Kansas City Women in Commercial Real Estate Summit: Celebrating the strength of the entrepreneurial spirit

Jill McCarthy designed the 2020 Kansas City Women in Commercial Real Estate Summit as a tribute to entrepreneurship. And the event itself? It showed how right McCarthy was.

The December 8th virtual event hosted by Midwest Real Estate News and REjournals featured both emerging and established female CRE professionals in the Kansas City, Missouri commercial real estate market. These women are inspirations: not only have they survived, but they thrived in a business that is still largely male-dominated

McCarthy, executive officer of the Kansas City Area Development Council and keynote speaker at the summit, said the entrepreneurship of these female CRE professionals is far from unusual in the Kansas City area.

“Entrepreneurship is in our DNA,” said McCarthy. “In addition, we are doers. This creative spirit has made Kansas City affect the world in many industries. Check out what we’ve achieved in animal science, healthcare, navigation, marketing and design, and real estate. Check out how professional our real estate partners and professionals are. “

McCarthy pointed to the panelists at the December 8th summit as an example of this professionalism. She said that the young female CRE professionals rising through the ranks show drive and determination every day. They show steadfastness, creativity and promise, she said.

McCarthy also praised the seasoned female commercial real estate professionals who also spoke at the summit.

“They tore down barriers and set the table for everyone behind them,” said McCarthy. “There is so much promise from both ends of the spectrum.”

The first panel of the event highlighted this promise. The Emerging Women in Real Estate panel featured some of the younger and most promising female commercial real estate professionals operating in the Kansas City market. The panel, moderated by Jayme Miller, Commercial Broker at Beyond Brokerage, consisted of Anné Erickson, Senior Associate at JLL; McKenzie Swank, sales director at Multifamily Utility Company; and Molly Crawford Munninghoff, vice president of brokerage at Copaken Brooks.

Munninghoff said anyone who wants to build a career in commercial real estate – male or female – needs to be patient.

“It’s important to know that it takes time to build a career,” said Munninghoff. “You have to be patient. It takes time to build relationships with clients and build your ledger. It doesn’t happen overnight. This is important for everyone to know. No matter how hard you work, success doesn’t happen overnight. You need hard work, drive and patience. “

Erickson agreed, adding that those interested in commercial real estate shouldn’t use a weak economy – like the one now hitting the United States – as an excuse not to get into the business. Hard workers can thrive in any economy, Erickson said.

Erickson points to the great recession in 2008 and 2009. This would have been a good time for people to begin their careers in commercial real estate, even given the struggles the US economy was facing at the time.

“At the time, I thought 2009 would have been a terrible time to get into the brokerage industry,” said Erickson. “Looking back, I think that was a flawed perspective. It takes time to get your career to where you want it to be in any economy. I think 2009 would have been a great time to learn how to hack commercial real estate. You won’t make a lot of money early in your career no matter what the economy does. If you can learn to hack it in a rundown market, if you can learn how to be successful when the economy is in trouble, you can set yourself up for a strong career. “

Erickson’s advice to those interested in CRE today?

“This is not a bad time to get into commercial real estate,” she said.

Munningham said no one gets into the commercial real estate business as a fully trained professional. She likened it to entering college as a freshman and graduating as a senior: you know so much more as a senior than as a freshman. The same applies to commercial real estate.

“You have to be there these four years,” said Munningham. “This business is all about experience, business and working with customers. I’ve always kept this advice in mind. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to allow yourself to grow and develop in this business. “

Swank said the multi-family business, the space she works in, is different from other commercial sectors. It is more difficult for newcomers to enter this sector at the broker level. It is helpful to be familiar with managing multi-family assets. Otherwise, it’s difficult to understand the market from a sales perspective.

That’s because apartment buildings aren’t just buildings, Swank said. They are full of people.

“You will only be successful in the multi-family space if you maintain this large piece of the puzzle,” said Swank.

Swank said that women in the multi-family sector often excel because of one special talent they have: the ability to multitask.

“We can multitask so easily. We do this without thinking about it, ”said Swank. “We can get the ROI and the cap rate and get the numbers for our investors. But we don’t forget that real people live in these qualities. We know that these people want to live in these buildings, they have to enjoy living there. Word of mouth and positive online reviews are everything. You can sink a ship so quickly. Sometimes our male colleagues forget this part of it, this empathy that we naturally have as women. This has a huge impact on the multi-family industry. “

It’s impossible to talk about women in commercial real estate without recognizing that the industry is still largely men. Panelists were therefore asked if they had any challenges building their business in this male-dominated space.

Erickson said she has long worked in careers that are male dominated. Before joining JLL, she worked in investment research in Egypt. That brought her to both a business world and a culture that was heavily male dominated.

“Have I ever lost business because a CEO hired someone who was more like him? Yes, ”said Erickson. “But do I believe that companies understand and learn and value diversity and inclusion? Yes. That happens more every day. Today I see being a woman as an advantage in this career. When you look at the variety that comes down the pipeline, there is a great opportunity for these different brokers on the other hand. “

Swank said women trying to make careers in this business could benefit from mentors’ help.

“Diversity and inclusion are very important to me,” said Swank. “We need to make sure that we are the person who welcomes young brokers. Young brokers need to realize that they shouldn’t listen to people who doubt them. And we need to make sure that we are all doing our part to welcome women and people from different backgrounds. We have to become the people who will accept this. “