Last March, Tim Rivers got a phone call from JLL Managing Director Brent Miller, with whom he serves on the board of Tampa’s Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, to ask if he’d apply for the job leading the commercial real estate brokerage firm’s Florida operations.
Though Rivers had a top-level position with rival Cushman & Wakefield at the time, the move to JLL would represent a major step up in a 20-plus-year career filled with steady advancement.
Still, Rivers said he wasn’t interested.
“I wasn’t looking for another job,” says Rivers. “I was very happy at Cushman, I had a great relationship with them and great respect for them, I felt very blessed in that way.”
But in the wake of Miller’s call, Rivers began — slowly, at first — to reconsider. By late summer, JLL top brass put on a full-court press to land him. The surge worked.
“JLL is among the real iconic firms in this business, together with CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield,” he says. “So I spoke to them, mainly to understand their growth appetite, and learned they see Florida as a key market.
“And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that JLL would give me a great opportunity to put my fingerprints on the market in a unique way that I likely wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, and with a firm with the reputation and brand recognition that JLL has earned.”
In mid-September, Rivers jumped to JLL to lead the firm’s operations statewide, a platform that includes five offices — Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami — and more than 650 employees and 100 brokers.
In that role, he replaces Doug Irmscher, who had led JLL in the Sunshine State from 2013 until last year.
Rivers, 53, will be based in JLL’s downtown Tampa office.
The job may test him as never before, but it will also allow him to build something in the same way he’s been constructing things — be it buildings or his career — over the past three decades.
When Rivers was in college, he worked a construction job in Houston. From there he built houses, eventually forming his own contracting firm in Washington, D.C.
From there he relocated to Connecticut to work with AFB Construction Management, a firm that specialized in building schools and other institutional buildings.
It was at AFB that Rivers had his first encounters with commercial real estate brokers.
“I’d always gravitated to development, and a brokerage firm I thought got me a step closer to it,” he says.
In 2005, Rivers was asked to join CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm at the time, as it embarked on an expansion in the wake of its merger with Insignia Financial Group.
That move brought Rivers and his family to Florida, where as Director of Asset Services he led a team that boosted the firm’s property management portfolio in the state by 30 million square feet — think more than three dozen 42-story Bank of America Plaza towers in downtown Tampa — in six years.
“Tim has a very strong background in both asset services and brokerage operations,” says Ray Sandelli, managing partner at Fort Myers-based CRE Consultants, who ran CBRE’s Florida operations when Rivers worked there.
“He’s a very solid guy, very service oriented, and always looking at what’s next and what’s best for the client,” Sandelli adds.
After six years at CBRE, Rivers and a business associate left for senior positions with Grubb & Ellis, an internationally recognized brokerage firm.
In 2013, Cushman & Wakefield came calling, offering Rivers a statewide position as Regional Director of Management Services, where he once again dealt heavily in asset sales.
JLL sought Rivers out because of the same attributes that CBRE, Grubb & Ellis and Cushman & Wakefield had.
Mike Ellis, the firm’s East Region Market Director, says Rivers’ “proven leadership skills” and “experience in growing commercial real estate portfolios” will help drive JLL forward.
For now, Rivers is assessing JLL’s strengths and plotting strategy.
“Florida is a big area, with different submarkets and even within markets there are vastly different areas,” Rivers says. “So my job is to determine what’s common to the different regions of the state and what’s unique to them.
“But more than anything, depth of talent and bench strength are really what I am focusing on now.”
Leveraging JLL’s talent, Rivers also hopes to forge a culture at JLL in Florida where various real estate services are integrated.
“There’s no secret sauce,” he says. “We want to very much intertwine sales with leasing and landlord services, and hopefully make clients happy so they’ll turn to us for tenant representation, or they’ll appreciate that we have that service in house. That’s something I hope to emphasize greatly, that melding of services for client benefit.”
As part of that culture, too, Rivers hopes to instill values that he’s come to realize are critical to success in commercial real estate: Respect, honesty and accountability.
“Respect is paramount, both for the client and each other, honestly is critical to building trust, and lastly, even though we’re in a high-growth and competitive environment, we need to be accountable to clients and each other,” he says.
Sandelli believes Rivers will shine in his new role, the way he’s risen to challenges at CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield.
“I think he’s very well qualified,” Sandelli says. “The only thing I cautioned him on, when I spoke to him to congratulate him on the job, was that he needs to eat the elephant before him one bite at a time.”