The first decade of Ben Bakker’s life after high school was a blast.
He was the lead singer and guitarist in a few rock and punk-rock bands. He played gigs nationwide. “I did a lot of shows, and saw a whole lot of cool places,” Bakker says. “There were some great experiences and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But they aren’t kidding when they say ‘starving artist.’”
Bakker decided to make a change when he turned 30. He got into sales, and in 2012 he switched to commercial real estate. He managed properties in a family-run real estate company, HJB Properties, and now he’s also an up-and-coming commercial agent at Michael Saunders & Co., one of the leading brokerages on the Gulf Coast.
Bakker, a native of Edmonton, Canada, who moved to the Gulf Coast with his family when he was a young boy, was the Sarasota-based firm’s top rookie agent in 2014. His territory is in Manatee County, north of University Parkway. The busy brokerage has been a perfect fit for the high-energy agent. “Working under Michael and Drayton (Saunders) is nothing short of inspirational,” says Bakker. “They are fantastic people.”
— Mark Gordon
Name: Ben Bakker
City of residence: Bradenton
Twitter handle: I don’t tweet.
Employer: Michael Saunders & Co. / HJB Properties
Title: MS&C: Commercial Realtor, HJB: Vice President
Birthplace: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Years on the Gulf Coast: 38
Marital status/children: Married/Son, 12 years old, daughter 13-years-old
Alma mater: School of hard knocks. Instead of waiting four years to rack up student loan debt in college and then figure life out, I went straight into the workforce. Twenty years later, I don’t regret it for a minute.
Best place to network: Hard to say, so many good ones: Manatee Young Professionals, Tiger Bay, chamber Events. There are lots of opportunities to make great business connections if you want to.
Coolest business experience: Honestly, that’s hard to answer. I love what I do for a living. It’s constantly moving and shifting. And I love the two companies I work for. Michael Saunders is second to none, and it works hand-in-hand with the property management side of things I do for my family business. Every day is a cool experience.
The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Don’t be a mile wide and an inch deep. Prioritize. You’re not doing anyone any good if you’re overextended. And that’s a very fine line to mind when you love being involved in your community.
One website that makes your job easier: I use three every single day in my career: LoopNet, Xceligent and MFCRE.com. All are commercial real estate search engine and listing sites. They are also great tools for generating statistical reports and running research to help find your client the perfect property to suit their needs. Each site has its strong points, so I use them all simultaneously.
One community group you’re most involved with: Hard to say. Involved in many. Probably Realize Bradenton, even though I’m no longer on the board. I’m still actively involved and passionate about what they do every day.
Favorite off-hours activity: Running, playing ice hockey, playing guitar and singing in the band at Bayside Community Church. Love going skateboarding at the Riverwalk Skatepark early Saturday mornings with my son and having the place all to ourselves, too. It’s a great early morning workout.
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Johnny Cash and Dave Ramsey. I could sit and listen to either of them for hours.
What you would be doing if you could pick another career: Full time musician. Tried to in my youth, but it doesn’t pay very well.
Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Snowboarding double black diamonds at Whistler and Breckenridge.
What’s at the top of your bucket list: Visiting New York City and Hawaii. I have an itch to try skydiving at some point too, if I can ever work up the guts to do it.
What new skill would you like to learn: Stopping long enough to smell the roses from time to time. I have an extremely hard time sitting still. I hate it.
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Johnny Knoxville. Might as well make it fun, right?
If I had a magic wand I’d: toss it in the trash. I wouldn’t change anything about my life, good or bad. Those experiences helped shape who I am today and who I hope to become tomorrow.