In an industry fraught with competition, it pays to have an X-factor that can distinguish you from the rest of the pack, which is one of the reasons why the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) Institute was established 50 years ago.

Since being founded in 1967, the CCIM Institute has proven itself to be an influential commercial real estate organization providing real-world education, tools, best practice strategies and networking opportunities needed for aspiring professionals to be successful in this industry.

With more than 50 chapters around the world, the CCIM Institute has evolved to include more than 13,000 members, in addition to 7,000-plus professionals currently pursuing the CCIM Designation, which makes the Institute one of the largest commercial real estate networks in the world.

CCIM’s influence on the industry can largely be seen in two forms: local chapter membership and perhaps its most well-known and coveted calling card – the CCIM Designation. Both offer unique benefits and opportunities that local chapter members and CCIM Designees describe as priceless.

To better explain the mission of CCIM and the immeasurable value of chapter membership and the designation, three CCIMs who were also past presidents of the local Central Arizona CCIM Chapter shared their experiences and insights.

“You have to experience it both locally and nationally to truly understand it,” says Rick Padelford, CCIM, with Realty Executives Commercial, who is also the current Central Arizona CCIM Chapter president.

He first heard about CCIM in 1992 when he was working for a developer who was also a CCIM and recommended he get involved. It wasn’t until 2002 when Padelford started working on his designation, which he later completed in 2008.

During that time, he quickly realized, most, if not all the top professionals that he regularly worked with had their CCIM Designation and could tell at least one or two stories about the advantages of obtaining it.

That includes brokers, leasing professionals, investment counselors, asset managers, appraisers, corporate real estate executives, property managers, developers, institutional investors, commercial lenders, attorneys, bankers and other allied professionals.

Padelford sees CCIM’s real value is in its ability to convert education and networking opportunities into dollars.

CCIM Designees make more money

According to studies conducted by the CCIM Institute, people of similar age and experience in the industry with the CCIM Designation make between 25-30 percent more than a likened individual without the designation.

Described as the equivalency of a master’s degree in commercial real estate, the CCIM Designation is earned by completing an extensive curriculum of 200 classroom hours, a comprehensive resume of qualifying experience and a six-hour exam. Upon completion, designees are given their CCIM pin and may use the CCIM accolade in their professional titles.

Bobbi Lorraine Mastracci, CCIM, principal of Phoenix West Commercial, says, “Any professional involved in the commercial real estate industry should have their CCIM Designation if they want to excel in their careers.”

She was invited to become a member of the Central Arizona CCIM Chapter in 2006 after attending a breakfast meeting and later earned her CCIM Designation in 2008. She went on to serve as the chapter president twice, including last year, and is currently the chairman of the education committee.

“You get out what you put in,” she says, which for her translated to credibility and respect throughout the industry, education and knowledge of multiple disciplines as well as networking opportunities and increased business.

Earning a CCIM Designation proves someone is engaged and invested in taking the right steps to advance their credibility, industry expertise and knowledge while opening the door to opportunities to explore other markets.

“Often times when a CCIM enters an unfamiliar market, they seek out a fellow CCIM Designee in that region because they trust their ability to properly analyze the economics of a piece of real estate,” explains David Miller, CCIM, vice president of national accounts at Chicago Title Company and two-time Central Arizona CCIM Chapter president.

“There’s a comfort level there knowing you’re dealing with someone who has been through the same schooling as you and truly understands the building blocks of real estate,” he adds.

Earning the designation gave Miller the skillset to do more transactions, which automatically raised his profile in the Valley. “It’s like sports,” he explains. “If you’re successful, people want to hear how you do it.”

Regardless of age or discipline, Miller, Mastracci and Padelford, recommend all new comers to the industry take CI 101 in order to gain a foundation of practical financial analysis skills.

Getting involved with your local chapter

Arizona consists of two CCIM chapters: Central Arizona and Southern Arizona. The focus of each chapter around the world and Arizona is on providing quality educational programs and local networking opportunities while promoting the merits of the CCIM Designation.

Miller says, “Membership in the local chapter affords you access to education and networking opportunities like breakfasts and lunches where top quality speakers are brought in to speak about things that are happening in the commercial real estate world that are topical, meaningful and often times impactful.”

He goes on to explain that individuals can be members of a local chapter without the CCIM Designation. They are referred to as “marketing members,” adds Miller, which means they are there for local networking opportunities and chapter programs.

“It’s an opportunity to talk for business while expanding your social network and getting to know about other potential opportunities, resources and trends that may be taking place in the industry,” explains Miller.

Moving forward, Padelford wants the local Central Arizona CCIM Chapter to remain nimble and a leading force in navigating the inevitable changes facing the industry in a way that’s proactive instead of reactive.