If there was ever a role that Doug Jones was made for, it’s leadership.
Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great grandfather, the Richardson native, began his career in the military, graduating from West Point and serving as an infantry officer and Army Ranger both at home and in combat, where he was awarded multiple Bronze Star medals, including one for Valor that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld presented in 2011. “At a very, very young age, I remember thinking, ‘OK, so I’m going into the military, and that’s what I’m going to do,'” he told D CEO. “It’s funny how life twists and turns.”
Looking to return to North Texas, Jones and his wife transitioned out of the military and pursued real estate careers. He joined Cushman & Wakefield in 2015, seeking to be a part of what he called a “varsity team.” He closed more than 150 transactions during the past three years totaling 2.5 million square feet and more than $450 million in total transaction volume. He also led healthcare leasing in Dallas, overseeing key assignments on behalf of one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services.
“There was not a lot of raw, real estate experience that I was bringing to the table, at the time, but obviously I’ve had incredible people put their arms around me and help to bring me along in the first years,” Jones said.
This week, the 35-year-old was tapped to lead the firm’s Dallas office—replacing Ran Holman, who left Cushman late last year to take a statewide post at Newmark.
The move caps a series of promotions of young professionals at C&W in Dallas, with 37-year-old Robbie Baty tapped to lead the firm’s office tenant representation practice as executive managing director—a newly created position—and Matt Schendle, 47, selected to oversee the agency leasing group.
We recently sat down with Jones to talk about his latest career move, how his military service prepared him for his new role, and his vision for the future.
D CEO: This is a big jump for you; what made you decide to go from production to leadership?
JONES: “It was always a goal and aspiration of mine to continue a long-standing tradition in my family to serve in the military. I think that calling of service that my family had led me to want to do that. [When I transitioned out of the military] and joined Cushman, there was a lot that spoke to me about being with a service firm and being in an industry where you have an opportunity to serve clients. But, there was always this call to me to want to get back into a leadership role. I saw this incredible opportunity to marry two things that I’m passionate about, service to our clients in real estate and service within the organization. It is going back into a leadership role, which I was very used to and enjoyed during my time in the military.”
D CEO: How has your experience at West Point and a commander in the military prepare you for this role?
D CEO: There have been several promotions of new young leaders at Cushman; how do you think this will influence the company’s culture?
JONES: “It’s important to distinguish between being a leader and being a being in a position of leadership, if that makes sense. Robbie and Matt are now in the positional leadership roles—as am I—but these two guys and many others in our office (such as Katy Jane Jenevein and David Eseke) are [emerging] leaders who have been leading for a number of years. The idea that people are now moving into positional leadership roles is an indication that the company sees the potential for those people to influence the organization in a positive way.
“Cushman & Wakefield is more than 100 years old, and we have that legacy of great things and excellence, but we’re also looking to the future. And I think that’s part of the recent announcements. It tells the market that we are exciting, we’re energetic, and we’re ready to innovate and create new ways of doing things.
“There has been a lot of talk about culture in the company, given everything that is going on, and how it’s either benefiting or suffering as a result of working at home. Culture is a funny word. In my kind of assessment, it’s a result or comes from something more underlying, which is the health of the organization. And I think that any healthy organization does some key things, and they do key disciplines very well. We know what those things are, and we’re working to improve ourselves on those every single day. Culture ultimately comes from those disciplines and that health of the organization. We’re ready to go to a new place that is respectful of our past and recognizes all the great things that have been done but also takes it to a whole new level.”
D CEO: What are your immediate goals in your new position?
JONES: “I think it’s important in challenging times like what we’ve been through to assess where we’ve been, why we’re here, and where we’re going. Those questions in challenging times cause us to pause and reflect. I’m definitely going to be on a listening tour over the next 30 to 60 days.
“One of the key advantages that we have is being familiar with the organization and knowing we have a lot of relational capital built up inside of the Dallas office right now—we’re not starting from scratch in terms of relationships with each other. If our relationships are what we think they are, we can start to quickly assess where we can continue to do what we’re doing very well and where we can improve.
“In the long run, we want to build a great organization; we want to build a place where people are inspired to come to work and that we get a lot of fulfillment and joy out of what they do. We can talk about wanting to have long-term plans for growth. All those things are inherent to the answer of: We want to build an irresistible organization at Cushman Wakefield in Dallas; we want to be irresistible for our people, we want to be irresistible for our clients, we want to be able to build something that’s very special—because inherently when you do that, growth comes along with it.”
D CEO: Coming from an internal position, what do you expect to hear on your listening tour?
JONES: “I’ve already started to hear some of it. And, No. 1, I expect people to have their thoughts on what they need from the managing principal and from leaders within the organization. That’s an important theme that I want to be cognizant of as I have multiple conversations. I want to be listening to people and understanding their expectations. I have my thoughts on what leaders should do for the organization, but I want to hear what our people think those things are. I think I also am going to hear areas we can improve. This is the time we want to have those conversations because, at the same time, I already am hearing great things that we are doing and the opportunities to continue to reinforce those things and where we can create an advantage for our clients and ourselves to continue to grow.
“The key thing in listening to all the different opinions is you start to get a perspective on the overall picture, and you hopefully, with collaboration with others, can start to connect dots on what would be innovative because somebody is going to innovate in our industry, somebody is going to make the first move to grow and to adapt and to evolve and to innovate on behalf of our clients, and I think we, as a firm in Dallas and across the country and the world, we want to be that company that innovates—it’s at the core of who we are. And to do that, you’ve got to really understand who you are, who your people are, what your tools are so that you can start to carve out that margin time that allows you to do something special.”
D CEO: What are some areas that offer the potential for innovation?
JONES: “We can innovate in talent development, culture-building, and organizational health. I think that those areas are gateways to the expanded ideas of real estate innovation. It speaks back to building something unique and special as an organization that people want to be a part of. I know we can innovate and differentiate ourselves over the next year or two. That, to me, is a gateway to all the other areas. I’m a steward of our resources, and the resources that we have certainly, first and foremost, are our people. That’s going to be an important part of finding out where they are and the areas we see ourselves innovating in.”
D CEO: Why do you think you were chosen to bring in a diverse group and innovate a new culture?
JONES: “That’s a fair question. It’s one that causes you to pause and reflect on why you think potentially you’ve been selected or chosen to take on something like this and have the opportunity to lead. I think at the end of the day, just like everyone in our organization and every client needs to be led differently; I feel like if there was ever a role that I was hopefully or potentially built for, given my experience at West Point, the great mentors and leaders I’ve seen there, all the things we talked about with my former career in the military, just those experiences, those are certainly unique leadership crucibles that hopefully have given me some perspective. Those experiences give you an opportunity to come alongside your people and continue to build trust and foster relationships.
“If we agree that leadership is influence, and you say, ‘OK, well what makes us special or different or unique,’ I think there’s probably not one single thing that would make me different or unique, other than the fact that an internal leadership move like we’ve made does reinforce, hopefully, the relationships that are existing and gives us a chance to build a great foundation.
“I feel like Cushman has given me a great runway to come alongside our people and our clients and make a run at it.”