phoenix, 19 years with CBRE
In it for the long haul: The biggest reason CBRE is still around today is our people. We’re blessed to have high caliber people working here. They are unbelievably motivated to execute our business goals. The other part of that secret is our ability to retain these people. CBRE is a great company— the No. 1 company by any comparative standard, that fact coupled with our awesome people who offer expertise and longevity, is a fabulous recipe for success.
A star is born: From an organizational standpoint, we’ve been lucky and had incredibly talented people sitting at the leadership chair of this company. These leaders have been unbelievable with growing this company. Each owner, CEO, manager, and so on has taken this organization to a different level. And this fact has allowed the next CEO or director to grab onto that success and take it to the next level—success begets success. It’s almost incumbent on the incoming leaders to take their role and responsibility to that level of quality. I expect CBRE to get bigger and better as we look forward to the future.
What the community should know: The one thing I would like the community to know about CBRE is how giving we are. Our employees are involved in countless organizations—we have people who sit on boards, volunteer with charities, work with nonprofits. We give money and time to our community. For example, CBRE has held a charity golf tournament every year for the past eight years and over time, has raised nearly $750,000 for several charities. ChildHelp is the biggest benefactor of this event, but it is one of many things we do. I would like people to know about how our people join together when they see a need for their involvement and what they are prepared to do in time of crisis. It’s unbelievable.
Vision quest: We would like to continue to be bigger—growing by employees, geography and revenue. One of our corporate initiatives, at the highest level, is to be the No. 1 provider of commercial real estate services in the world. We can do that by hiring professional, knowledgeable people. We’re looking into other areas that are related to our industry. We’ve started an equipment and asset financing business within CBRE | Melody. A few years ago, we created a team of real estate professionals focused on the acquisition and disposition of mining properties, especially appropriate in Arizona—few people think about mining operations or equipment that are very beneficial to specific clients. We’re continually spawning other niche service lines because CBRE is very entrepreneurial at its roots.
The need for CBRE: Commercial real estate is a fragmented business; there is not another dominant company that provides real estate services across the world. As we go into a global economy, every country has different laws and regulations regarding real estate. The United States’ real estate practices are some of the most advanced in the industry. Given such a good foundation, in terms of ownership and standards, CBRE applies these standards to every market in the world. One of our top attributes is that we have our best practices implemented everywhere in the world, which is good for the client who might not understand the real estate regulations in Japan or Russia, but must have a presence there.
There is not any one company that has the vast majority of the marketplace. We apply our standards to a very vast area of geography—an important fact if you have someone who cannot navigate laws specific to certain areas around the world. We are an economic development engine on a global scale.
A look into the next 100 years: The next 100 years will be better than the last 100 years. We’ve always made the future better than what was in the past. We’re making major advancements. We won’t give up things we value most—our high ethical standards, client needs, giving employees latitude to achieve the level of success they desire—we will meet these successes as a call of duty.
Tim Prouty, managing director—Tucson, six years with CBRE
Benefiting Arizona: CBRE’s 100-year presence all boils down to the people who we’ve been able to attract to the platform. If you get people who want to make things happen, then things will happen. When each individual person contributes, their work creates a huge contribution statewide.
In Tucson, CBRE orchestrated the sale of the IBM plant to the University of Arizona, which then led to the development of the University of Arizona Science Park. This project, which sold for nearly $100 million, created huge employment numbers and added another avenue of research for the school and the state—that’s a pretty significant contribution
Changes through the years: Corporate real estate, over time, has continued to focus on outsourcing to real estate service providers, which means more services for us to be ready to provide (from the occupier side). From the investor side, the world is awash with investment capital so we must find appropriate spots to invest that capital. Vision quest: I see continued growth in our company, to serve our clients, in CBRE’s future. We strive to help our clients as one, integrated Arizona company with a consistent level of service in the state. Also, the opportunity to go in fields of different business and serve new clients. For example, clients have changing needs as it relates to finance, construction, facility management. Anything that has to do with real estate, our company wants to be a part of that.
Where work and play merge: I work at CBRE because it’s fun. It’s a great company with a state-of-the-art platform, working on the leading edge of the commercial real estate industry. This business is a blast and it’s always changing—the challenge is never the same. Every client, every building, every concern is unique. The real estate business runs through everybody’s life; every business has a real estate component and I get to interact with almost every industry out there.