Commercial Real Estate isn’t an industry that just anyone can step into.

It takes a thick skin, and a knack for communication and sometimes even the professionals have things they would have done differently at the beginning of their careers.
If you’re in the industry long enough, you learn lessons and recognize trends that are helpful to those just starting their commercial real estate career, so we turned to the experts for advice.


For this piece, we talked to Jim Olsen, an Associate Broker at Signature Associates. Jim has been an attorney since 1979 and in commercial real estate since 1999. With experience selling all types of commercial properties, Jim has experienced the ups and down of the business and offered his insight for those looking to start a career in commercial real estate.


Q: If you had to start your career in commercial real estate over, what would you do differently?

A: “I would have gotten more involved in business organizations, like the Chamber. I was on some boards of some non-profits but I would have been more involved. There’s the chance for more networking. You get to meet the people that have their name on the properties, and you get your name out there sooner.”


Q: What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

A: “Always find the decision-maker and that’s who you go for. If you’re going for a listing, you want to find out who makes that decision on whether to list…or buy. You need the decision-maker to be able to do the deal.”


Q: What advice do you wish you’d gotten?

A: “Don’t concentrate so much on pleasing everyone. I get caught up in pleasing everyone, and I get bogged down by little deals. Sometimes you just have to give up. Sometimes you just can’t make a deal happen, and you have to be able to recognize that. Otherwise, you’re spinning your wheels and wasting time.”


Q: What’s one thing people should ask themselves before getting into commercial real estate?

A: Ask yourself if you can work for yourself because you are your own boss. You’ve got to motivate and organize yourself. Can you function that way? Some people function better going in and punching a clock and completing a list of tasks someone else gave them. Here, you’ve got to do it yourself.”


Q: Which areas of expertise would you devote more time to?

A: For me, it would be construction and how buildings are built; mechanical systems, power. But I bet that will vary for everyone. Within the industry, I would spend more time learning about investments and return on investments.”


Q: Where do you feel is most important to focus your attention? Prospecting? Networking? Negotiations?

A: Probably prospecting which is actually networking also. Negotiations come after you’ve been prospecting. You’ve got to fill your plate up with deals. You’ve got to have four or five or six deals in the hopper all at different stages. Some will be close to closing, and some will be just looking. You always have to be prospecting.”


Jim ends the interview by pointing out what a great business commercial real estate can be. “It doesn’t take much money to get into because your inventory is already out there and it can be easy to get licensed. You have flexible hours and can even work part-time. It’s just a really great business.”