by Christine Perez
Our August edition of 1-on-1 pairs up two seasoned pros: Capital Markets guru Beth Lambert and Office Tenant Rep leader Mike Wyatt. They first met in the early 1990s—and there’s an interesting story behind that—but it was the merger of Cushman & Wakefield and DTZ that brought them together as co-workers. They learn some surprising things about one another in this no-holds-barred interview, which runs the gamut from swimming with the sharks and beating cancer to the evolution of their careers and what’s ahead.
An Executive Managing Director, Lambert has more than 26 years of real estate investment banking and capital advisory experience. Investors trust her to guide their office, multifamily, retail, hotel, and industrial acquisitions, dispositions, and financings. Prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield predecessor Cassidy Turley in 2012, Lambert was Managing Principal of Vision Capital Real Estate. Before that she was a Director at Archon Group/Goldman Sachs, where she oversaw $14 billion in assets. She began her career at Pacific Rim Partners USA Inc. A former national president of CREW, Lambert continues to be actively involved in that organization and in The Real Estate Council and others. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Louisiana Tech University.
Wyatt, Executive Managing Director, began his career at Cushman & Wakefield in 1988. Throughout his career, he has successfully represented more than 1,000 clients, from enterprise users to law firms and entrepreneurs, on a regional, national, and international basis. His depth of experience allows him to guide in the most complex lease negotiations, asset dispositions, and sale-leaseback transactions. His professional performance and avid participation in civic and philanthropic endeavors have earned him numerous accolades, including the prestigious Stemmons Service Award. Wyatt earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington & Lee University and an MBA from the University of Dallas.
BETH LAMBERT: Well, Mike, we’ve known each other for a long time.
MIKE WYATT: We have. I got my start in commercial real estate in the 1980s and I know you did, too. How did you get into the business?
LAMBERT: It was a fluke. When I graduated from Louisiana Tech in 1986, the economy wasn’t doing very well. So, I loaded up my car and drove to Texas. I had a marketing and merchandising background, and I signed up with every temp agency in the city. I ended up landing an assignment at Lehndorff, a German pension fund, which is now L&B. I became a ringer on their softball team, so they wanted to keep me around. I began rotating from department to department and finally ended up in asset management.
WYATT: If I’m remembering correctly, we met in Arlington in the early 1990s.
LAMBERT: That’s right. One of the divisions of Lehndorff had spun off, and that’s where we met, at a group called Pacific Partners USA. The spinoff was what launched my career; my first deal was a portfolio of office buildings in Arlington.
WYATT: And, of course, you did not give me the leasing assignment. I guess you thought I was a hustler.
LAMBERT: Well, I hope you’ve forgiven me. You can’t hold grudges after all these years, right?
WYATT: Oh, I forgave you a long time ago. What’s funny is earlier this year, Bill McClung and Barrett Jones and I represented L&B in a 25,000-square-foot lease at Mockingbird Station, so things have come full circle.
LAMBERT: A lot of the guys I once worked with are still there. … So, how did you get into real estate?
WYATT: After college, I began attending law school in New Orleans. But within six weeks, Ifigured out that I didn’t like New Orleans and I didn’t like law. So, I ended up moving to Dallas and got into the real estate game at a company called Kelly Lundeen. They gave me the most coveted submarket in town: East LBJ Freeway. I didn’t have a background in real estate or finance. If you wanted to know about Napoleon or anything involving American history or Beowulf, I was your guy. But, I was fortunate to get a job. Things started out hot, then went cold for seven years. The best decision I ever made was joining Cushman & Wakefield in 1988. It will be 29 years in October.
LAMBERT: You mentioned your background in history; I recently finished an interview where I was asked to name a historical figure I would most want to be. Can you guess who I picked?
WYATT: A historical figure … can I ask which century?
LAMBERT: Oh, it’s well into the 20th century; it’s not Joan of Arc.
WYATT: Well, with your beauty and your intelligence and your grace, wit, and determination, I would say a young Margaret Thatcher.
LAMBERT: Oh. I like that. But I chose Eleanor Roosevelt.
WYATT: That’s an interesting choice.
LAMBERT: I picked her because she was a strong woman who took an active role in many important things. One of my favorite books is one that she wrote when she was 76 years old. It’s called You Learn by Living, and it’s all about how to live a simple, practical life, and doing the right thing, and to never stop learning.
WYATT: Well, I see a little Maggie Thatcher in you, too. Was this interview part of the award you recently won? I understand you’re receiving a Women in Business Award from the Dallas Business Journal. Congratulations!
LAMBERT: Thanks, Mike. It’s a real honor.
WYATT: From when we started in the business, it seems like the gender barriers have really come down. It’s a real testament to you and other women pioneers who have helped pave the way. Back in the early days, there was a lot of talent that was overlooked.
LAMBERT: It wasn’t without its challenges, but I think it takes people like you, Mike, who recognize that diversity of opinion and having different voices at the table is important. Companies today are so diverse; if we’re not listening to all voices, that’s a real detriment.
WYATT: The only things I get recognized for today are things for those who are over the hill.
LAMBERT: Yeah. I’m now checking that demographics box that’s pretty far down on the list.
WYATT: I just turned 55, double nickels. I stayed under the speed limit the whole day. But double-five can be good, like 55-proof bourbon. But, yes, it creeps up on us fast.
LAMBERT: Well, I don’t have a list of all your accolades here, but I do know that you’ve accomplished an awful lot, including winning the Stemmons Award. And one of your most recent awards was presented by CoreNet.
WYATT: That’s right. CoreNet, the global association for end-users, presented me with the CRE Professional Excellence award. It was an unexpected honor, but it’s always very rewarding when your peers see you in that light. It has been more than 10 years since I won the Stemmons Award, but that certainly was a high-water mark. But, anything that was done yesterday doesn’t matter. Moving forward, I’m just working on trying to survive Soul Cycle and win that award for doing 40 rides in 50 days.
LAMBERT: Being in real estate, as competitive as it is, and to still be driven to succeed at Soul Cycle or whatever activity it is, sets folks in our business apart. That quest for success is very important to me, too.
WYATT: Well, you and I share a number of things. And one of those is surviving cancer. Your story started in 1990, and I was just after that, in 1994. Cancer survivors have a different outlook, don’t you think? How has surviving cancer affected you?
LAMBERT: Well, it’s going to sound odd, but I believe I was lucky to have cancer early. As a young person trying to figure out I was and what my purpose was, having cancer made me sit back and really focus on what my priorities were. I was just 26 years old. A lot of times and look back and wonder if I may have been less focused and less driven if I hadn’t experienced that awakening. Having the support of family and friends meant a great deal. But all I knew at that time was to fight with everything I had, because I wanted to live. It pushes you, it stretches you, in all kinds of ways. … How about you?
WYATT: I agree. Obviously, there were some very dark times. When you hear the c-word, you instantly think “death.” My oncologist he gave me an article from the 1970s and it was about Brian Piccolo, a pro football player who passed away from testicular cancer. I remember looking at it and thinking, “really?” But through the experience, I not only discovered more about myself, I also learned a great deal about my friends and family and how much they matter. It brought a new perspective. I still work too much. I wish I could find a bit more balance. But during that time, one of the things I worked on was a bucket list. I have a list of more than 100 things that I want to do before I pass away, and I’m about halfway through it. I heard you recently swam with walruses in Mexico. Was that on your bucket list?
LAMBERT: They were sea lions.
WYATT: I don’t know the difference.
LAMBERT: You know, I don’t know if I could tell you the difference either. It’s funny about the bucket list. When I was going through treatment, I did come up with a list of must-do’s. So, I went up in a hot-air balloon, and I jumped out of a plane …
WYATT: High-five. I jumped out of a plane, too.
LAMBERT: Once was enough for me. But I went swimming in the ocean and learned to surf, and I swam with the sharks.
WYATT: Me, too.
LAMBERT: Most of the items on my list were activity-oriented, but it also was a 26-year-old brain that put the list together. As time went on, I pushed the list aside. Now that you’re bringing it up, I think I may need to revive it. Because I think we tend to get caught up in the day-to-day and keeping your head above water. I have a 12-year-old son, and he keeps me super busy. But maybe I can incorporate him into some of those things, too.
WYATT: So, your bucket list seems to involve some travel.
LAMBERT: I do love to travel.
WYATT: Me, too. The first thing on my bucket list was to go to Machu Picchu in Peru. It took my wife, Piper, and I 20 years to realize that dream. It was No. 1 on my list and it took until 2014. But there are other things on the list that are pretty basic, like milking a cow.
LAMBERT: I grew up on a farm, so that one got checked off the list pretty quick. What else have you done?
WYATT: I’ve been to Pamplona, although I didn’t run with the bulls. I’ve been on an African safari, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, ran the New York Marathon twice and the Boston Marathon, I bungee-jumped. There I many things I still want to do; I just want to drink up life! I think it goes back to the survivorship. And I’ll tell you what really helped heal me was creating an outreach program. There wasn’t a lot of information on male cancers when I was going through it. I created, and ran for 16 years, a group called Team Nuts. We supported the American Cancer Society then we went to Lance Armstrong and raised $1.5 million for that. It was very gratifying, and I still hear from people who are going through cancer themselves.
LAMBERT: That’s terrific, Mike. So, I have a wonderful mini Australian Shepherd; I heard you’re a fan of armadillos.
WYATT: I do like armadillos, but I also like dogs. One of my pet projects was to raise money and sponsor the fire hydrant at Klyde Warren Park. We had to paint it green, due to the color requirements of the park. My dog ran away from it, so a little chiweenie dog christened it instead. … The armadillos you’re referring to, I’m guessing, are the Urban Armadillos, a group I co-founded back in 2012. Our goal was to create the first urban walking trail in Dallas. I worked with Robbie Baty’s wife, Skyler, and long story short, we’ve gone from one to two to more than 400 members now. We have an app called Pegasus Urban Trails. It’s a self-guided tour with 85 points of interest, historical, architectural, and pop culture, all in our urban area. I’ve got other endeavors, like the Carpe Diem Trinity River Classic. We’d love for you to join us. You can now go from Trammell Crow Park and float under the two bridges and pull out on the other side, where I just learned Matthews Southwest is going to create a water park.
LAMBERT: Well, that would be a first for me, getting into the Trinity.
WYATT: You don’t want to be baptized in it, just travel down it in a canoe.
LAMBERT: I’ve biked along the trails there, and they’re great.
WYATT: Compared to the city we launched our careers in, where we are today, in terms of the green spaces and the bike trails and other outdoor amenities, it’s just lovely. We’re finally getting it right. … So, I have to ask: Do you eat crawfish?
LAMBERT: Of course I do. You do not want to be standing next to me at a crawfish boil. I grew up eating crawfish.
WYATT: Where was that?
LAMBERT: A little town called Jonesville; it’s in central Louisiana.
WYATT: Is that where you got that tattoo on your foot?
LAMBERT: The only tattoo you’re seeing is a scar from sliding into third base. My mother would disown me.
WYATT: I take it you were quite the athlete growing up.
LAMBERT: Oh, yes. I played everything a girl could play. Baseball, flag football, volleyball, soccer, I ran track, played tennis, basketball, I was a rock climber.
WYATT: Did you play sports in college?
LAMBERT: No, I was a cheerleader, so I didn’t play organized sports. But I did growing up. I started playing baseball when I was 6 years old. When I was 10, they made me switch to softball. The boys didn’t like it that I was hitting the balls into the pea patch, so I had to go play slow-pitch.
WYATT: Sounds like you were quite the tomboy.
LAMBERT: I was. I grew up riding motorcycles barefoot, riding horses bareback, and climbing trees and jumping off stuff. I was a little bit of an adrenaline junky.
WYATT: What’s your favorite sport now?
LAMBERT: To play? I still love sand volleyball. I played on the California coast for a while, three levels down from the pros, like the farm team of the farm team. I love everything about it. … OK. Let’s switch things up and talk a little business. I’m curious to know, Mike, what do you love most about the real estate business? What has kept you in it all this time?
WYATT: The biggest motivation is working every day for clients; I love to serve and work alongside them. I also just love the real estate business. Each day brings new opportunities and new challenges to come up with solutions for clients. I love the people aspect of the job. Negotiating real estate leases, selling buildings is all a part of what we do. But it’s actually working with those clients and personalities and being there and knowing that there is a relationship. We meet so many different people from different industries. It’s always challenging to come up with solutions. Enterprise users have different criteria than a data center user or law firm. It’s very rewarding when you help clients with something that’s going to help support the growth and success of their companies.
On top of all that, I love to mentor, and I take a lot of pride in working with our young people, just as my mentors helped me when I was getting started. Quite honestly, I would not be as successful if it weren’t for Cushman & Wakefield and the people I’ve met here and have partnered with. Cushman & Wakefield pushed me to new heights. The depth and breadth of resources has allowed me to work with clients all over the world. Business is fantastic. We have dynamic people and dynamic leaders—people who are doers. They don’t sit around and wait for things to happen. They make things happen. … What about you?
LAMBERT: Well, I agree with you about the people element. It’s always fascinating to discover who they are and what makes them tick. And you can apply that to companies, too. I think my favorite part of the business, especially in more recent years, is being able to help emerging businesses achieve that next level. It’s using all the tools in my toolkit and saying, “If this were my company, here is what I would do,” and then helping them by executing in different ways. My role is much like yours when it comes to problem-solving. It’s the strategic part of what we do. It’s stepping back and looking at an opportunity and saying, “We’re here and we need to be there, so how do we get there?” Knowing where you want to go is hugely important, and I love the “figuring it out” piece. We’ve signed thousands of leases, sold or financed thousands of properties worth billions of dollars; it’s not so much that you need to check those boxes off any longer. It’s about figuring things out and allowing others, as you’re mentoring them, to do the same thing.
The other piece of it is, I’m a consummate learner. My mom was an educator, and I love learning something new. As our industry evolves, it becomes even more interesting. We go back to when there were only four food groups, and now there’s so much more. And when you work with a global company like Cushman & Wakefield, there are so many opportunities. After the merger, one of the things I’ve been most excited about is the chance to work with tenant reps and other professionals to see how we can help one another. Real estate overlaps in so many ways, whether it’s relationships or projects or track records. Being part of Cushman & Wakefield has offered more ways for me to expand my business. I grew up with Goldman Sachs/Archon, another international company, and going back to something like that has been very exciting. I see opportunities at every turn, working with people who have integrity, who are street-smart and have great resumes and records and who want to do the right thing.
WYATT: And we get to do it in the newest, nicest-designed space in the entire city. It’s a great environment to come to every day. It’s not tired. It just evokes thought leadership and creativity. I believe that Cushman & Wakefield is well-positioned for a bright future. We have great leadership and we have a lot of young talent who will be able to continue this legacy of stature and success. It’s an exciting time to be in the business, and it’s an exciting time to be at Cushman & Wakefield. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, and I’m glad you’re here.
LAMBERT: I’m glad you’re here, too, Mike. It has been great talking with you.