Rick Etner is an Executive Director specializing in industrial services with Cushman & Wakefield’s Boca Raton office. Merritt Etner, Rick’s daughter, is an Associate with the firm’s office brokerage team based in West Palm Beach.
The father and daughter brokers started their commercial real estate careers nearly 30 years apart, Rick in 1988 and Merritt in 2015. Needless to say, they each have different perspectives on the industry, and while the work they do is similar, the way they work is very different.
We chatted with Rick and Merritt to see what about the South Florida CRE industry has changed in the last 30 years, what hasn’t, and which emerging trends they think will impact the industry most in the coming years.
First, a question for both of you: Before beginning your career in commercial real estate, what about the industry appealed to you?
Rick: At IBM I was in International Procurement, specifically on unannounced development products. As such, I was always in manufacturing plants and warehouse facilities all over the country, as well as overseas. When I decided to move into real estate, I knew residential wouldn’t be my path. I focused on commercial and industrial was a natural fit because of my years in that end of the industry. Another perspective I learned, and still use today, is that I also very often found myself across the table from the seller/vendor with me as the buyer/client. I gained a unique perspective about what I liked and disliked from a seller standpoint and I use that today working with my clients.
Merritt: I have always been interested in the commercial real estate industry. I used to go to work with my dad when I was a kid and I loved being able to tour different office/industrial buildings and construction sites with him.
Mostly, I loved seeing how excited he is about his work. There is always a new prospect to chase, a new deal to work on, or a new project to pitch. I also got to see some of the more frustrating aspects of this business – how much work he puts in outside of “office hours,” or how frustrating it is when a deal goes sideways. But despite the drawbacks, I have always been drawn to this industry because he set a great example for me of how successful you can be if you are dedicated, hardworking and driven.
Q for Rick: Watching Merritt learn and develop in her career, what are some of the biggest differences you noticed between her learning experience and yours when your first started out?
The use of technology is amazing. The ability of Millennials to grasp that power and use it to conduct this business is far greater than those of us who even try to do so!
For Merritt: Is there anything you remember about your father’s job growing up that seems very different today?
I think the biggest change is in the technology we use – broker offices are no longer overflowing with floor plans and filing cabinets. Now, all you really need is a laptop, and in a pinch, a smartphone, to run your day-to-day operations. It gives you the flexibility to get your work done even on days that you can’t make it into the office.
Q for Rick: As technology has changed and improved, how has it affected the way you work? Which tools and programs do you find most useful?
When I first started out, we used fax machines, regular mail and couriers to get our proposals and leases to where they needed to go. Now, something as mundane as an iPhone has changed the way I do my business. The ability to talk, text, email, all at the same time from data and apps on my phone or iPad is amazing. Property databases such as Costar and LoopNet, while not perfect, are far in advance of how we used to operate, opening information to everyone.
Q for Merritt: How does technology play a role in the work you do? What tools and programs do you use every day that you can’t imagine living without?
Beyond using these tools from my desktop computer, most programs that we use on a daily basis also have smartphone apps. Being able to send emails and access CoStar/Loopnet, VTS, and Salesforce from my iPhone gives me the ability to serve my clients from almost anywhere.
Q for Rick: Today, which current CRE trends do you think are the most important to watch?
Clearly the lack of developable land will continue to become a problem, forcing redevelopment of older obsolescent buildings. For example, retail malls are potentially becoming obsolete. These properties could be ideal locations for manufacturing companies that usually require above average parking, beyond that of normal distribution users, yet do not need many loading dock doors. As South Florida continues to grow rapidly, the population will continue to march north from Dade into Broward and Palm Beach. Also significant is how the market is establishing itself as predominantly institutional versus the private development we saw decades ago.
Q for Merritt: Which current CRE trends do you think are the most important to watch? And which trends do you think will have the biggest impact on millennials?
I think that we are going to continue to see office landlords adding hospitality-like amenities to their buildings. With co-working companies like Quest and Regus offering more amenities to their tenants than traditional office buildings normally do, such as coffee and snack bars, shared meeting rooms and collaboration spaces, fitness centers, and on-site restaurants, landlords have begun to follow suit and incorporate some of these amenities into their own buildings.
Millennials are the first generation to grow up with technology, and I think that makes us a huge asset within the industry. As the commercial real estate industry continues to adopt new tech tools for brokers, tech-savvy Millennials will be the best suited to incorporate these programs into our daily professional lives.
Cushman & Wakefield is proud to have some of the most tenured commercial real estate experts in South Florida as well as fresh faces who help us stay ahead of the game as technology changes the industry. Thanks to Rick and Merritt for being great examples of how collaboration across generations strengthens our company.
Contact the Brokers: