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Leading with Purpose: MP Eric Paulsen Empowers His Team to Succeed

Eric Paulsen joined Cushman & Wakefield in October 2017 as Managing Principal for Orange County and the Inland Empire, bringing an impressive real estate background acquired through past roles in leadership with institutional and private organizations.

Paulsen’s time in real estate has been a busy one – he has bought, sold, brokered and auctioned around $10B dollars of commercial real estate assets nationwide over a career spanning three decades.

“I joined Cushman & Wakefield because it is a very successful global company and I felt that as an individual, I could add value, contribute to its success and help the company grow even further,” Paulsen said. “I also knew most of the brokers at the firm, having worked with them throughout my 30 years in this market. I respect them, I appreciate their work ethic, and I wanted to be part of their team.”

Writing a New Chapter
In his role as Managing Principal, Paulsen immediately went to work creating an environment for the Orange County and Inland Empire professionals that was conducive to enabling their best productivity level and financial performance.

“I wanted to create an environment that promoted success and a location that our salespeople would be proud to bring clients to and want to come into each day. In addition, brokers and salespeople need to be out in front of clients—so the more I could do to build a supporting environment that promoted their ability to do that, the stronger we were going to be,” Paulsen said, adding his belief that, “good management is about taking the pressure off the mundane day-to-day tasks and making your people more productive.”

One of the solutions Paulsen incorporated was to recruit more associates and have them take on more of the execution load. He also worked to provide more resources, improve processes and procedures, integrate new business platforms, and initiate more client opportunities at the company’s new Orange County office located in Lakeshore, a premier multi-building, mixed use office complex in Irvine. The firm moved into the new office space in October 2017, merging what were previously two separate offices into one. The office’s striking views, expansive inner spaces and cutting-edge design have made it an ideal platform to showcase the Cushman & Wakefield brand at its best.

“This year we have hosted multiple client events including our Industrial Symposium which brought in brokers and clients from Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, our C-Suite Summit for the Office Group, and just recently a Cocktails and Conversation gathering for the Capital Markets team. Brokers were excited to bring their clients into our new state-of-the-art offices, and this enthusiasm helped build the turnout we needed for a quality gathering,” Paulsen said. “Our new space definitely has a WOW factor that leads to some great moments and opportunities.”

A Focus on Culture
The fruits of Paulsen’s leadership efforts have been rewarded twofold in 2018.
“It’s been a growth year in terms of the company—we’ve had a lot of success in both Orange County and the Inland Empire, in either representing clients in some of the largest transactions in our markets, or brokers having their best year in their career.” Meanwhile, the transition to a new office and the addition of new faces has also enhanced the local culture and created a sense of excitement and community.

“People are working well together and enjoy coming here. It feels like a good place to be and work,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen strives to promote a positive environment where employees feel supported and engaged. “I’ve been in environments where I didn’t want to get out of bed – I was unhappy and dreading having to walk out the door. I want my people to be in a place where they genuinely feel welcomed and want to come to work every day,” he said.

Another avenue for fostering a collaborative team mindset, Paulsen says, is finding ways to acknowledge and recognize people’s success. The office has an internal newsletter which celebrates employees and their recent achievements. Along with listing the latest big wins and transactions, the newsletter also shines a light on employees and their lives outside the office, from their volunteer work in the community to life events like weddings and births.

“Everyone wants to be acknowledged and appreciated as part of a larger, successful organization,” he said.

Paulsen said one of his initial challenges this year was combining several groups into a cohesive whole as the office converged into its new location. The company culture today promotes professionalism—and Paulsen says people appreciate that. “When clients come into the office space, it’s important to reflect a professional environment. At the time of merger, we were blending shorts and flip flops with suits and ties.”

Paulsen has made at least one concession to the forces of leisure, however: an office ping pong table, where people can blow off steam and enjoy some “friendly” competition.

“We’re a professional environment overall, but the ping pong table was a minor concession that serves an important purpose – it’s the new water cooler that folks can gather around and catch up. And as my associates were selling me on the idea, I am told that it is a great channel for honing focus and providing stress relief,” Paulsen said. “Actually, it is a great window into how competitive people can be.”

It Runs in the Family
Paulsen’s leadership role is demanding, but it draws upon character traits that seem to already come naturally to him. He’s a positive, cheerful person who describes himself as team-spirited, and competitive (in his youth, Paulsen represented the United States in the Junior World Cup Water Polo in Barcelona, Spain, was a 4 year varsity letterman at UCLA, and then spent six months playing water polo in Sydney, Australia)—all ideal qualities for a high-profile leader in a fast-paced industry.

Paulsen credits his parents for cultivating his work mentality, instilling in him a disciplined and yet supportive approach to tackling new challenges. The leadership gene seems to run in the family— most of his relatives have worked as principals, teachers, coaches, or in other roles focused on management, guidance and mentorship. Paulsen’s father was a school principal and always held a visible and active role in the community. Meanwhile, Paulsen’s mother serves as the President of Newport Beach’s Sister Cities Program. Both are active board members at the Oasis Senior Center in Corona del Mar. Paulsen himself sits on multiple boards that relate to the industry or his three children and their passions and hobbies. “I don’t know many people that are willing to admit this, but I am proud of my parents. For them it really is about giving back to the community,” he said.

Native Son
A born-and-raised Orange County native, Paulsen has strong personal ties and business connections. While he and his wife have been married for 28 years, they actually met all the way back in the carefree days of 6th grade. Today, they even live in the same house in Newport Beach where Paulsen’s wife grew up.

Paulsen’s intimate knowledge of the area and its people has been a boon to his career. “Most of the people in Orange County or in the Newport area know who I am so it helps when I’m making phone calls and my name has already preceded me. In our industry your name is your brand, and it’s either a good one or a bad one. I like to think that most people either respect me, or enjoy me or have heard good things about me, so that when I call, it’s an anticipated positive,” Paulsen said, adding, “Having that reputation here gives you a lot of credibility and with a lot of roots in the area, it helps when you can tap into them.”

A Solid Outlook
Paulsen anticipates another strong year in 2019, with relatively high sales transaction volume and still solid fundamentals. “There’s a lot of motion and activity in the real estate environment,” he says, listing off some of the biggest trends and drivers currently fueling the market. “Capital markets is performing strongly; the roles of industrial and multifamily are becoming more critical, and retail is finding new potential for growth as we tease out what does and doesn’t work for today’s shoppers.”

With some analysts projecting a downturn in 2020, Paulsen agrees caution and strong market expertise is warranted and says the firm will be responsive to advising clients on the best approach for managing their work environments for the next three – five years.

“We have entered what I call a Musical Chair Environment, where most people feel like the music could stop soon, so they want to have the chair close. Decisions slow down and risk tolerance plays a bigger factor, as no one wants to be the last person in the market to make a potentially bad decision. This is where we talk ourselves into a recession. Having said that, if and when we do have a downturn, we historically have never had this significant amount of capital available or this many diverse participants in real estate as we do now, so the length and depth of any downturn I believe will be shallow in comparison to past recessions,” he said.

Paulsen says this thriving commercial real estate environment attracts many to Orange County, “I like to joke that every third person living in Orange County is in the real estate industry in one way shape or form, so we are all invested in making it successful.” The area’s sunny and warm climate and diversified economy also play a key part in luring new residents – while giving lifetime locals like Paulsen plenty of reason to stay put. “Orange County is almost an oasis. It’s a very nice, well-respected, renowned place to be and the weather is phenomenal year-round.”

About Eric Paulsen
Eric Paulsen joined Cushman & Wakefield from Ten-X Commercial (formerly Auction.com), where he served as Executive Managing Director since July 2016. Years prior in 2012, he had been engaged as Co-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to help launch Auction.com Commercial (ADCC), a startup venture between LNR Property and Auction.com focused on transacting loan and commercial asset sales utilizing Auction.com’s online-based auction platform. He performed all CEO duties in this role. Then in 2013, the Auction.com Commercial venture was rolled into Auction.com (ADC), where Eric continued his responsibilities of running the commercial division as Executive Vice President/General Manager, overseeing 125 employees and generating revenue in excess of $115M.

Prior to those positions, Eric served as Vice President of Acquisitions and Dispositions with LNR Property Corp of Newport Beach, a company he worked at for over a decade from 2000 to 2011. During his time with LNR, Eric was involved in $4 billion worth of commercial real estate transactions and $3 billion in non-performing loan sales nationwide. He also managed various practice groups and business units within the firm. His career experience in development also extended to his role as Senior Vice President with Prism Realty in Costa Mesa, which he held from 2015-2016.

A graduate of UCLA, Paulsen launched his career in commercial real estate with CBRE in 1988, where for more than 12 years he focused on investment sales, transacting over $1 billion of real estate.

Along with his business leadership, Paulsen is also a highly active member of his local community as a board member of HomeAid OC, the CDM High School Foundation Board and the boards of both men’s and women’s tennis at CDMHS. He sits on the industry related boards of NAIOP and Building Block Foundation.

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