How I Made My Worst Competitor My Best Customer

When work-life slows, it’s useful to ask yourself what’s good in your business, what’s bad, what should you have done differently, and what are you going to do about it.

The last time there was a downturn I wrote a book and it inflamed a lot of people in the brokerage community. It struck a tone out of  Jerry McGuire. Remember how Tom Cruise has a crisis of conscience and pens a heartfelt company-wide memo that promptly gets him fired? Now, those same brokers are coming to me in this pandemic to collaborate and work with me. And they are some of my favorite clients.

For example:

  • Currently, I’m working with a broker who, after 40 years of being with CBRE, retired but retained one of his best long-term clients. This broker misses the large firm’s back office, so I’m lending my back-office so he can continue the kind of work he loves. We are having a whole lot of fun providing his client with the kind of personalized and passionate service that he couldn’t while at CBRE.
  • I have a large land deal in the Norfolk area. I’m collaborating with an awesome Colliers team to be the boots on the ground. Having another firm involved in the area has allowed me to spend more time orchestrating the deal and communicating with my client.
  • A competitor of mine specializes in selling STNL assets (think of your neighborhood free-standing Walgreens). His brother-in-law asked him to sell a warehouse that the family owns. The competitor could do this, but it is not something that he has done before – so we’ve teamed up. I handle market knowledge and the deal execution and the broker gets paid a large part of the fee.
  • A local nonprofit received a gift of valuable land and I’ve teamed up with an appraiser and a fellow commercial real estate consultant to provide insights in the market, deliver reports to the board, and execute the transaction. I’ve enjoyed working with this peer and we have shared some of our tricks of the trade with one another.

These collaborations remind me of why I’m glad I’ve stuck to my guns with my approach toward brokerage and CRE in general. As a result of the pandemic, everyone’s business is going to change for the next six months. It’s a great opportunity to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and then reach out to your competitors with complementary skill sets to see what ideas they are willing to share to take advantage of the current economic cycle. I’m enjoying this collaborative experience, and I suspect you will, too. 

Cardinal Real Estate Partners, LLC – family owned and operated since 2005. 

Real estate transactions can be fraught with frustration and pitfalls.

Sometimes the hardest part turns out to be working with your broker, the person who is supposed to help you through the complexities. Veteran commercial real estate broker and client advisor John Culbertson discovered that brokers’ interests aren’t always aligned with those of their clients. He realized there was a better way to advocate for clients and get the deal done.


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