By Christine Perez
In the May edition of 1-on-1, Tenant Representation broker Jason Dodson sits down with Agency Leasing executive Matt Schendle. They talk about the evolving commercial real estate industry, California relocations, reigning as prom king, and eating ice cream with LeBron James and Stevie Wonder.
Associate Jason Dodson advises corporate clients on local and multi-market site selection, acquisitions and dispositions, and lease and purchase negotiations. Before joining Cushman & Wakefield he worked at Creative Artists Agency, the world’s largest sport and entertainment agency, and for the National Experiential Marketing group at Team One, where he managed multiple Lexus-sponsored events. He has a Bachelor in Business Administration and Business Law from Loyola Marymount University.
Managing Director Matt Schendle represents more than 5 million square feet of property in Cushman & Wakefield’s Investor Services portfolio. He has more than 20 years of commercial real estate experience, all in Dallas. He previously served as Vice President of Leasing for Cousins Properties and also worked in leasing at Stream Realty Partners and Opus South. A perennial D CEO Power Broker, he has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from The University of Oklahoma.
MATT SCHENDLE: I just want make a comment about how unfair this setup is. You got to call my younger brother and do way too much due diligence on me. I had to go to Dean Collins, who said, “Jason who?”
JASON DODSON: [laughs] Andrew and I had a great conversation.
SCHENDLE: I bet you did. Also, I’m 45 and you’re 30. I was hoping to get paired up with someone much older, so I could be the younger guy.
DODSON: Those options are getting fewer and fewer.
DODSON: So, out of respect, I’ll let my elder go first.
SCHENDLE: Thanks. … Let’s start at the beginning. You grew up in California?
DODSON: I’ve been a Southern California boy all my life. I was born in San Diego and went to school at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles.
SCHENDLE: Home of Bo Kimbell and Hank Gathers.
DODSON: That’s right. You know your basketball. After school I went to work for CAA, the big movie and sports agency.
SCHENDLE: I heard you worked in the mailroom. What was that like?
DODSON: It was probably one of the best and most challenging experiences of my life in Hollywood. Working in the mailroom is a rite of passage. It’s one of those things where you are humbled, right from the beginning. I wanted to be a movie agent, coming out of school, and the first thing you learn is you have to start in the mailroom like everyone else. So, I spent a year down there—it’s mandatory, in order to get promoted. It was my first experience in eating humble pie, and I believe it set me up well for the commercial real estate business.
SCHENDLE: So, without incriminating famous people out in Hollywood, what’s the craziest or most unusual experience you had there?
DODSON: At any point in time—it wasn’t even unusual—I’d be called upon to deliver a script to an actor’s home. One day it was Toby Maguire. He answered the door, and I just looked at him and thought, “There’s Spiderman.” I’ll always remember the movie premieres, of course. The most memorable experience, probably was one summer Friday afternoon. CAA would always have the interns serve ice cream on Fridays. I had to do it as an intern, too. One day, I was at my desk, and Tom Cruise walked by, searching for the managing partner, whose office is down the hall. I went downstairs to check on something at reception, and LeBron James and his posse walked in. We all got on the elevator to go upstairs and get ice cream, and Stevie Wonder was already there.
SCHENDLE: Wow. All the facets of the entertainment business: acting, sports, and music. The trifecta.
DODSON: Right. That’s why people are willing to work in the mailroom. They’re hooked on the idea of working with the stars.
SCHENDLE Do you just do that until you either get promoted or give up?
DODSON: Yes. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get out of the mailroom. But you have to be there for at least a year before you’re even eligible for another position. It’s funny because everyone is friendly-ish to each other, but super competitive. Almost back-stabbing, too, because you’re trying to get out. And the only way to do that is to make friends with the people upstairs. It’s very political.
SCHENDLE: Like the Hunger Games, and kind of like brokerage.
DODSON: [laughs] Kind of.
SCHENDLE: Did you ever get out of the mailroom?
DODSON: I did. I was promoted and became an assistant. This was during the time of Entourage, and everyone wanted to be Ari Gold. In my mind, I wanted to be him and wanted to be in the movie business, too. But I came to realize that it wasn’t for me. I’m glad I worked in the mailroom, and I’m glad I spent time at the agency, but I’m also glad that I got out quickly, once I realized I wasn’t being real with myself. The funny thing is, I always wanted to be an agent. And now I am, just in a different industry. It’s cool to have clients—multiple clients.
SCHENDLE: It’s cool to represent people that you admire. If you’re speaking on someone’s behalf, you want to like and respect that individual. You need to believe in your product.
DODSON: Without question.
SCHENDLE: So, why did you leave beautiful Southern California and move to Texas?
DODSON: If I had a dime for every time I’ve been asked that …
SCHENDLE: I bet.
DODSON: A lot of it had to do with the cost of living. And I’ve always been a big risk-taker. I was young and single and saw Dallas as a land of opportunity. I had a friend who worked here, and that made the transition easier. It’s difficult to leave a place as beautiful as Southern California, but I’ve always been ambitious and thinking about the next step, the best way to position myself in my career. And I came to the decision that the best place for me was Dallas.
SCHENDLE: Do you think you’ll ever move back?
DODSON: I don’t. Unless I get to the point where I’ve made it so big that, financially, it’s not an issue. But I’ve made a lot of good friends here, and it would be hard to leave at this point in my career. This is the hottest market to be in. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and there’s a reason why I’m here in Dallas.
SCHENDLE: Real estate investors and professionals all look to California and we see companies continuing to relocate to Texas, Dallas in particular. You’re pretty much the poster child for why not just businesses but individuals are coming this way. Do you see that slowing down?
DODSON: I don’t think so. There’s so much energy in this city right now, whether you’re moving from California or other states across the country. When you look at all of the companies moving here, the universities, the sports teams—Dallas is a market that attracts all generations. There’s something for everyone here, whether that’s in Uptown or Legacy or wherever. This place is only going to continue to boom. Talent moves here, and that attracts companies. Companies move here, and that attracts talent.
SCHENDLE: You should moonlight for the Dallas Regional Chamber.
DODSON: I should.
SCHENDLE: I’ve got one more question, before you start drilling me. Is it true that Dean Collins is a better basketball player than you?
DODSON: Dean Collins, at this point in our lives, is a better basketball player than me. We went to a broker event and I will never forget this. Here I am, I’ve played basketball my entire life. We go to this event, and all you have to do is make a half-court shot and win $500. All three of my shots completely miss the mark. Dean Collins gets the ball does one or two dribbles through the legs, tosses one shot from half court, and nothing but net. He walked away like it was an everyday thing.
SCHENDLE: That’s hilarious.
DODSON: Alright. Enough about me. Where did you grow up?
SCHENDLE: Right here in Dallas. I’m a fifth-generation Dallasite on my mother’s side. The other half of me is from northern Louisiana. I went to Highland Park High School then went to The University of Oklahoma in Norman. After I graduated and returned to Dallas I got into real estate, working for John Knapp, who was very good friends with my uncle.
DODSON: Did you know in college that you wanted to get into real estate?
SCHENDLE: No. I was a Poli-Sci major headed for law school.
DODSON: I thought about law school myself. I took one LSAT and said, “Nah.”
SCHENDLE: My older brother was finishing up law school as I was wrapping up undergrad. He advised me to go work first, which is something he regretted not doing. So, I got a job, and much to my dad’s approval, I never went to law school.
DODSON: So, you’ve always been on the landlord side?
SCHENDLE: I didn’t really know the difference. Like you, I was thinking about being an agent—a sports agent. I’ve always loved sports.
DODSON: You have a very Jerry Maguire-esque way about you.
SCHENDLE: I’m going to take that as a compliment.
DODSON: You should.
SCHENDLE: Getting back to real estate, I was young, 22 or 23 years old at the time, and took advantage of the opportunity to get into the business through my uncle’s relationship. I got in on the landlord side, and have never looked back. It wasn’t by choice, but the further I got into it, I realized I liked having something concrete and tangible to sell. I liked that side of it. I certainly have a huge amount of respect for what tenant rep brokers do. I don’t know if I’m cut out for that.
DODSON: We’ve been on this boom cycle for so long. Are you concerned about any market disrupters that may be on the horizon?
SCHENDLE: I’m a worrier by nature. I don’t sleep at night. Everything concerns me. Right now, knock on wood, everything seems solid. It would take something catastrophic to change the dynamics. Overall, I feel really good about the real estate market, the country, the business world, and especially micro here in Dallas. We’ve been really busy, as real estate needs continue to evolve. In fact, I may get so confident and decide to become a tenant rep. I’d like to be on the Dodson-Collins team.
DODSON: [laughs] I’m not sure there’s room on the team.
SCHENDLE: Well, I’m sure you love the same things I do about the business. Friends with competition, a tight-knit marketplace with investors, tenant rep brokers, investment sales, and landlord reps. I really enjoy getting to know all areas of the business and hang out with folks and comparing notes when you can. It’s a fun business, and every day is different.
DODSON: I actually like the fact that it’s very difficult to break into the business. It took me at least six months to just really even get started. Looking back on it, I’m glad it has been difficult. If it was easy, everyone would be in it. … So, you went to OU, but I’ve heard you’re a diehard UT fan.
SCHENDLE: Diehard is an understatement. I have University of Texas bloodlines dating back to the early 1900s. My great-grandfather named Texas the Longhorns, my grandfather went to law school there, and my dad went to school there, as did my mom. I always wanted to go to Texas, but I didn’t take my studies very seriously in high school. Texas was hard to get into back then, and it’s even harder today. That being said, I loved OU, had a blast there and made lifelong friends there. I tried to pull for OU—I’m passionate about college football—but it didn’t last. Everyone calls me a traitor, but I never switched. I just stuck with Texas. It made for some awkward times, but after a while, people just accepted that I was dead-set in my ways.
DODSON: Going back even further, to high school, I heard you were prom king.
SCHENDLE: That’s true. I still have my crown. I wear it around sometimes.
DODSON: [laughs] Were you the big man on campus?
SCHENDLE: I had the benefit of having a brother who was two years older than me, Jason, who kind of paved the way. The Schendle name was known by the time I got there. And then my younger brother, Andrew, came up and ruined the family name. [laughs]
DODSON: I also heard you were a highly celebrated receiver.
SCHENDLE: I was a receiver. The highly celebrated part is definitely not true. We didn’t throw the ball much, at all. So, I was a blocking receiver. I look at our high school today, and they throw the ball 50 times a game. As a former receiver, that crushes me when I see that.
DODSON: You once had a TR6 Triumph. A British roadster. And there was some sort of mishap?
SCHENDLE: Boy, Andrew really teed you up.
DODSON: Yes, he did.
SCHENDLE: I cannot believe that our parents let all three of us boys drive this tiny little sports car as our first car in high school. It’s insane, and I will never let my kids do that. But it was the coolest thing ever, and maybe that’s why I was elected prom king. Who knows.
DODSON: Back to the mishap.
SCHENDLE: Right. I was coaching a girls’ flag football team, and after practice I climbed into my convertible sports car, thinking I was the you-know-what. I put on my sunglasses and put it into reverse, and drove over a curb. It was such a small car, I got stuck, almost like it was teetering. I had to call my buddies over to help lift the car and push it back onto the parking lot so I could drive out. That stung the ego a little bit. I also drove over my older brother’s foot once. That was the first and hopefully last time I ever got punched while driving a car.
DODSON: That’s awesome.
SCHENDLE: I’m too afraid to find out what else Andrew told you, so let’s turn this conversation back to you. Did you get into real estate as soon as you got to Dallas?
DODSON: No. After working for CAA I did marketing for Lexus, which is why all of my golf polos I wear around the office are branded Lexus, and why I drive a Lexus. I began to make more friends here and realized most of them were in commercial real estate. They seemed to love it, so I decided to give it a try.
SCHENDLE: How long ago was that?
DODSON: About 18 months.
SCHENDLE: At Cushman from the start?
DODSON: Cushman was the only firm I had interest in joining. I knew about the big three. But it’s almost like when you tour a college campus, you know right away when you want to go to a particular school. It was the same with Cushman. It helped that I knew people here, but I had no interest in joining any other firm.
SCHENDLE: And you have been with the Collins brothers, Dean and Mark, the entire time.
DODSON: Yes. I knew I wanted to be at Cushman, and was referred to the capital markets guys, Jud Clements and his team. They connected me with Mark. He thought I was more of an office guy, so he had me talk with Dean. Dean has been a great mentor. He has taught and continues to teach me a lot about the business.
SCHENDLE: You know, prior to you, no one has ever lasted a week with Dean.
DODSON: [laughs] What advice do you have for young brokers starting out in the business, whether it’s on the tenant rep side or the leasing side?
SCHENDLE: I would try to meet as many people as I could. I still try to do that. I also recommend spending time in all facets of the business. Learn as much as you can about investment sales, valuation, industrial. I just started in one area and never got out of it. I’m happy with that—I think I got lucky—but for someone starting out, I recommend learning about each specialty, so you can truly figure out what you want to do.
DODSON: Roger that. … How long have you been at Cushman now?
SCHENDLE: I had short stints at a couple of firms, then joined Cousins Properties, which was acquired by Cushman in 2012. Mark Dickenson recruited me, and he has been a long-time mentor, a great guy. So, about 15 of my 20 years have been at Cousins/Cushman. … I think we need a little more personal info on you. Is it true that you dated J-Lo?
DODSON: It’s funny that you bring up J-Lo. She was my middle school crush.
SCHENDLE: I think you’re more handsome than A-Rod. You could have a chance.
DODSON: I would print out her pictures and put them on my binder. I had her on the front, back, all over.
SCHENDLE: I want to see you go into your next pitch with a picture of J-Lo on the cover. It could be a real conversation starter.
DODSON: [laughs] So, how do you balance the hustle of the commercial real estate business with your family? For me, someone who doesn’t have a family yet …
SCHENDLE: Do you want one?
DODSON: I do.
SCHENDLE: Do you want mine?
SCHENDLE: It’s a great question. I thrive off the chaos. I’m up at 5 a.m. and go on my run, come back, take the kids to school then go straight to work. It just depends on the day. Sometimes I’m out at 4 p.m. sometimes I’m out at 8 p.m. And there’s always a game or a recital or a rehearsal of some sort. I love it. It’s great.
DODSON: You have three children?
SCHENDLE: Yes. A 12-year-old son and girls who are 9 and 7 years old.
DODSON: You’re right in the thick of it.
SCHENDLE: I am. … So let’s wrap this up before people get too bored. Now that you’ve been here for a while, is it what you expected? What do you want the firm to be known for out in the market?
DODSON: I hope they think we’re a firm that goes above and beyond and offers exceptional service. We are one of the big three, and I love that. Personally, I want to do whatever I can to take us to No. 1.
SCHENDLE: I hope clients look at Cushman as a group that is not just going to hand them the same report they just handed another client. Anyone can do that. It’s important that everything we do conforms to the specific needs of the client, and that everything we do is of high character. I want people to think, “Those guys do it right.”
DODSON: Michael Condon, who runs the Portfolio Services group, said something that really resonated with me: “One size fits one.” Whether you’re a 2,000-square-foot tenant or a 200,000-square-foot tenant, you’re going to get the same level of detail, the same level of interest. Otherwise, we’re just like everybody else.
SCHENDLE: When tenants in the office buildings I lease say to me, “I know I’m just a small tenant, but thank you for not treating me like one.” That’s what it’s all about.
DODSON: You never know what that 2,000-sqaure-foot tenant is going to grow into.
SCHENDLE: It happens all the time. … I know it’s hokey and it’s cheesy, but I wake up every day excited about that day. Because every day is different. I love the challenge of the business, and I think people in the industry thrive off that.
DODSON: What’s exciting to me is the different things that are changing in our business. It’s forcing us to be more creative to find solutions for our clients’ needs. It’s exciting to problem-solve and walk away knowing that you helped in a very meaningful way.
SCHENDLE: Once they move into their space and you see how happy they are, that’s priceless.