Every year Cushman & Wakefield honors future leaders in the industry with the Logistics & Industrial Rising Star Award. This year two winners were named, Keegan Clay from Portland and Jonas Skovdal from Philadelphia. Both exhibit the enthusiasm and work ethic it takes to be a leader in commercial real estate. Congratulations, Keegan and Jonas!
To help everyone get to know them better (and we certainly think everyone will want to shake their hands), we asked them a series of questions about real estate and business.
What made you decide to go into industrial commercial real estate?
JONAS: Prior to getting into industrial real estate I was primarily focused on finding a job in the non-profit world. During that time, I read the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and that served as a well-timed reminder that money is one of my biggest motivators. I then developed a long-term vision and goal of owning real estate and decided the best first step was to get into the industry. After a half year of networking to get into CBD office brokerage, I met the team I work with now and was immediately sold on them and the story they told on industrial brokerage. To date, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. At a future date, and after many more “Cash Received” emails, I still see myself getting involved in the non-profit world in some capacity, ideally helping an organization that works with disadvantaged youth.
KEEGAN: After working as an accountant, project manager and in marketing, something seemed to be missing– I didn’t enjoy the work and wasn’t fulfilled. I remember stumbling on a video, with voiceover by Allen Watts, talking about doing what you love and mastering it. I watched it over and over and decided it was time to make a change. I reached out to family friends and leveraged my network to land some informational interviews. The one that started steering me down the CRE path was with Rich Akerman, a successful local businessman. Rich asked me to talk about my strengths and after listening he said, have you ever thought about a career in commercial real estate? It got the wheels turning… and I haven’t looked back since!
Do you have a mentor? If so, who is it and what makes them great?
JONAS: Gerry Blinebury is both my business partner and mentor. The guy is a real estate wizard and I can’t think of anyone better to watch and learn from. What I really value is how generous Gerry is with his time. Hour-long “after hours” calls have been a frequent part of the weekly routine from week one and Gerry has served as a sounding board for a variety of topics. I’m very fortunate to have Gerry as my partner and am appreciative of all his help, both in life and in the real estate world.
KEEGAN: Yes, Aaron Watt is my business partner and mentor. I first met Aaron as a runner at Cushman & Wakefield. Aaron had about 15 years in the business at the time and was in a good position to partner with another broker. We found out quickly that we both had a passion to build business, personal compatibility, a similar set of strengths along with some unique differences that we recognized would result in a stronger business presence. With Aaron’s experience, attention to detail, willingness to take the time to coach me, coupled with my desire to learn and succeed, we’ve been very successful winning national account tenant representation business, institutional landlord representation, and industrial capital markets assignments. I fully recognized that if I had gone to work for any other firm, or another broker, I would not be experiencing the kind of growth I had within the last four years. Having Aaron as a mentor, coach, and business partner has made a huge impact.
Is there a transaction you are most proud of in your career so far?
JONAS: This past year we represented the buyer, Alliance HSP, in the acquisition of a 63-acre redevelopment project just outside of the Philadelphia city limits. This was the first transaction where I successfully put land in front of a developer, educated them on the market and convinced them to move forward. Yielding 775,600 SF, the project is the largest spec development project in the Southeastern Pennsylvania market in years and C&W is engaged to handle the leasing and future capital markets transactions.
KEEGAN: About six months into my new job in CRE, I was knocking on doors and found myself in the right place at the right time. I noticed a man locking up his flex office space, we struck up a conversation and I found out he just sold his business to a large company. I asked him what they planned to do with the space. He didn’t know but gave me the contact information for the acquiring company’s operations manager. Long story short, I was able to connect with the acquiring company’s decision maker, build a strong relationship with him and sublease their space. We currently manage their +/-2M SF multinational portfolio.
What do you like most about working for Cushman & Wakefield?
JONAS: The people.
KEEGAN: The people. If I’m in Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago, etc. I’ve found that no matter where you go, C&W does a great job at finding the best talent and resources available to help make the team successful. I’m always finding new resources and talents to leverage that help improve Aaron and my business.
Any advice for people who are new to the CRE industry?
JONAS: I can only speak to what’s worked for me thus far on the brokerage side. It’s easy to get lost in the day to day hustle of active deals and transactions, so I prioritize goal setting and try to make it a point to revisit my goals and priority projects every couple of weeks to evaluate progress. I always find time over the weekend to plan the week ahead as well. Big picture, it’s important to both recognize and appreciate the opportunity of being in the CRE industry. Don’t expect overnight results. Take pride in your work ethic and grind. As we say in Philly, “Trust the Process!”
KEEGAN: I could go on for hours but to keep it short here are the cliff notes:
- Find a good mentor/business partner
- Be patient, be available, be persistent
- Build positive relationships with clients and brokers, leverage the C&W brokerage network
- Bring unique skills to the table
- Have passion for the business
- Put in the time arriving to work early, working nights and weekends, and don’t expect a large paycheck
If you do these things your trajectory to win more business will increase along with the paycheck. Tom Usher, of C&W, said to me early on in my career, “Gauge yourself by doubling your production.” It’s a good benchmark. I’d encourage anyone new the business, to use that but push yourself to beat it!
Keegan Clay joined Cushman & Wakefield in 2015. With extensive experience in accounting, project management, and consulting within Fortune 500 companies, and a strong vision for the future of Oregon, Keegan brings an approach that is both analytical and personal allowing him to find clear, creative solutions to meet his clients’ commercial real estate needs. In his first full year, Keegan completed thirty-one lease transactions and two sales totaling 640,964 square feet with a value of $43 million. He graduated with an MBA from the University of Denver and received his undergraduate in Business from the University of Oregon. Keegan is currently affiliated with the CAB, NAIOP, PDXDrones, Boys and Girls Club and Junior Achievement.
Jonas Skovdal joined Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) in 2015. Mr. Skovdal joined the Industrial Brokerage Group as an Associate. He specializes in the Philadelphia and Suburban Philadelphia industrial market.Prior to joining C&W, Mr. Skovdal worked as Marketing Manager for iDIMENSIONS, a firm specializing in executive coaching and leadership development. He graduated in May 2013 from Temple University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and a minor in Business. During his tenure at Temple, Mr. Skovdal served as Vice President of Public Relations and Membership Recruitment for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Temple Chapter.