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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 1, 2016 6 years ago

Broker of youth

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Success in commercial real estate traditionally only comes with experience. An innovative leader aims to disrupt that model.
by: Steven Benna Staff Writer

In commercial real estate, where experience and a deep client list is crucial, bringing in young, inexperienced professionals can be risky. And in a commission-centric industry, selling the youthful recruits on it is a tough task.

But Matt Drews, director of commercial real estate and property management at Sarasota-based Michael Saunders & Co., believes it's essential to both increase growth at his brokerage and discover and train the next generation of agents.

“We want to bring in young talent to pair with our seasoned agents,” Drews says. “It's kind of like an apprenticeship where they have a hands-on learning experience working with someone who's had a lot of success in this industry over the past 15 or 20 years.”

The idea is a “best of both worlds approach,” says Drews, who joined the 17-employee commercial division of Michael Saunders in August. Seasoned agents can teach the business, but millennials can offer their own expertise, including technological skills and a fresh perspective.

The pairing of the separate generations can help Michael Saunders grow organically, says Drews, who, at 41, is a middle child to the two generations he's melding. So far, he has brought in three commercial real estate rookies — ages 25, 29 and 33 — and he is currently interviewing a fourth. The goal in the coming months is five or six agents.

One benefit of the program has been an improved efficiency with technology, Drews says. For example, after becoming familiar with the company's processes, a new agent suggested using a plug-in to enhance existing software.

The different approach millennials have in the office has also promoted an overall positive change, Drews says, mostly because the younger generation looks differently at ways to improve things.

“Agents with longtime success can fall into the trap of doing what they've always done,” Drews says. He adds: “Anytime you challenge what the norm is, that's a good thing.”

One big challenge for Drews would seem to be bringing in young talent for a job with no salary. Due to the pairing with a senior broker, however, that hasn't been especially difficult.
The paired teams often split commissions, although that choice is left to the senior broker.

“Part of the pairing is getting new agents involved quicker with transactions,” Drew says.

Finding new agents with a willingness to take on complex issues and pairing them with seasoned agents who think ahead is key. “We have to find people that match up well with other people,” Drews says. “We can't just plug and play.”

To ensure compatibility, senior brokers also interview potential apprentices.

The tricky part is integration. Drews knows he already has experienced brokers who run successful businesses. So the possibility of resentment lingers.

Drews says he can't, and wouldn't, force seasoned brokers to change. But he wants them to take note of other brokers integrating the newer, younger agents successfully. Says Drews:
“Success breeds success, so as you see a process working, it makes you more comfortable giving it a shot.”

— Steven Benna

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