Commercial Real Estate

Meet the Finalists: Young Professionals From C&W, Strive, SRS Real Estate, HPI, Holt Lunsford Commercial, CBRE, and Woodbine Development 

Seven emerging leaders share their thoughts on career strategies, mentors, how they aim to influence change, and what has them most excited about the future. 

On April 28D CEO will reveal the winners of its 2021 Commercial Real Estate Awards program. Leading up to the big event, we’re featuring all 83 finalists (51 projects and deals and 32 professionals), one category at a time. Today, we’re sharing excerpts from interviews with seven honorees in the Emerging CRE Professional category. 

Robbie Baty 

Cushman & Wakefield 

WHY REAL ESTATE: I was a junior Rhodes College in Memphis and bumped into an alum at an event. He asked me if I was interested in interviewing for an internship and I ended up working for him at Trammell Crow Coin Memphis that summer. I always wanted to be in a sales role, and after a summer of coldcalling tenants, I was hookedand knew I was going to be a tenant representative. 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: I most enjoy the relationships I develop with my clients and the impact we have on their companies. In our role as tenant representatives, we are able to have a meaningful impact on the culture of our clients organizations by helping them secure their office space where they interact with each other daily. Through the process, we develop close relationships with our clients and become very invested in ensuring they are successful. 

MY MENTOR: Bill McClung at Cushman & Wakefield hired me out of college and gave me the opportunity to get in the business in Dallas. He took a chance on me, and took a personal interest in making sure I was successful. 

2020 ACHIEVEMENTS: I am most proud of helping our clients through a challenging year. Whether it was securing abated rent during the first months of the pandemic, restructuring their leases to help them get immediate relief, or assisting them with how to reenter the office, helping our clients solve their problems is what I am most proud of from 2020. 

LOOKING AHEAD: “We are entering a new golden age in DFW. The region is experiencing growth and will continue to grow over the next 20 years unlike anything in recent history. In my new role leading the C&W Dallas office tenant representation group, I am most excited to help our team seize the opportunities in front of us. 

Adam Gottschalk 

Strive 

WHY REAL ESTATE: I wanted to get into a profession where I could be a strategic partner with property ownerssomeone who property owners can call for guidance, advice, and market knowledge. Every day is so different, and I truly enjoy that. There is nothing I like more than helping others achieve their financial goals through real estate. 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: I enjoy the hustle, late nights working, working weekends, driving (and flying) the whole state of Texas, and calling on owners from all over the country.   

MY MENTORS: I have two amazing mentors that I look up to. They have both paved a great path for me to be the best version of myself. They are Jason Vitorino and Jennifer Pierson, both of whom continue to have terrific careers and reputations in our business. 

 2020 ACHIEVEMENTS: I think about the benchmarks Strive has continued to attain. 2020 was a very strange and unprecedented year for us all. We sat down as a firm right after our economy shut down to discuss how we can help our clients through the pandemic. We all put our heads down and saw this as an opportunity, not a setback. We knew that was a crutch that property owners could lean onand we did just that. We shared helpful insights across our client base to make everyone feel like a community and that we were all in this together. In the end, we had our best year as a firmclosing 77 properties totaling almost $300 million in total consideration. 

LOOKING AHEAD: “I am most excited about the impact young brokers will have in the business. I became obsessed with my career and learning so much, and I know the next wave of brokers will do the same. I am very bullish on Texas and believe those who invest in this state will enjoy a ride for many years to come. I cannot wait to see our growth take place over the next 20 years! 

Ryan Johnson 

SRS Real Estate Partners 

WHY REAL ESTATE: Problemsolving and building relationships have always been passions of mine, and as I got exposure to the retail industry in internships during college, I knew retail real estate brokerage would give me continuous opportunities to pursue both of those passions.  After studying economics and finance in college with the intent to go into investment banking in New York, a number of motivating factors drew me back to Dallaswhere the greatest opportunities were all in real estate.  After my summer internship with Trammell Crow’s retail group, I knew this would be a great line of work that fit my personality and skill set. 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: “I love digging into our clients’ businesses and understanding what makes them work and what makes them profitable. I love the process of translating that business anatomy into making sound and strategic real estate decisions. None of that is possible without building and strengthening the relationships with the people who make those real estate decisions. It also requires surrounding yourself with teams of people who complement your skills to provide all of the tools and services that our clients need to make those decisions.  

MY MENTORS: “My older brother, Russ Johnson, and my partner, Mark Reeder. Russ and I went to Vanderbilt together, and part of the reason I interned at Trammell Crow before my senior year was that he was on their office leasing team. Although we are in different segments of commercial brokerage today, there were lessons and wisdom that he taught me that helped shape me as a professional and are applicable to all segments of the industry. Mark was a senior broker at my first job with Staubach Retail Services in 2004, and for a number of reasons, we always seemed to work well together and complement each other. As he brought me along to work on a number of large national accounts, I gained invaluable knowledge, experience, relationships, and opportunities to improve myself. We’ve been partners running the Dallas SRS office for several years nowand I learn more and more every year we work together.    

2020 ACHIEVEMENTS: “The retail industry is going through more changes than I’ve ever seen in my career, but in many ways it is similar to the great recession of 2009. Although many retailers are dying and going through bankruptcy, many are thriving. So, whether a business is contracting or expanding during a recession or a pandemic, there are numerous opportunities if you know how to identify them. … I was able to focus in 2020 as much of my time and energy to help service clients who were active both expanding and contracting. A lesson I learned from the great recession was to stay active, present, connected, and visible. COVID made 2020 more difficult than ever to do those things, but I felt at the same time I was able to navigate the crazy circumstances and make the most of it. 

LOOKING AHEAD: Retail is going to continue to evolve, and that is going to create significant new opportunities and problems to solve. They won’t necessarily be the same opportunities or problems as today, but I feel we are well-positioned to adapt and execute as those changes come. 

Hunter Lee 

HPI 

WHY REAL ESTATE: “I fell into real estate somewhat on accident. I planned out of college to work on the fulltime staff at a summer camp. I connected with Burson Holman of Granite Properties, who was at CBRE at the time. His group had an opening for analyst position, and after what seemed like 15 interviews later, I was hired. I am one of the lucky few whose first job ended up being my career. 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: “I am a big extrovert, so the interactions with people are everything to me. I am a part of a great team, and working with others and watching them excel at what they do is extremely gratifying. I also like to compete, so I enjoy the fact that there are wins and losses in our business. 

MY MENTORS: “I’m fortunate to have severalbut two immediately come to mind. First, my dad, because he is an incredible listener and always tries to offer simple solutions rather than complicate things. The second is my wife, Tayler, who also works in commercial real estate and is my part-time shrink. It seems I come up with favorable results after I bounce my issues and ideas off of her.  

2020 ACHIEVEMENTS: “We were fortunate to grow our business pretty significantly through 2020, but the best part of that was adding 15 full-time employees to our firm in Dallas over the course of the year. Watching our team not only grow in number, but also in talent and expertise has been really rewarding.  

LOOKING AHEAD: “I am excited to live in Dallas. I believe all of the events that have transpired over the past year will further shine a spotlight on the desirability of our region, and we are eager to be a part of it and capitalize on it. 

Holden Lunsford 

Holt Lunsford Commercial 

WHY REAL ESTATE: Out of college, I originally wanted to get into the investment banking business, but several mentors encouraged me to pursue a real estate investment banking job with HFF. I developed a passion for real estate and the brokerage business and formed three career goals: continue to work in a brokerage role, learn to run a business, and to own real estate.  There are few places that you can accomplish all three, and my father suggested that I start an office leasing and property management business within his company, Holt Lunsford Commercial. I took the job, which allowed me to actively pursue my goals, and I have felt blessed every day to do my dream job.   

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: I get a lot of energy and joy from helping people pursue their goals, working with friends, and competing for a living.   

MY MENTORS: My father, Holt Lunsford, is certainly my mentor and best friend. Jeff Swope, Trey Morsbach, and Mark Gibson have been very generous mentors to me, too.” 

2020 ACHIEVEMENTS: In 2020, we kept our team together and made significant personnel investments. We started a tenant representation group in Dallas, an office leasing and management team in Houston, we doubled the size of our leasing analyst program, and we formed new internal committees. Highfunctioning, results-driven teams are a key tenet of our company culture, and the collaboration of our teams this year has changed our organization very quickly. 

LOOKING AHEAD: “I’m excited about growth—personal growth of each of our teammates, growth of our teams themselves, and ultimately new opportunities to take on, whether in our existing or new service lines or geographic markets. It is such a privilege to be a part of a growth-oriented team.  

Jackie Marshall 

CBRE 

WHY REAL ESTATE: I learned about the business at a young age from watching father, Jack Frakerbuild an incredible career in industrial real estate Growing up, I overheard countless conference calls and toured many warehouses. It was always exciting, seeing how deals came together and the role that real estate played in building businesses and communities. My first real job opportunity was a marketing internship at Stream Realty Partners, which focused on the office leasing sector. got a glimpse into the world of an office leasing agent, and I was instantly hooked.   

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: “I love that every day is different with new challenges. It is never boring. What excites me most is getting to see a new building or redevelopment project near completion and start to resonate with the market. I also love getting to participate in multiple parts of a transaction; from architecture to legal and everything in between, there is always something new to learn. 

MY MENTORS: “I have had the opportunity to work for CBRE in Atlanta, New York and Dallas and am so fortunate to have found mentors all along the way in those different markets. I have felt especially supported by Eric Ross (CBRE, Atlanta), Paul Amrich, Patrice Meagher and Neil King (CBRE, New York City), and Burson Holman, Celeste Fowden , and Chris Hipps in Dallas. 

2020 ACHIEVEMENTS: “This past year was a big year for me personally, with the birth of my daughter, Lara, in February. It was a challenge to come back from maternity leave at the height of the pandemic confusion, but I am proud of the way I adjusted to new motherhood and the new reality of our industry all at once. 

LOOKING AHEAD: “This is a time of enormous transformation for the industry, and office space utility will undoubtedly change as a result of the pandemic. Many trends are going to be accelerated by the adaptations we were all forced to make over the past year. However, I believe that there will always be a need for a place to meet, collaborate, and work efficiently. It will be exciting to see the new ways we do that. I am challenging myself to rethink the ways I market my portfolio amidst the competition and meet the evolving needs of tenants in the current environment.  

Dupree Scovell 

Woodbine  

WHY REAL ESTATE: Growing up, commercial real estate was really all that I knew. The Dallas commercial real estate community is a small one, and it felt like every deep family connection was in the business as well. In fact, coming out of college, I was not sure what other industries there were. I asked my father for five names and specifically asked him not to call anyone. As much as possible, I wanted to carve the road on my own without him making calls on my behalf. Plus, that way, he could not be blamed for what a terrible first-year employee I was! 

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT: “We are largely invested in the hospitality space and get to touch every part of the deal, including sourcing deals, creating complex financial structures, negotiating with counter-parties, developing and executing repositioning strategies for broken existing assets, working with architects and other consultants to design hotels. However, these tasks, while all incredibly unique, are a means to an end. Our purpose is to “create an enduring company with great people.” Therefore, whether we are developing hotels, office buildings, or widgets, my brother and I (he is a co-managing partner with me) find purpose in building a business that will survive multiple generations and support our teammates and their families.  This is the DNA of hospitality—treating others the way you want to be treated. I suppose that is why we enjoy that side of the business so much.” 

MY MENTORS: There are several in our business that have mentored me. When I was at Trammell Crow, Mike Lafitte, Bob Sulentic, Denton Walker, and Mark Fewin were important guides for me. But civically, an area where I have really focused, guys like Tom Leppert, Ron Kirk, and others have really pushed me to get involved in our city. 

2020 ACHIEVEMENTS: This has been the worst year in the history of the hospitality business (literally, ever). However, in times of crisis, you evolve and improve, or you are likely going to become irrelevant. Woodbine has pivoted and started three different ventures in the midst of the pandemic. We have weathered this storm better than most of our peers, and that is because we have an incredible team of people who locked arms, made huge sacrifices (including pay cuts and working much longer hours) to get to the other side. That type of commitment and loyalty is not something we take lightly. However, the most important milestone was that my brother and I acquired the business from my father. This is not something we set out to do when we joined the business, but it was very important for us to do this when the time was right. For many reasons, after six years of strategic planning, we were able to execute the purchase this year. Now, we are just hoping we don’t screw it up!   

LOOKING AHEAD: “We are diversifying in a dozen ways. The most important evolution is more investment focus on industrial , office, and multifamily. In many ways, this is going back to our roots (before we became exclusively focused on hospitality). Of course, this is a result of the crisis forcing us to adapt. However, the business side is probably not where my heart would answer; it is the social side. To see a racial awakening and for me to be in a position to be able to influence change (even if in the smallest of ways) is what really inspires me. I believe many of the changes today that companies and individuals are making will be the turning point for our industry that we look back on many years from now with the understanding for how important this moment is. 

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