By Christine Perez
We’re back with a fifth installment of 1-On-1, our monthly interview series where two Cushman & Wakefield professionals get together for an in-depth conversation. In this edition, industrial sales pro Jud Clements talks with office tenant rep Randy Cooper about the evolution of the commercial real estate business, adventures in travel, and the joys of Tannerite.
Clements, Executive Managing Director in Cushman & Wakefield’s Industrial Advisory Group, joined the firm in 2015. He has nearly 20 years of real estate investment experience and counts some of the industry’s most formidable players as clients. He earned a BA degree in economics and government from the University of Texas at Austin.
Vice Chairman Randy Cooper, also a UT grad (BBA), is one of the region’s top tenant representatives. He’s helped clients close a number of mega-deals, including the largest single transaction ever recorded in Texas. Since 1983, he has completed more than 25 million square feet of assignments totaling more than $10 billion in transaction volume.
RANDY COOPER: So I guess we should start with the basics. Where are you from, Jud, and how did you get to Dallas?
JUD CLEMENTS: Well, I was born and raised here. So, I got here through conception. My parents still live in the same house where I grew up, near Preston and Forest. I went to St. Rita then Jesuit then headed to Austin and attended the University of Texas.
COOPER: What year did you get out?
COOPER: So, just a bit after me.
CLEMENTS: Wait. That was high school. I got out in 1996.
COOPER: That’s even worse.
CLEMENTS: I didn’t have a job when I graduated, so I came back to Dallas. I applied for different things but nothing was happening, so I took a job as a waiter at Chili’s. The day I was supposed to start, I got a call from CBRE. I jumped on that opportunity instead, obviously, and worked with Steve Berger and David Easterling on the leasing side of the business.
COOPER: How’d that go?
CLEMENTS: I was green as could be and did everything from prospecting to pulling together books and doing research. I learned a ton, but I quickly realized that side of the business wasn’t for me. I was an economics and government major at UT, so I didn’t have the technical skills to go into investment sales right away. A friend introduced me to a guy from Coopers and Lybrand, and they were hiring in their real estate consulting group. After a few rounds of interviews I was offered the job, and that began a five-year stint at what’s now PWC. It’s where I honed my analytical skills. But the consulting world is tough. You’re always on the road.
COOPER: And there’s too much math.
CLEMENTS: Right. And staring at a computer for 12 hours at a time. But it was a great experience. I was in New York for a couple of years, San Antonio for a year, and spent the other two years traveling all around the country. I wanted to get back on the transactional side of the business, though, so I returned to CBRE, starting in their private client group, focusing on $3 million to $10 million deals.
COOPER: What year was that?
CLEMENTS: I rejoined CBRE in August of 2001.
CLEMENTS: Exactly. Just a few weeks before 9/11. But, from a timing perspective, it turned out to be a good thing, as it gave me a chance to get up to speed. And there wasn’t the pullback or downturn we saw in 2008 to 2010. In 2001 and 2002, it was more of a confidence issue, with people worried about what was going to happen. Once the market started to come back, we got our feet under us rather quickly. CBRE knew I needed some gray hair to work with me, so they teamed me up with Larry Leon. From there I went to HFF, and then in the fall of 2015 I joined Cushman & Wakefield. … How about you? Where are you from?
COOPER: I grew up in San Antonio. I’m an Interstate 35 rat. I graduated from high school in 1979 then headed up the road to Austin. The main reason I went there was to get a degree in petroleum land management. UT was one of two schools that offered a program like that, along with Oklahoma. OU was further up I-35, so I figured why go all the way up there.
COOPER: Getting into the energy business was a terrific idea in 1979, but the market had turned completely dismal by 1983. I couldn’t get a job, so I went back to San Antonio and got into the next hot thing—real estate. The savings and loan boom was taking place, and every horrible developer and bad architect were building office buildings. I wound up teaming up a real estate veteran who had been with Gerald Hines, a guy named Bill Wolf. He was a terrific mentor and taught me the business. We worked together for a little over 10 years. He was extremely hard on me, but toward the end, it had become almost like a partnership.
CLEMENTS: Did you do tenant representation?
COOPER: We did agency leasing for what now seems like about 20 minutes, but quickly got into tenant rep. Most of the competition we were seeing at the time in San Antonio was coming in from Dallas, with firms like The Staubach Co. and Swearingen coming down and competing. But Bill was an incredible veteran, and we beat virtually all the Dallas competition. We got cocky and decided to get off the San Antonio stage and go kick butt in Dallas. After we got to town, though, we couldn’t get a tenant rep interview to save our lives.
CLEMENTS: When was this?
COOPER: It was May of 1990.
CLEMENTS: Did you have any kids at that point?
COOPER: At that point, no. I was on wife No. 1. Never had kids with wife No. 1.
CLEMENTS: Makes it easier.
COOPER: Yes it does. In those days, I worked for a combination of Wayne Swearingen and Jerry Fults. They were together, apart, and together over the years. I had a great time at Fults Co. and met a lot of folks who remain close friends to this day.
CLEMENTS: Who all was there? Bob Buell …
COOPER: Buell was there. Tracy Fults. Jeff Ellerman. Riis Christensen. Kurt Griffin was there. Robert Deptula. And my future wife (which is a really long story!). It was an incredible environment. I don’t think you could ever duplicate it in today’s world. Back then, information was so hard to get. If you had a piece of information, you’d share it with your group, because everyone could go do something with it. Now, information is so easy to get, and competition has moved away from the information bin and moved more into sales skills and relationship-building. Jerry had the greatest research in town. He ended up selling that part of his business to what eventually became CoStar. It was worth a fortune. We all struggled with why Jerry would sell the one thing that gave us the leg up on our competition. But he was such a visionary. He told us things were going to get to a point when everyone would have the same information, and we’d need to figure out a different way to compete. We thought he was crazy and that he just wanted to sell out. But that wasn’t the case. As usual, Jerry was three steps ahead of everyone else.
CLEMENTS: It’s true that everyone has research and information today, but how you present it and how you use it to your advantage can still be something that sets teams apart. It’s amazing how many people don’t take research and information to its maximum potential. That’s one thing that Cushman & Wakefield does so well. And it can be a game-changer. I look at some of the industrial leasing teams and how they utilize information versus the competition, and it still is a big differentiator.
COOPER: In the office tenant rep business, I think there are about 600 brokers in town, and they all have basically the same information. For people making real estate decisions, it can be very hard to get through the clutter. That’s why relationship-building and other skills have become so important. You must always be at the top of your game.
CLEMENTS: Exactly. So where did you go after Fults?
COOPER: I’ve been so many places … oh the places you’ll go. I was at Insignia, which then became CBRE. I then joined Cushman, then left to join Cassidy Turley, which became DTZ, and then became Cushman & Wakefield. In 2015, I stayed in the same chair at the same desk, but I had three different business cards. And that’s when you learn that clients really don’t care. There are differences between the three big companies, and the company certainly plays a role, but it really comes down to the quality of guidance and service you provide. That’s just for the big three; the boutiques are a completely different story.
CLEMENTS: Exactly. For us, coming over from HFF, especially from an industrial perspective, going from a company that didn’t have management and leasing to having that resource and the capabilities—and not only that but joining a national team. Having the resources we have, on a national and global basis, is a game-changer. To your point, clients do hire specific brokers and teams, and the new Cushman & Wakefield understands that. They’re pushing a strategy of getting the right personnel, providing them with the resources they need, and building around that.
COOPER: That’s right.
CLEMENTS: So I hear you have an obsession with heavy equipment.
COOPER: I do. Even as a kid I always had Tonka trucks and dump trucks and bulldozers. My wife and I have a ranch, and I bought a big John Deere tractor and a Bobcat with virtually every attachment available. I get on that thing and clear brush and make roads and do all sorts of things.
CLEMENTS: Is that your release?
COOPER: It is. There’s nothing like taking your vengeance out on a cedar tree. At the beginning I really didn’t know how to use the equipment very well. My kids and my wife would watch me and laugh. They’d say, “Dad. What are you doing?” I’d say, “Isn’t it obvious? The pile of dirt that was there is now over here.”
CLEMENTS: I’ve always wanted to drive a tank.
COOPER: I would love to have a tank. And a cannon. Something to blow up big targets. I’d love to have a giant something that I could shoot off into the fields at the ranch and blow things up.
CLEMENTS: I’m thinking you might be a Tannerite guy.
COOPER: I love Tannerite. It’s so much fun. I also have a lot of guns. Probably way too many. You know how you read in the newspaper after someone does something bad, and the police go to their house and say, “Well, he had all these guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.” That’s me. I have more guns and more ammo … I’m not exactly sure why.
CLEMENTS: You’re not preparing for doomsday?
COOPER: Maybe a little of that, but I don’t think it’s realistic to assume that you’re doing to live through any kind of cataclysmic event.
CLEMENTS: But if you do, you’ll be prepared.
CLEMENTS: I’ve heard you also have an obsession with cars.
COOPER: I do love cars. It’s a real passion.
CLEMENTS: How many cars and trucks do you think you’ve bought in your lifetime?
COOPER: I don’t even know.
CLEMENTS: How many on an average year?
COOPER: Probably a couple a year.
CLEMENTS: And what do you do with the old cars?
COOPER: I usually trade them. I try to buy them right. My wife calls it “Randy math.” I’ll buy a car and say I’m going to trade it in for something else and follow the depreciation values and all that.
CLEMENTS: You know cars are the worst investment you can make, don’t you?
COOPER: Most of the time, but not always. I’ve bought some pretty rare cars.
CLEMENTS: Like hot rods?
COOPER: More in the truck and Jeep world. I try to get my wife so confused on the math that she really doesn’t understand. And that’s why she has labeled it “Randy math.” And, really, most of the time, I’m probably losing some money, but I really do love cars.
CLEMENTS: I have a 2006 Land Cruiser right now, which is just sitting at the house. It has 105,000 miles but hasn’t been driven more than 1,000 miles in the last three or four years. I have a son who’s going to be driving in a couple of years, and I’m trying to figure out if that would work for him and whether it would last.
COOPER: You can’t kill one of those. You can try, but it will go forever. … Speaking of longevity, how long do you think you’ll stay in this business?
CLEMENTS: As long as it will have me. I love what I do. In college, I had an internship in brokerage at Merrill Lynch. I realized that high-pressure sales were not for me. I’m a relationship guy. If you asked me to sell ice to an Eskimo, I would try to get to know him and who he is first, before I’d try to get him to buy what he already has on a daily basis. I don’t consider myself as being in the sales business, but the relationship business. And I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to keep doing this for a good long while. Plus, I’ve got to provide for my kids.
COOPER: How many kids do you have?
CLEMENTS: I have two. The 14-year-old son I mentioned, who’s going into Jesuit next year, and a daughter who’s going into seventh grade.
COOPER: You have a few years of tranquility left. I have three girls. One just graduated this past Friday from Highland Park and is going to Arkansas in the fall. So we’ll then have a sophomore and a junior at home. This past year, having all three girls in high school at the same time, has been the toughest year of my life. The amount of stress, anxiety, worry, and everything else in that household this year has been incredible.
CLEMENTS: I’ve only got one daughter, and I can’t even imagine.
COOPER: Getting one out and not knowing what she’s doing will be bliss. We will pray for her and hope that all is well, but we won’t know what she’s doing in college. These other two are just an absolute handful. My retirement strategy is to die at the desk. I’m going to work until the bitter end. Craig and Dan tease me all the time. They do this role-playing where they pretend I’m in a wheelchair and say, “Now, Randy, we’re going to roll you into this meeting, and you just don’t say anything. At the end of the meeting you’ll know it’s over, because we will roll you out.”
My retirement strategy is to die at the desk. I’m going to work until the bitter end.
CLEMENTS: That’s great.
COOPER: That’s the plan. When you earn a dollar and a big chunk goes to the company and another big chunk goes to the government, and you’re splitting that initial dollar with a lot of partners, you have to do a lot of deals. It’s great for the company because it keeps everybody motivated, but the company’s greatest asset and largest line item expense is us.
COOPER: We look at it and say, “Man, we’re paying those guys a fortune!” And they look at it and say, “Man, we’re paying those guys a fortune!” It’s kind of like North Korea and South Korea; we’re just always in equilibrium and kind of keeping an eye on each other.
CLEMENTS: I’ve never looked at it as a North Korea-South Korea situation.
COOPER: Most people don’t. I have a strange way of looking at things sometimes.
CLEMENTS: So, if you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
COOPER: Did someone tell you to ask that question? I can’t stand traveling. My wife says it’s a control thing. I don’t know. Luckily, I visited a lot of places and did a lot of things when I was younger. In the last year my wife and kids have been to Europe twice without me. They’re going to Spain in the summer without me and to Mexico without me.
CLEMENTS: You’d rather be at the ranch?
COOPER: Yes, or, this is going to sound weird, but here at work. I mean, how more museums can you see or great works of art and architecture? I’d go back to Africa. I went on a Safari after high school and thought Africa was amazing, but it’s so far away. And I like beaches, but they’re far, too. I just don’t enjoy airplanes and airports and all of the rules, you can’t do this or that or bring this or that.
CLEMENTS: So it sounds like it’s more of a control thing.
COOPER: I think it might be. … Where do you like to go?
CLEMENTS: I love to travel. I’d like to go to Australia and New Zealand and to Vancouver. One of my best experiences, was studying in Spain for a semester. Afterward, I spent more than a month visiting 22 cities in 12 countries. That was back in 1995.
COOPER: When travel was fun.
CLEMENTS: You’re right. It’s a lot different today. But I do love the beach, and one of my favorite pastimes, although I’m horrible at it, is golf. So I like traveling for golf. My 14-year-old is becoming a decent golfer, and I’m looking forward to traveling with him and seeing the world. Next year I’m going to try to take him to the Master’s. I’ve been twice, and it’s the closest thing to heaven on earth that I’ve seen.
COOPER: I’ve been invited to the Master’s a number of times, including going on private aircraft, and I’ve never gone.
CLEMENTS: OK. This interview is over.
COOPER: It’s just such a hassle.
CLEMENTS: It’s one of those things where you wonder if it’s going to be as special as it looks on TV. And you get there and it’s just “wow.” It’s 10 times more beautiful. It’s so well-manicured and green and lush. The flowers look as though they were planted just that day.
COOPER: How often do you play?
CLEMENTS: About twice a month. The golf course I belong to is down right now; they’re relocating the course.
CLEMENTS: Yeah. So I’ve been going around to little municipal courses in Dallas, and it has been amazing. There are some really terrific courses in town. I just got back from San Diego, where we had our Cushman & Wakefield industrial conference. I stayed over the weekend and played at Torrey Pines. I also play in an annual Houston versus Dallas Ryder Cup event. This will be our 15th year. I play with 19 other guys. It’s just a debacle, but it’s so much fun.
COOPER: I spent three days at Pebble Beach last November.
CLEMENTS: And you didn’t play golf once.
COOPER: I didn’t.
CLEMENTS: Did you walk the course at least?
COOPER: No. There was a time when I had to go outside because the wifi in my room was spotty, but …
CLEMENTS: You need help.
COOPER: I can’t play because I can’t hit the ball. I start to take a swing and then my ADD gets in the way and it’s like, “Look! There’s a bird!”
CLEMENTS: I’m not a good golfer. I just enjoy the camaraderie and being outside and seeing beautiful courses and playing with my son. I remember the first couple of times trying to teach him golf. It was a nightmare, for both of us. Fortunately, one of his best friends is a scratch golfer—Rob Huthnance’s son, if you know Rob. He’s really helped get my son to the point where he’ll go out and compete. But I realized through those early lessons that I was not going to be the one who helped my son cultivate his game.
COOPER: Is that how you lost your hair?
COOPER: I was wondering about that.
CLEMENTS: You know, you go through a lot of things in life. I found out I had an auto-immune disease, and it took away what had been a big part of my identity. I once had a thick, flowing head of hair. When I began losing it, I didn’t know how people would react, and I didn’t know how I would look. I didn’t know if I would look like an alien—and I sort of do. But the experience taught me that the perception people have of you goes way past your looks. It’s all about a human’s personality. It helped me learn what’s really important. Life is about way more than appearances. And my children have learned the lesson, too. They know that it’s not the cover but what’s inside the book that counts.
COOPER: Well, it’s certainly low maintenance.
CLEMENTS: That’s right. It was a pain spending all that time messing with my hair. On humid days, which we have plenty of in Texas, I would basically have an afro. I’m also saving hundreds on hair products.
COOPER: There are the positives. So, it seems like you’ve been through a lot in the past. What has you most excited about the future?
CLEMENTS: I’m very excited about leading the Southwest Industrial Advisory Group and our team, following the departure of Randy Baird. Randy is a personal friend and I have tremendous respect for him. But I’m looking forward to taking on this new responsibility and the opportunities that come with it. We have an amazing team behind us, not only our core team but also within the entire Cushman & Wakefield office in Dallas and nationally, too.
COOPER: You’re at the right age with the right level of experience, at the right company and in the right city. I look at your situation and think you just have to feel that this is an awesome opportunity.
CLEMENTS: Absolutely. And the support I’ve received is amazing, from the very highest levels of our company on down. If you don’t have butterflies at this point, something is wrong. I love having the butterflies, but I also believe in myself and my team, and I’m exceptionally excited about the future. … What about you?
COOPER: I think I’m most excited about watching this region continue to grow. I really lucked into all of this. My Interstate 35 plan never indicated that Dallas-Fort Worth was going to be one of the hottest markets in the country for the business I fell into. To see it evolve into what it has become, and that feeling in your stomach about what’s ahead – it’s very exciting to see it grow and be a part of it by bringing more companies here.
CLEMENTS: I couldn’t agree more. We’re in the right place at the right time, and it’s great.