Mentoring: An Essential Tool for Success in Brokerage

Seasoned professional working with a young professional showing him the ropes

Part II: Voit Irvine and Anaheim Offices.

In recent years, technology has provided increasingly valuable tools for commercial real estate brokers to do their jobs more productively and efficiently. But as we have learned from conversations with Voit brokers for this series, there is no surer pathway to success than having a seasoned mentor.

Seth Davenport and Adam Hill – Irvine

During the interviews, it was clear that the two primary lessons that were driven home during the mentoring process were 1) the value of building a solid work ethic and 2) the importance of always putting the client’s needs first. “I think the most important lesson I learned was that you always do right by the client and always do the right thing, even if it’s not in your personal best interest,” says Seth Davenport, SIOR, EVP/Partner. “I think that’s what has really helped me most in my career.” Davenport heads the industrial group in Voit’s Irvine office along with Mitch Zehner, EVP/Partner, who was Davenport’s mentor when he first entered the business following his graduation from USC in 2003.

“For the first year, I was just a typical runner, shadowing and learning on the job. Mitch and another senior partner made sure that I was learning all the different intricacies of the business — spending time with lenders, environmental attorneys, etc., and really checking all the boxes as they relate to the day-to-day brokerage operations. By the time I was done with that runnership, I not only understood how to put together a lease document but also the finer points of the business.”

After spending years honing his skills, Davenport became a mentor to new brokers. One of the first things he impresses upon his runners is that while brokerage can be a lucrative career, it’s a tough business. “That’s lesson number one, and you’ve got to keep that in perspective because if you don’t, it’s going to be a short-lived career,” says Davenport. “I think a lot of people think that they can jump in and make a bunch of money, and while that is a side effect of a career that’s executed well, it’s a really hard living. There’s lots of heartbreak and hard work, and it takes a lot of time [to succeed], so you’ve got to be patient. But if you treat people the way you want to be treated, in the end, it all comes back in spades.”

Adam Hill, SVP/Partner, who transitioned into CRE in 2015 from a decade-plus career at a successful startup, was mentored by Davenport shortly after he arrived at Voit. Hill says that Davenport helped him develop the right mental perspective to stay positive in the face of the constant adversity inherent in brokerage. He also emphasized the need to focus on new business development, even as he was busy with transactions. In addition, Davenport became a valuable sounding board, leveraging his years of experience to provide insight into complex situations.

“In Seth, I had someone I could go to with the myriad of questions that came up when I was first learning the business. His situational experience and advice helped me immensely as I navigated the rough waters of brokerage,” says Hill. “He also helped lift me up when I was down and reminded me to stay the course, reminding me that this is a long game. His mantra was, ‘Keep plugging away, take care of your clients, stay focused on new business development, keep swinging the axe, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Hayden Socci and Tom Terry – Anaheim

Hayden Socci, CCIM, SVP/Partner, has brokerage in his blood. His father, Robert Socci, EVP/Partner, is a 43-year CRE veteran, the last 36 years with Voit. “I was kind of groomed from a real estate business perspective by him,” says Socci. “I interned for three or four summers along with my brother and my father would send us out cold calling. He’d tell us to go out and dig up some leads, so we’d go out door to door, and we were fortunate enough to sell a couple of buildings one summer.”

As Hayden learned the ropes, his father would set up meetings with representatives from the various segments of the CRE business to help him gain an understanding of the entire brokerage process. “I used to have lunch with him every day, so I was fortunate in that I could ask him anything at any time. His big thing was instilling a work ethic in me. His motto is ‘You’ve got to outwork everyone,’ and I feel very fortunate that I was able to learn from him, especially that old school approach.”

The 18-year veteran began mentoring new brokers in 2018 and says the process is a valuable component in building company culture. “I try to go out of my way to make sure I have a good relationship with the young guys,” says Socci. “I tell them if they have any questions or ever want to run something by me or if they’re embarrassed to ask their senior broker or just want a different perspective, I can make myself available. Senior brokers taking an interest in the younger ones’ success only helps the company.”

Socci also provides a realistic viewpoint for young brokers coming into the business. “I tell a lot of potential runners that this business isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to have thick skin because you get hung up on, you get the door slammed on you, you get someone that says one thing, does something else and uses a different broker, and you lose out. But it’s all part of the learning experience, and you put all that together, and that’s how you end up succeeding.”

One of those success stories is Tom Terry, VP, who was Socci’s first mentee in 2018. Like Socci, Terry interned at Voit during the summers of 2016 and 2017 while attending the University of Arizona. He says he has benefited from Socci’s mentoring style, which strongly emphasizes developing and maintaining relationships. “While some mentors can be robotic, having [new brokers] making 100 calls a day, Hayden taught me to focus on maintaining good relationships with live leads — prospective buyers or sellers or tenants or landlords, and making sure to do a good job out of the gate versus just shotgunning [calls],” says Terry. “I realize there are different ways to go about it, but I like his style, and it has definitely helped form the way I broker deals, too.”

Socci also stressed the value of being detail-oriented; a disciplined routine can help you avoid making simple mistakes that hurt deals. “It goes back to the relationship aspect — following up with people, making sure everyone is taken care of,” says Terry. “We do a lot of first-time buyer transactions, so there’s a lot of handholding involved that comes with it. So, making sure everything’s in order and going above and beyond on every deal is just part of the process.”

Through their guidance and real-world experience, senior Voit brokers impart the work ethic and client-centric approach needed to thrive in the competitive world of commercial real estate. Not only do they offer technical expertise, but they also instill the emotional resilience required to navigate the inevitable trials of this rewarding but challenging career.

If you are interested in learning more about Voit’s mentoring programs, contact an office near you.