By Christine Perez
Cushman & Wakefield’s popular 1-on-1 interview series continues with two tenant representatives: industrial specialist David Eseke and office pro Steve Wentz. They talk about some of their memorable career experiences, why they’re excited about the future, and their struggles with meat sweats.
Eseke, who serves as director, joined the former Cassidy Turley in November 2011. He has since represented clients in deals totaling more than 5.5 million square feet, including notable transactions in other major U.S. markets. He earned a BA degree in business and economics at Wheaton College, where he played varsity basketball for four years.
Wentz, who also serves as director, joined Cushman & Wakefield in 2006, after beginning his career in 1999 at Insignia ESG, which later merged with CBRE. He has completed significant assignments for a number of top tenants, ranging from Bank of Texas and Coca-Cola to DaimlerChrysler and International Paper. He earned a BBA degree in marketing from the University of North Texas.
STEVE WENTZ: Let’s start with introductions. Out of Wheaton College, 6-ft. 4-in. power forward, David Eseke!
DAVID ESEKE: That’s me. … And about 6 ft., 1-in., out the University of North Texas, coming to you as the starting shooting guard for Cushman & Wakefield’s office tenant representation group, Mr. Steve Wentz!
WENTZ: You’re way too kind. I’m nowhere near 6 ft., 1-in., but thank you for saying that.
ESEKE: You look it in your snazzy shoes. I imagine you as number 31. A little Reggie Miller.
WENTZ: I really like the 1s, because they’re slimming, but I’d take 31. … So let’s get started with this interview. As Adam Ant once sang, “You don’t drink, you don’t smoke, so what do you do?”
ESEKE: I think my big vice would be sweets. I’m a sucker for donuts. I seem to think the metabolism I had in college is the same one I have now, which is not the case. Another thing I love is waking up early on a Saturday morning, while my wife is still slumbering, and watching European soccer games. I’ll get up at 6 a.m. and make a cup of coffee and watch 90 minutes of soccer by myself and enjoy a quiet morning. What about you? What’s a good Saturday morning for Steve?
WENTZ: Well, I’m also an early riser. I’m up at about 4:45 during the work week. On Saturdays, I don’t set an alarm, so I’ll sleep until about 6:30 a.m. I love to just get up and have a cup of coffee and read the paper while everyone else is asleep. It’s really my only alone time. Like you, I don’t smoke, and I’m not much of a drinker, so I usually end up being the “Uber” driver when my wife and I go out with friends. … I’m curious, David, about how you got into real estate.
ESEKE: I think my affinity for sports and my competitive nature drew me to this business. I would have to credit Chris Taylor for helping me understand what the industry involves. As I’m sure a lot of young guys can attest, he has a map that he draws out that goes from property management to the owner-investor side of real estate and all of the brokerage in between. Tenant representation just struck a chord within me as something I’d love to focus on and commit to. With my sports background, I thought if I worked harder and smarter than others, then my outcome should reflect that. I also give a ton of credit to Blake Anderson, who took a flier on me after I moved to Dallas from Utah. He knew I was here mainly for a girl, who is now my wife, so I think he had some assurance that I wasn’t going to go back to Utah or the West Coast. He took a chance on a guy who just wanted to make cold calls.
WENTZ: Blake once told me he loves hiring athletes because they’re exposed to failure so much and always have to overcome it. It’s his belief, and I certainly agree, that if you can overcome failure you can achieve success in commercial real estate. You also mentioned Chris Taylor as a mentor; do tell about the relationship between the two of you.
ESEKE: Well, it’s a little known fact, but Chris is my uncle-in-law. My wife, Morgan, is one of his older brother’s daughters. So I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the extended Taylor clan out in Abilene. “Pop” is a former military guy who lived in the same house for 47 years. They’re a super generous family that has a lot of roots in Louisiana. We had a big family reunion a couple of years ago, and it was my first exposure to that great state and the people down there. It was a lot of fun.
WENTZ: So how did you meet Morgan?
ESEKE: It’s a pretty wild story. I grew up in Santa Barbara, where our family got to know a pastor named Dennis. After I graduated from college, my parents moved to Park City, Utah, in the wake of the great recession. Shortly thereafter, Morgan’s parents moved to Park City while she was finishing up at OU. Before they left, Morgan’s mom called Dennis, who just happens to be one of her cousins. Dennis does work for the church all over the country, so Morgan’s mom asked him for advice on churches to join and people to get to know in Utah. He put her in touch with my family. I met Morgan one day at church when she came to visit. We spent some time together and the romance started from there. I love telling people it was an arranged marriage. And now we have a baby girl due in late September.
WENTZ: That’s a great story.
ESEKE: What about you? How did you get into real estate?
WENTZ: I was selling business presentation equipment back in the mid-1990s, and Randy Cooper asked me if I would be interested in getting into the real estate business. I’m married to his then-sister-in-law (Andrea), whom I met at the University of North Texas. Funny story, but I started by dating her roommate and then gravitated toward Andrea.
ESEKE: You never know how things will turn out. … So what was it about the business that captured your interest?
WENTZ: I could see that my income potential was getting a little capped in the work I was doing, and I saw real estate as an exciting profession.
ESEKE: I love getting advice from guys who are a little farther down the path than me. You’ve been in the business now almost 20 years. I just finished my fifth year. What would you say to someone who feels like he knows the players and the game, to some extent, but is looking to grow as a professional? What would you say to your former self after five years?
WENTZ: My advice would be to not limit yourself on the type of prospects you’re going to chase. There are so many true professionals in this businesses, but the beauty we have here at Cushman & Wakefield—as Ran says, you’re working with all stars. You can walk up and down the hallway and find the right person who can bring a value proposition to any type of pursuit. We have the enterprise here to support it. It’s what Cushman & Wakefield is all about.
ESEKE: Some people talk about ‘the deal that got away,’ or a big disappointment they’ve had in this business. Do you have an experience that still hurts or haunts you to this day?
WENTZ: “The deal that got away” happens all the time. It could be a case where the company changed its strategy, so a deal that was teed up just doesn’t come to fruition. It could be that there is a change in management, and that executive you had a great relationship with is no longer with the company. It could be an acquisition or a sale of the company. All of these have happened to me in my career. My advice would be to not get too high on the highs or too low on the lows.
Instead of talking about deals that got away, I’ll tell you about one of my most meaningful deals, because I’d like to ask you that question as well. For me, it was a client Randy and I got involved with when they were at 7,000 square feet and ultimately grew to 96,000 square feet. Several months after the initial transaction closed, my client asked me if I knew why he had hired me. He said it was because of a voicemail I had left him after he wasn’t returning my calls, and he asked me if I remembered it. I said I did, and he asked me to prove it. I did my best Neil Diamond impression: “You don’t bring me flowers, you don’t sing me love songs, you hardly talk to me anymore, when I come home at the end of the day.” The client said, “I run several different business units within this organization, and I knew you and Randy were certainly qualified, but that voicemail made me laugh. That’s ultimately why I returned your call.”
ESEKE: And you thought it was your good looks.
WENTZ: I like to think I’m a face man, although most would disagree.
ESEKE: Don’t sell yourself short.
WENTZ: Well you already described me as 6 ft.-1 in., so that’s a start. … So, is there a memorable deal you have, and why?
ESEKE: The one that sticks out is a deal for a group I called on early. They had just done a 10-year deal and they were in 46,000 square feet. And my philosophy—especially in terms of submarket-specific—is I’m going to get to know everyone, regardless of their lease term and lease expiration. So I called on these guys, and they were two years in on a 10-year deal. Their former broker had not even been in to see their new spac, and we caught them at the right time. They were bursting at the seams and had product in trailers outside and needed some help. The stars aligned as the group next to them wanted to expand, so instead of doing a sublease, we were able to terminate that lease and move them into 162,000 square feet on a new 10-year deal. Then, not more than three years later, just this past year, they reached out and said they needed an additional 120,000 square feet, and we were able to help them with that as well. We found them a space just right across the street, which greatly helps them with being more efficient. It means a lot when a client sticks with you and relies on you to help them with their needs.
WENTZ: Loyalty is everything, and it works both ways.
ESEKE: It does indeed. … So, Coach (Gary Collette) tells me that you’re a master when it comes to barbecue.
WENTZ: Not a master, but I love to smoke meat. I like brisket, ribs, pork. I’m still new enough at it that I’m learning every time, but I really love it.
ESEKE: Have you ever had the meat sweats?
WENTZ: Of course! Do you know there are people who don’t understand what that is? That shocks me.
ESEKE: Oh, it’s a real thing.
WENTZ: It is not comfortable.
ESEKE: #meatsweats. I’ve used that on a variety of Instagram posts.
WENTZ: So you’re a fellow meat-sweat-er, and you understand my dilemma.
ESEKE: I do.
WENTZ: When I’m smoking meat, there is no red wine. It’s water and maybe one cold beer.
ESEKE: Or maybe you should drink Pedialyte or some sort of electrolyte drink to keep you going. You have to think strategically.
WENTZ: You’re always thinking, David.
ESEKE: Well, I’ll tell you a meat-sweat story, the one that stands out the most. I was going to dinner with my soon-to-be wife and in-laws. We went to Smoke over by the Belmont Hotel. They have a dish called the Big Rib, which is amazing. They have great barbecue and a great brunch as well. But this Big Rib is basically just this huge, fatty piece of beef that barely hangs on the bone.
WENTZ: I’m not afraid of the marble, by the way.
ESEKE: Oh, the marbling in this is amazing. But it’s so rich. I ate the whole thing, trying to impress her dad.
WENTZ: I’m sure that impressed him.
ESEKE: I don’t know why that’s impressive, but it is. I’m confident he was impressed. Later than night about 2 a.m., I woke up. I thought I had a fever I thought I was getting some kind of bug or something. I was sopping wet.
WENTZ: Welcome to the meat-sweat world.
ESEKE: It’s a real thing. … OK, switching topics: How did you become a Sooners fan?
WENTZ: I grew up in Oklahoma City. We moved down here when I was in high school, but I was introduced to OU football at an early, impressionable age. So, I was brainwashed. My folks both went to OU, so I’ve been going to the football games since I was 11 or 12. In the last 35 years, I’ve probably missed a half-dozen home games–maybe. And I go to the OU-Texas game every year. It’s such a tremendous rivalry, and it’s really special when both teams are doing well. For the Big 12 conference, I want those teams doing well, just for legitimacy. It makes the season much more fun when both are competitive.
ESEKE: I agree.
WENTZ: I have a daughter who is a sophomore at OU. I didn’t go to school there, but it’s neat to get attached to the campus, even if it’s just through her. But I really, really enjoyed my time at the University of North Texas. I met lifelong friends there. I would not change a thing. … So what was life like at Wheaton College?
ESEKE: The school is about 35 miles outside of Chicago, with an undergrad enrollment of about 2,400. I went to a small high school in California. There were 52 graduating seniors in my class. We played eight-man football. Basically, if you could run a straight line you could make pretty much any of the sports teams. I played football and basketball there. I also played first base for one game when the baseball team needed an extra body. I said, “I’ve got the length. I can reach out and make a catch.” So that was fun. At Wheaton I was recruited for football and basketball and saw the level of competition at the college level. It’s Division 3, but you really need to specialize, unless you’re a freak, so I focused on basketball. I had a rude awakening with the Midwest winters. I wanted a different experience after growing up on the West Coast, and I got it. Those Februaries were rough.
WENTZ: Just as clarification, in case anyone is wondering, I did not play football, basketball, or baseball for UNT.
WENTZ: No. It’s just a wild rumor that’s out there.
ESEKE: Glad you cleared that up. I enjoyed my time at Wheaton. It was a big school for me, coming from such a small high school, but the lessons they instill there in terms of what college gives you. You don’t take a lot of the “head” knowledge with you into your career. I think colleges really need to teach an “adulting” class … a curriculum on how to use Outlook correctly, what to wear in professional settings, maybe how to handle personal finances, and other things that would be helpful. Wheaton has a great focus on faith, which is a huge aspect of my life. They introduced the concept of living your faith out in your life, whether that’s at work or at home.
WENTZ: That brings me to my next question: I love hearing someone’s story. What is your story?
ESEKE: I think my story is one of redemption, in so many ways. I was raised in a good home, by great parents and in a good family, but like everyone I have my shortcomings and weaknesses. And after college, it was a rough time for me. It was during the recession and there were very few job opportunities. I didn’t want to be in Chicago working in finance, so I came home and it was a humbling experience for me. I moved back in with my parents, and they charged me rent—$250 a month to live at home.
WENTZ: You got a steal, by the way.
ESEKE: It was a good deal. I worked at a Nike outlet store selling shoes for a summer, just to have an income. And I felt God provided so well for me with the introduction and now marriage to my wife, which also led to an introduction to the real estate world and an opportunity here at Cushman & Wakefield. And even more than just work, a community of friends and people in this area that we’ve grown so close to that makes Dallas such a hard place to ever leave for us. Although I don’t have a background of wild and crazy college stories, I think it’s easy for me to think of myself as the “good son” in the prodigal son story. But the more I look at my life and my shortcomings, the more I realize I truly was the prodigal son. It truly is by God’s grace that I’m where I am today.
WENTZ: Well, I have to tell you, I absolutely respect the man that you are. I respect your conviction, your character, and what you stand for. It’s not easy to live a convicted life, but I appreciate who you are as a human being.
ESEKE: Thank you, Steve. I appreciate you, too.
WENTZ: I love you, man.
ESEKE: [Laughs] OK. In talking with Coach about you, he said, “Steve is such a high-character guy, such a great trust guy, a helpful guy. He’s not ever trying to get in your pocket on a deal or work an angle; if you need assistance, he is that guy.” He also said you are a great collaborator and teammate. I’ve found that to be true in things we’ve done together, too. So what has allowed you to carry that philosophy into your work?
WENTZ: Well, I love being able to create mutually-beneficial relationships. There’s just something in me, and it’s God-given, where we might not have a lot in common, but I’m interested in what your interests are. There can be a relationship without having commonality. I just appreciate that. I enjoy meeting people and learning about others and being part of a team. I love knowing that we’re all in this together.
ESEKE: I agree completely. The arrows in our quiver have grown substantially. I’m legacy Cassidy Turley, and sometimes back then when we were thinking of calling on prospects, I’d talk with Blake and he’d say, “They have international” or “They’re retail” or “They’re portfolio, with more than 100 locations,” and we wouldn’t have been the best option for servicing those needs. Now, from tax to corporate finance to investments and sales, research and labor studies, all of those resources—I feel like we can pick up the phone and speak with anyone and really service clients in a world-class way, which is so fun to be a part of.
WENTZ: It is.
ESEKE: OK, Steve. I’ve got a trick question for you: What’s your favorite type of tortilla?
WENTZ: Oh, it has to be soft corn.
ESEKE: And do you have a favorite brand that you like?
WENTZ: I love Mission Foods tortillas. They are the absolute best.
ESEKE: What do you think makes them the best?
WENTZ: I think what makes them the best, besides the fact that they’re awesome, is that we happen to represent them nationally on their real estate portfolio.
ESEKE: That does taste pretty sweet, I’m sure.
WENTZ: They have great products, and after meeting the leadership team, there is no doubt in my mind as to why they are a successful company.
ESEKE: And a big thanks to you and Cribb for the introduction that has allowed Blake and me to expand upon it on the transaction side, in terms of the real estate piece. I’ve had the privilege of visiting multiple Mission Foods locations, and you can really see that excellence throughout the whole company. Everyone is so friendly; it’s like a big family. And I really see Cushman & Wakefield like that, too. We have a ton of new faces and it’s a very dynamic time for our company, especially in Dallas, but it’s such a welcoming environment, where people do want to collaborate. In other shops it’s sometimes easy to silo off and just focus on your lane.
WENTZ: Think about it; we spend more time here in the office than we do in our own homes. There truly is a familial air about this company. I wake up every day looking forward to coming into the office.
ESEKE: And you really do build friendships here. I’m on a church league basketball team with Chris Hillman. Kris Knapstein and I went to Henderson Tap House to watch a Manchester United game a couple of weekends ago. Dan Harris and I have been to some Cowboys games. It’s great to be in a place where you enjoy hanging out with one another and collaborating with one another. In a different culture, that could be tough, in a business that’s so competitive.
WENTZ: When you bring together DTZ and Cushman & Wakefield and Ran’s reputation and leadership skills, as good as things are going now in our office, we’re only getting started. That’s what’s most exciting for me about the future—we’re just now starting to mesh.
ESEKE: Yeah. At the moment, I feel like we’re the dynamic force in the marketplace, among service providers. You can feel the momentum, and I definitely see that continuing. On the global stage, we have room to grow. Everyone wants to be with a group that is on the forefront of things and pioneering new, better ways of doing things. With the talent we have and the resources here, we are doing that, and it’s exciting to offer something unique to clients. In the past, trying to answer the question “What makes you different?” was sometimes a challenge. “We can effectively do the same things as others” isn’t a great response. Now we can say, with conviction, why we’re different, and why we’re better for clients. It makes everything so much more fun.
WENTZ: It really does.
ESEKE: So do you have any more questions for me?
WENTZ: I already told you I loved you. What more do you want?
ESEKE: [Laughs] That’s all I could ever hope for, Steve. I guess we’re done!