10 Factors For Determining the Best CRE Firm for You

Rod Santomassimo
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Independent vs nationally-affiliated? Start your own company vs. join an established boutique? Be part of the Big 5 (CBRE, Colliers, JLL, CushWake and Newmark) or work with the dozen or more other national licensees, affiliates and/or franchisees?

The answer to where the best place is for you to work really comes down to 10 factors:

1. Your personal business plan – Where do you see yourself in 5 years? If you are just starting out, it may be best working with a strong mentor or a firm with a solid training program. If you are a seasoned veteran, you may be looking at an exit strategy – which brings us to point #2.

2. Your Financial Plan – It depends on where you are in your career and your personal financial goals. Variables such as draws, commission splits, benefits, profit sharing, etc. all have to be considered – and the range is wide with both independent and national firms.

3. Your exit strategy – Likely you are a seasoned veteran considering your “Lighthouse”. What does this look like and how will I get there? Is it simply retirement? In that case, either an independent or national firm would work for you. Or is it something more, are you looking to sell your business and/or account relationships? Being an independent may provide you with more assets to offer than being affiliated with a national firm – and thus increase your asset’s overall value.

4. Your geographical market – Are you focusing on a major market, a secondary market, or a tertiary market? Having a national presence and reach may not persuade a local mom and pop owner to list their asset with you, as much as having been raised in the market and understanding the market better than anyone else.

5. Your target market – If you are pursuing national tenants or large investment owners, it is more than likely your prospects will focus on your team and resources to support their accounts. If you are working with local owners/users, this may not be as much of a factor.

6. Your/Their Relationships – Do you have the relationships needed to win your targeted assignments? The Big 5 firms certainly have these relationships (as do a few select independents). More and more the Big 5 are as focused on servicing accounts, as they are on winning business. If your desire is to work with major organizations from day one, then getting on a team with a national is your best bet. If you have strong relationships, then you may have the leverage to hang your own flag (or sell your services to the highest bidder) – which seems to be a major trend as of late.

7. Your/Their Technical resources – Does your target audience value technology? If so, than you need to align yourself with the best technological platform in your market. The best part of technology is that anyone can buy it. The only issue is that if you are the independent, it is you that is buying it directly – and if you are with a national, it is you buying it through your commission split arrangement.

8. Your/Their Financial resources – Speaking of buying technology – operating a commercial real estate company is expensive. Either you are giving away half your fee for the platforms you are leveraging, or you are personally writing a check for each and every element of your platform.

9. Your/Their Personnel resources – This was a much bigger issue in the past. National firms would provide their producers with admin support, marketing, and research. Today, even a small sole-practitioner can access these resources through out-sourcing.

10. Your Experience Level – The needs of a new to business professional are vastly different than that of a mid-career or seasoned veteran. Initial training evolves to personal coaching, and eventually to strategic guidance and/or consulting. Likewise, all previously noted 9 factors will vary based on one’s experience.

Ultimately, the type of firm you align yourself with must provide the support you require to meet the goals you have set for yourself (or your team). Is it a national firm or an independent? During the course of your career this can certainly fluctuate.


Regardless of the firm you work with (never for), it is ultimately up to you to build your own business within the structure of that organization. To learn more about building a profitable, personal brokerage business, please visit www.crecoach.com to schedule a free strategy session with one of our program consultants.

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