There are most likely a lot of surprises in the lives of commercial real estate executives with 30 years in the business. But there are some surprises that are more unexplained than others.

“It may surprise many people that I am a co-founder of Great Hearts Academies,” says Bob Mulhern, managing director of Colliers International in Greater Phoenix. “It’s an Arizona charter management organization which has developed 18 Valley charter schools and has an enrollment of over 10,000 students … and we have more than 11,000 students on our waiting lists.”

Why would a commercial real estate professional, without experience in the educational field want to develop a new school? It’s a question that Mulhern has been asked more than once. The question (which we’ll come back to) derives from the fact that Mulhern is well known for markedly high success in commercial real estate throughout the Valley — not as an educator.

Not only does Mulhern currently manage the brokerage operations of two offices located in Phoenix and Scottsdale, he’s responsible for managing more than 10 million square feet of commercial inventory.

Mulhern’s passion and drive in his chosen field is deep rooted.

“I was the eighth of 12 children and I wanted to grow up and be just like my dad,” Mulhern says. “He married a wonderful woman, had a bunch of kids and made a career in real estate — homebuilding, in his case. I have a wonderful wife of 27 years, we have nine beautiful children together and I have embraced commercial real estate as my profession.”

Mulhern’s success may also be attributed to 2,000-year old advice from non other than Socrates: “Know thyself.”

“We all want to be happy and successful in our careers, so it follows that we should identify what we enjoy doing and are uniquely qualified to accomplish and spend as much time doing these things as possible,” Mulhern says.

Admittedly, Mulhern does face a challenge in balancing all the things he enjoys. Somehow he still finds a way to maintain endurance in dedication to his career, family, faith and health. And, to help answer the question posed earlier, he even has time to help establish a new charter school — despite not having a background in education.

When asked what prompted his decision to become a co-founder of Great Hearts, Mulhern’s response: “I have a lot of children to educate!”

Thankfully, with his development background, Mulhern didn’t need an educational foundation, but rather others who did, to create an ideal team to see Great Hearts from inception to completion.