Jason Fray - Director, Cushman & Wakefield

Episode 28: Branding and Culture in Corporate Real Estate Business with Jason Fray

Who is Jason Fray and the key takeaways in this episode

Jason Fray is the Director of Cushman and Wakefield, a recognized leader in local and global real estate research. He grew up in Central New Jersey and after college was faced with a crossroad and a life changing question, “What do I want to do with my life?”

In this interview, we’ll dig deeper on Jason’s story and see how things turned out and how he eventually stepped into the corporate real estate world. In addition, Jason also shared some thoughts on:

  • How an open access to information and collaborative environment worked for Cushman’s advantage
  • How Cushman & Wakefield built and maintained their brand
  • Why “Google it” doesn’t work at Cushman & Wakefield
  • Why you should look for a company that is willing to invest in you
  • How to attract talent by simply staying in a more desirable neighborhood

The Questions

[] What do you think the millennials are doing to the market place as it relates to getting them to join the company and getting them to stay?
Answer: I think that a big thing for them is that collaborative work environment, the one where they can constantly be in that coffee bar, their coffee lounging area. What I’m also saying is there’s a lot of technology that’s now going into the workplace. A lot more people when I started, and it makes me very old, I think it’s important to – when you have one of the conversations with somebody, you call them up. You talk to them [inaudible 0:15:27] and now it’s texting, it’s email and a lot of that has meant that even the art of letter writing has also gone by the wayside. Like I said, I sound like the old crusty white guy, but to me there’s a lot of face to face interactions and so this collaborative environment not necessarily forces them to do so but they enjoy the interaction a little bit because it’s not something that they’re getting in the professional area. It’s more through emails and text in that sort of thing.

[] What does that cost you when you can’t hire people and you can’t retain people you have?
Answer: It’s a very tough conversation. I’m always upfront with people because what you’re saying is even more a simplistic piece of conversation, meaning “I know it’s more expensive but here’s why. What’s the cost if you don’t?” But I have to take a step back further because the way we’re compensated in the industry, the more rent that you pay and the longer term that you do, the more money we make and I’m always upfront. I always want people to know and I always tell them and I’m always honest.

[] What advice would you give a young person coming out of school that wanted to explore an opportunity in a real estate business?
Answer: I would say wherever you go; you want to align yourself with a group, or people that are willing to invest in you. And what I mean by that is willing to invest in the training. I see so many people out there that will just sit there. They’re a young guy down at a desk. “Here’s your desk. Here are your pens, your pad and here’s your phone. Good luck. I’ll come back in an hour and see what you’re doing. They don’t teach somebody the basics of like how to cold call; how to properly canvass. How to properly foot canvass.

Culture According to Jason:

I think that what we’ve seen as culture goes has been a dramatic culture shift. So ten years ago, everybody gets an office, you come through into your office, you close the door and you know your work,  and now it’s really shifted to a more collaborative environment. It may have shifted for two reasons. One, people come after and will be like, “Whoa!”, because the standard was about 3 1/2 or so per thousand square feet. So you have 3 ½ people for every thousand square feet that you lease. The company’s after you and went one, “How can we get more people into the space?” Because it said more [inaudible 0:13:12] so more people in the space, leasing for less space.

Two, what I think they found is when they got people out of the offices, you accomplished that by getting people in the offices and sitting in open work stations, an open work environment and when they found is, depending on the industry, it’s more collaborative effort. Let’s say we’re all in this together, let’s go act this together, whether it’s a project or a program you’re trying to write or whatever they’re doing, they’re able to constantly shift to talk and collaborate.

Go To Quote for Inspiration

What Jason Fray Wants His Company to BE:

  • BE Collaborative
  • BE Ethical
  • BE Yourself

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:

Where to Find Jason:

Connect with John on

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

John: Welcome to Be Culture Radio. How are you man?

Jason: Great. Thanks for having me.

John: Super. Hey, just so my listeners know, Jason and I have a little history. We’ve worked with each other in the past and I thought it would be great if my listeners got to hear your perspective. But before we do that Jason, I want to ask you about your story and where you came from and what developed you, and what made you the man you are today.

Jason: I grew up in Monmouth County , here in Central New Jersey. I still live here now, Western Monmouth County . But one of the things that formed me at a professionally young age; I remember graduating college and after you graduate, you sit and you go, “What do I want to do with my life?”

Then I was thinking, looking all throughout and my father was like, “Well hey, why don’t you talk to one of my best friends, he’s in corporate real estate.” And I remember at that point, I’d never even heard what corporate real estate was. I just knew that he was pretty successful and it was sort of an “eat what you can kill” kind of atmosphere which is something that always very much was appealing to me.

A very important lesson I learned and I considered a free lesson, and I’ll tell you why in a moment. I remember interviewing for the company and he was a big muckety-muck over at CPRE and I walked into the office and I interviewed with his partner, the head muckety-muck there. I’d figured that he just wanted me to come in and say hi, tell him my name and he’d forget when I was starting.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’d never gone into his office and it was a full fledged interview. So that was the “Tell me a bit about yourself. Tell me if you know anything about this industry. Tell me why you want to be in corporate real estate.”

I remember sitting there, thinking, “I don’t know. I’ve nothing else going on pretty much.

John: [Laughs] I don’t know that I want to be in corporate real estate.

Jason: My dad said I have to get a job and this kind of fits the profile. And he goes, “Why do you want to be in corporate real estate?” And I remember sitting there and all those things going through my head and I didn’t have an answer. I was just like, “I really love big buildings.”

That was literally the answer, the best answer I could come up with. We talked for another 10 minutes and of course, he doesn’t want to hire me.

I then go speak to the managing director of the firm at that point. He doesn’t want to hire me. And my father’s best friend went in and said, “Look, I know you don’t want to hire him, but I don’t care. You’ll be hiring him. He’ll be starting in two weeks.

So that’s why I consider it a free lesson that no matter how much you think you have something in the bag, always be prepared. Be over prepared.

If you think you are walking in and they are there like, “Why don’t you come in, we want to sign you up on an exclusive basis,” that’s great, bring the presentation book. Be prepared to talk about the market. Be prepared to talk about the company, what you are doing in the neighborhood, availabilities in the area, what the benefit is. How much you’ve cut their rent by.

If you’re interviewing and trying to present and it’s your best friend and you know you’re hired, expect the CEO, the CFO, the COO to show up. Just always be prepared. And I considered it a free lesson because it didn’t hurt me. I went in. I flubbed and I still got hired. No harm, no foul. But I learned from that moment on, it was a great lesson to always be prepared. Be over prepared.

John: Now, what were you doing before real estate? You were just hanging out in college?

Jason: I just graduated so I started in September, right after I graduated.

John: But you were doing – I mean, Jason, you are a pretty entrepreneurial guy. You were doing other things through college.

Jason: In college, I was doing – I worked a couple of summers down at the shore. At one point, it was kind of sales but not really sales. I was the guy on the microphone working the games on the boardwalk. So I’d come over on the mic and try to get people to come and sit down and play.

It was that water game, where you would put the water into the hole and your balloon would expand, expand, expand, and the first balloon that pops wins.

So my job was to get a full game going every single time. You kind of develop a “salesman-y” attitude or “salesman-y” training. I didn’t even realize it at the time but it was that, and the biggest thing that helped me out in corporate real estate was that I did telemarketing for a couple of years while I was in high school.

I needed to call people up representing the New Jersey PBA and you’re trying to get people to donate money. And the hit ratio was extremely low but it kind of taught you that rejection is not a big deal. If you can nail one out of 20, you’re doing pretty good. And corporate real estate is very similar. As you sit there pounding the phones trying to get new clients and new meetings, there is a substantially large failure rate. But if you can nail it one out of 50 times and get a meeting, the way I look at it is, if your hit ratio’s one out of 50 which is pretty good, I don’t mean talking to 50 people, I mean placing 50 calls, talking to maybe 10 and getting one meeting, well my thing is, well, great. If I can make 200 calls, that means I get four meetings. And it’s all the law of averages. And really, the telemarketing really prepared me.

It went from people who don’t want to talk to you because you’re calling at their home, trying to ask for money, to just catching people who are busy that maybe kind of don’t want to talk. But it’s not nearly as much of a personal rejection.

John: Now, Jason, you worked for one of the biggest brands in the country and it has its unique culture. Could you share with us and our listeners a little bit about the company you work for.

Jason:  The company I work for is Cushman & Wakefield. It is the largest privately held real estate firm in the world. And in my opinion it’s one of the most recognizable brands. I think they’ve done an outstanding job in branding themselves.

We walked into – and I do with other real estate firms in the past I’d say, nine out of 10 presentations I walked into, no matter where they are, whether they’re from New York, California, or Europe, they all know the Cushman & Wakefield brand. And one other thing that I feel like defines us in our company culture is, in our office, it’s a very collaborative environment and there’s a lot of information and market information that’s shared.

If I have a requirement or I have a client that may have an office in Memphis, Tennessee, and they’re looking at their lease and they go on, “Hey, I want to know if this is a fair rental rate.” I can call up our office down there and I’ll get what they call a market beat report within a matter of moments.

There’s really a ton of shared information, not just on a national basis but globally.

John: You and I have talked about this before you came on the show and we’ve talked many times. We share war stories with each other when we lap back and forth and I just want to say, Jason, for my firm I just want to be one of one, which means, I want to stand over in the corner by myself so people don’t view me as a commodity but I’m one of one and I solve the problem.

How do you do that at Cushman with this tremendous brand – you’re the Director of Office Services in New Jersey and you’ve talked about the culture, and it kind of separates you, yes?

Jason: It does. It helps when we’re pitching against other companies. There are times when we’re one of one because we are the first one in there, right? But you’re right, it’s somewhat of a commodity. You can go in and I always tell people, that’s exactly what I tell people. I say, “Look, any knucklehead can run a survey, put you in a car and show you a bunch of buildings.” It’s not like what it was 20 years ago where they had this book called Black Sky. So if I had somebody in Parsifanny looking for office space I had to go to Black Sky and call every single landlord in the market. Now it’s really easy. There’s no hidden space. Even [inaudible 7:23] 29% Parsifanny, you go online, you look at exactly what’s available, you can kind of condense it down. You can call the landlords, right?

So people aren’t going with you because you know these hidden spaces. They’re going with you with the biggest attribute that I feel like I’m able to bring, it’s just relate-ability and trust. They want to go with somebody that they can relate to, that they understand. Somebody that’s willing to take the time to explain to them exactly what’s going on because people aren’t nearly as savvy as one may think when it comes to real estate. They may have done two or three leases in the past but they forget. They also more importantly don’t know what the market is. They don’t understand what a net effective rent is, which is when you take your base rent and then you incorporate the free rent, you’re getting your net effective rent.

So they don’t understand a lot of the intricacies and it’s just about being relatable. It’s kind of speak to them as a human being and coming across is –  I like to come across as genuine.

John: You guys have all these terms that even me and you, “I’ll ask Jason; I don’t know what that means.” I’m clueless. I don’t know.

Jason: I’d like to think a part, a lot of presentation is to take those terms that a lot of people don’t know and [inaudible 0:08:36] says, “We dumb it down or we coach you up,” but I’d like to say, “We just put it on the most simplistic level.” It’s just about coming across genuine that I never tell somebody. It’s like people going in there and say, “Hey, I’m going to come in. I’m going to save you. Four dollars a square foot, I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that.” I say, “Look, I’m not a miracle worker. What I’m going to do is make sure you get the best that is possible, at the lowest rental rate, with the most amount of work dollars right to improve your space or build out your space, or use that money to come and actually order new furniture and get you the most amount of free run as possible.”

I’m just not a miracle worker there. There’s lot of people going in who tell somebody that they can do a deal, $3 below. They can’t actually do a deal and by the time they figure it out like, “Hey, you said this. You’re not living up to that.” They’re already hired, right? I never want to put myself in a situation that I never misled anybody, like I said, I hope I come across where it goes from a commodity, where there’s something a little bit unique to it.

John: I’ve seen Jason in action, just so my listeners know, and I’ll take what you do, and what I’ve seen you do is very unique, and what you do is you seek to understand the clients’ “why” and you seek to understand before culture became a popular word, an environment, a collaborative – You were asking those questions, Jason. You were saying, “Tell me what you want to do, what you want to be,” and I think for me, when I watched you do that, it made you very much one of one.

Jason: I appreciate that. I appreciate you’re saying that uniquely makes me one of one, I’ve always [inaudible 0:10:18].  I step back. So, I had a career in corporate real estate from 98’ until 2005 or so. At that point, I left the industry for six years or so and actually played poker full time, and it was something that I found interest in entrepreneurially and it was thankfully something that I was successful at. I was able to build a home and have a family and it was great and unfortunately or fortunately, my wife says fortunately, the government came in and they changed the laws and shut down the site so I went right back into corporate real estate. But that time away really taught me a lot about people.

I was able to take step back from the industry where I met a ton of people through poker and traveling a little bit, and just could speak a little bit to people who for me personally, I may disagree with what somebody – the conclusion they come to but if I can understand why they’re thinking the way they are, I don’t want to say I attack it but even agreeing to disagree is a way of attacking it.

“Why do think that? What’s making you think that?” And they’ll tell me and I’ll go “Okay, I hear what you’re saying and either ‘A, you’re right’ or ‘B, here’s what I’m thinking.’ It might be a little off because I don’t think you’re fully understanding the situation and that can be accomplished through this or it can be accomplished through that,” and they’ll go, “We never thought of it that way.” Or a good example is, there was an attendant last week and they said, “Hey, we absolutely want to be in Fort LA,” and I go, “Okay, how come? Why? Why do you want to be in Fort LA?” “Oh, it’s great. It’s great access, right next to the city and a lot of our clients come from the New York airport. You’re big base here is right next to your city or is it – “No, we want easy access to New York airport.” And I go, “Where’s the easy access if you can’t walk out through your door, hop on the train and take the train. Because people don’t have their cars coming international travel. They can’t get right on the train and go right almost in your front door and they go “Yeah, there’s a couple places and it’s [inaudible 0:12:24]. It’s potentially [inaudible 12:28], it’s right through the train, but it’s really about listening to people, because I think a lot of people forget that the good Lord gave you two ears for listening and one mouth for speaking.

John: Right. What is your definition of culture as it relates to the company?

Jason: I think that what we’ve seen as culture goes has been a dramatic culture shift. So ten years ago, everybody gets an office, you come through into your office, you close the door and you know your work,  and now it’s really shifted to a more collaborative environment. It may have shifted for two reasons. One, people come after and will be like, “Whoa!”, because the standard was about 3 1/2 or so per thousand square feet. So you have 3 ½ people for every thousand square feet that you lease. The company’s after you and went one, “How can we get more people into the space?” Because it said more [inaudible 0:13:12] so more people in the space, leasing for less space.

Two, what I think they found is when they got people out of the offices, you accomplished that by getting people in the offices and sitting in open work stations, an open work environment and when they found is, depending on the industry, it’s more collaborative effort. Let’s say we’re all in this together, let’s go act this together, whether it’s a project or a program you’re trying to write or whatever they’re doing, they’re able to constantly shift to talk and collaborate.

So to accomplish two things, it was to be able to lower their rental rate or lower their overall [inaudible 0:13:42] occupancy cost, I should say, and it also created a more collaborative work environment, and I see a lot of tenants out there doing that now. So much so that the culture used to be okay, it sounds great on paper, but there’s a lot of people coming out of the offices and it’s tough to take somebody out of an office that’s been that’s been there for ten years and then put them in a work station. And what I’m seeing more and more now is a lot of the [inaudible 0:14:07] folks are doing that very thing. There’s a deal in working with right down in the middle end where they’re coming out of offices.

Everyone’s coming out. They’re going into new space. That new place will have several huddle rooms and little private rooms and conference rooms but everyone’s sitting in an open work environment and what happens is that when your president is willing to do that, nobody else can complain. You can’t say that you’re worthy of keeping an office when nobody else, in fact, the CEO or the president is sitting in one. That’s one of the biggest culture shifts that I’m seeing is that, that only ones now, the committees that are keeping office are now, see – those offices are becoming interior offices.

So if you want to sit in or get an office, great. Now you’re in a windowless office. We’re going to give the sunlight and the windows to folks out in the work stations.

John: I see that a lot too. What do you think the millennials are doing to the market place as it relates to getting them to join the company and getting them to stay?

Jason: I think that a big thing for them is that collaborative work environment, the one where they can constantly be in that coffee bar, their coffee lounging area. What I’m also saying is there’s a lot of technology that’s now going into the workplace. A lot more people when I started, and it makes me very old, I think it’s important to – when you have one of the conversations with somebody, you call them up. You talk to them [inaudible 0:15:27] and now it’s texting, it’s email and a lot of that has meant that even the art of letter writing has also gone by the wayside. Like I said, I sound like the old crusty white guy, but to me there’s a lot of face to face interactions and so this collaborative environment not necessarily forces them to do so but they enjoy the interaction a little bit because it’s not something that they’re getting in the professional area. It’s more through emails and text in that sort of thing.

John: It has to be, because having two kids that are coming out to college and my wife and I would sit back and say, “The art of human interaction is gone.” The text, the Pinterest, whatever it is. I wasn’t a big phone call buddy and it came into a company and they had to talk to one another.

Jason: That’s one more thing. I have a 14-month old and a 5 ½ year old and one thing of my five and a half year old up to this point is probably at three, when you talk to people, you look them in the eye. Don’t look away, just sit there and you look them in the eyes. I’ve seen please and thank you’s but you communicate. It’s funny. A lot of people – if I take a different tone but it’s the same concept of my son’s having not really [inaudible 0:16:43] but a meltdown if he’s not happy about something and “All right, let’s take a deep breath, let’s talk about it and let’s figure out the solution,” and too many people, I think, are overly emotional and their emotions are wrapped up and they have trouble dealing and coping, and a lot of that is because they’ve lost the art of communication.

John: It’s amazing. You see it all the time when people get to such a point where they come and speak and I like to say, “Listen, we can agree but disagree.”

Jason: As long as I can respect where they are coming from. If you’re saying that you don’t like sunny days and if your reason is your concern about skin cancer, that’s totally cool, but if your reason is, “Because aliens are coming on sunny days,” then to me, that’s crazy. I can’t really understand or comprehend why you’re saying what you’re saying. It has to be based in reality. As long as it’s based in reality, everyone can totally have their opinion; we can exactly agree to happen like warm weather and sunny weather. They might like Fall, when it’s a little bit chillier.

John: It’s like I say. It doesn’t make it right because I said so, and I’m the founder of the company. That’s just my opinion.

Jason: Yeah.

John: It’s just mine and I think we’ve got from a cultural standpoint, where a lot of organizations have left the point saying, “Hey, if the top person in that room says something, we all have to agree.”

Jason: Yeah. If someone also that has confidence and job security so it’s a different job market than it was 15 years ago. These good jobs are not easy to come by. You just want to hold on and it’s funny. It’s almost wrong with that mind-set. A lot of times, we don’t meet “real estate director”. We meet with the CFO, we meet with the COO or we meet with some other like the director of IT and I always joke but it’s true. It’s like how did you get this real estate responsibility. You must have drawn the short straw because they’re in a position where’s absolutely no upside. Like if they do a great job and they’re paying below market three years from, no one is ever going to remember that’s down. But if they’re in the position where it’s $4 above market and the roof is leaking and it’s horrible. They’re going to go, “George did this.” “George, you’re fired.”

John: All right. Let me dig this a little bit. Here you are with somebody and they say “Here’s what we want to do and this is our culture. We’re this type of company and we have to have these for the millennials and we have to do this,” and you see their company, because I’ve seen you start to understand what they do and how they’re going to grow because I’ve heard you ask the question, and you bring them to a facility like ours and you say, “This is what it looks like and that’s what desking is. That’s what a cubicle is; that’s what a bench is,” because they don’t have any idea and then you have to take them out into the market and they have to look at raw space. How did you reconcile it from a cultural and a physical and emotional standpoint, how do you bring them full circle to have them make a decision?

Jason: I’ve won by the way. The raw space is the easiest thing because it’s a blank slate. They can do whatever they want. The challenge is always a group when you already look at built out space. There’s a group that I can almost demo with in their mind, demolish the space in their mind. The other group that’s like, I don’t say it’s [inaudible 0:20:01] but the way that full circle – I more want to see what kind of culture they’re looking for and sometimes, they dedicate  this with the office building but more times, in data in the neighbourhood.

So if they want young hip culture, if they want to track a high level of talent, there’re certain neighbors you’re going to choose, where it’s the same makeup that they have, like not looking to anything different because it’s totally fine, like what they’re doing is working. They don’t really need to change their geographic makeup but their company is that one sort to track that younger talent and it’s either to be in the waterfront, or it can be in places like Metro Park where there’s easy access from the city.

There also might be people that want to attract certain talent from the pharmaceutical industry and that might be the first scenario. So for a lot of it, what are they going to do, there’s never the simple answer and more times an awkward frankly it starts with something that’s simple as: give me your employee’s addresses, not just your zip code. On people that’s going after the zip codes but if you think about the talent, what town are you’re living in, John?

John: Oh, I live in Quinton.

Jason: Okay, in Quinton, there’s the east border and there’s the west border. That’s a big difference and years ago, people just asked for the Quinton zip code and you don’t learn as much. When you’re narrow, that can be a difference of eight minutes or nine minutes.

So, I want to know exactly the street address and the address that folks live on and what we’ll do, we’ll plug it. We’ll do a drive time analysis. We just don’t plug it and figure out where you live and how far is it from the office because as you know, in New Jersey, five minutes can be twenty minutes in rush hour. So I want to have drive time analysis.

John: Tell the truth. It’s five minutes that can be an hour and a half. We live in New Jersey. You can drive 29 miles in two and a half hours.

Jason: It’s funny because in New Jersey, I believe we have the highest commute time of anyone in the country, like most people live…

John: No U-turns.

Jason: The jog hand though. Most people across the country commute somewhere  around 18-20 minutes for work and I want to see New Jersey, somewhere around 35 minutes on average. But it’s always interesting when you do the drive time, it’s great because I love the agnostic approach. I have no horse, no raise. Here’s what it is. Here’s the facts, do the [inaudible 0:22:25] and a lot of companies like you to color code it. So there are fifty employees, and ten are viewed – let’s just call it more essential than forty. So you almost like have two different drive times. If anybody and here’s the ten that really affect the bilker and it’s just interesting where a lot of companies, “We didn’t realize that we’re a participant, we realized that we’re really in the swam part. It is so much more convenient. We were hard in the participant because we’ve been here for years but participants, they may reinforce that they made the right decision being in that location. To me, that’s the number one driver more than anything else.

When people want to dramatically change the culture and start asking some of those questions, “How can we improve our environment, how can we attract more talent?”, that’s how we get in to different areas but a lot of those areas are also become much more expensive. There’s a reason that you can attract more talent. There’s more life to the area because it’s a more desirable neighbourhood.

John: Okay, but you’re the guy that puts all the pieces together sometimes and you’re the guy that tells the emperor that he has no clothes on. How do you do that when you say “Yes, it’s going to cost you more, an extra amount to do this. What does that cost you when you can’t hire people you can’t retain people you have?”

Jason: It’s a very tough conversation. I’m always upfront with people because what you’re saying is even more a simplistic piece of conversation, meaning “I know it’s more expensive but here’s why. What’s the cost if you don’t?” But I have to take a step back further because the way we’re compensated in the industry, the more rent that you pay and the longer term that you do, the more money we make and I’m always upfront. I always want people to know and I always tell them and I’m always honest.

It’s still weird because there was a client and he wanted to be in the [inaudible 0:24:16] buildings and he wanted the 35-dollar building and he was mocking me, “Leaving the building that was $26 and there were tons of buildings that were still 22 dollars. So everyone wants in the 35 dollar building. I go look, it’s a great building but I always feel uncomfortable because I don’t need to pay more, but I’m on a ten-year deal, not a seven-year deal, and I never want somebody to walk away. I always feel really uncomfortable because I tell them “Look, just because I’m making more money, it doesn’t make it the wrong decision for you but it makes the right decision for you and it happens to make more money in a process,” but I always want to be straightforward and upfront. I never want somebody in the back in their mind to think “He has put me in a more expensive building because he’s going to do better. He’ll be better off financially.”

You don’t want to be telling people “I’m not comfortable” but I always want to tell people that it goes back to what I said before, that I hope I always come across as genuine and above board  and ask a call.

John: Now, let me ask you this question. You’ve seen a lot of buildings and you’ve seen a lot of companies. Can you share with our listeners a situation where someone really got the cultural side of it, that environment study of the culture and that they really go hand in hand and you took them down that path and helped them and their company took off?

Jason: There’s a company I dealt with. Several years ago they were in a C-plus building and it’s a reflection of you. When you have so many commands, you try to hire people and you’re competing against the Amazon and Microsoft of the world, that culturally, they walked in and you’re like a fifteen-dollar building and they go interview with Microsoft in the $35 building and it’s just like, “Wow. This is a much nicer environment. There’s a lot more happening around here.” They finally bit the bullet and they did move us to the $35 building, right? Because they could accomplish what they wanted to moving 2 BDE to $30 building.

What they saw was they were able to compete with the Microsofts and Amazons of the world. They didn’t have to overpay for their talent because a lot I think of it as a baseball team. When you’re with the Yankees, sometimes you’ll take a little bit of a discount if you want to win championships. But if you’re going to go play for Kansas City, you want a premium because you’re just going to sit there. You’re going to lose for years but at least you’re going to make good money.

What they found was that they didn’t have to overpay for the talent anymore. Like they just have to pay as much as the other folks did. They were able to hire better talent and their revenue has increased substantially. So if they’re paying somebody 50% more than what they’re previously paying, that output probably acquires the 2 times the revenue. So that has them even ahead of the game. And it’s a big statement. When you’re in a dilapidated space and you’re a technology firm, what does that say about you and your firm?

John: Not much.

Jason: Yeah. It’s who you are.

John: So you’re seeing the other side of it. I’m sure.

Jason: Yeah. The folks said that they won’t move and they want the least expensive amount of space. It’s something that I learned [inaudible ???]. You have to spend money to make money. You have to invest in order to make money because happier talent, happier personnel, happier people acquits too. In my opinion, it seems to acquaint a lot with a go hand-in-hand with higher revenue.

If you look at 8 thousand square feet in Metro Park where rents are 30 somewhere dollars a square foot, you’re going to see revenue that’s probably 3 times that. Somebody that’s in Somerset paying half of that in rent.

John: And just we’re seeing the people that have taken a $28-30 per foot space and then they just make a mess of it. I’ve seen it and you go, “Why did you even move here?” Yeah.

Jason: I’d like to say that many of the tenants that certainly you’re involved with are very good planners and I’ve never wanted to walk into their space because I was looking at it as somewhat of a reflection upon me.

So the only time I’d say that when I walk into somebody’s space and it’s like “what were you guys doing?” so they didn’t take enough space, right? They came in and they put band aids on the solution, right? So they took 10,000 square feet and they outgrew it within 6 months. Now, they have to go back to the landlord and take space that is actually a more expensive deal. So now, they have captivated the audience. Maybe they came in to the building at $30 in a great building. And now the landlords were like “You need 4,000 more square feet and you have to be under the same roof.” Now, you’re deal is $32. I’m going to give you $10 less than work. Good luck.

So not only do they work and make out worse financially because they made out as planned as well. But when you put band aids on solutions like that, your space just doesn’t flow. You can just tell when you walk into somebody’s space and they take 2,000 square feet here and 3,000 square feet there. It didn’t plan right. It’s the old saying “measure twice for a once.” It’s all for a cock side as you call it.

John: I just came across in the numbers you’ve been doing. I’m sure you have it. There are people I have taken a meeting with and after a 20 minute meeting, I literally say “I really can’t help you because there’s nothing I’ve value that can bring to the table.” Because what I’m saying, I’m pretty sure, for me, they’re not going to listen. It doesn’t matter what my brand is tied to that. Does that ever happen to you?

Jason: We’re a little bit different because I think you’re kind of hired up and behaved. These guys are never getting in furniture. I can feel where they are. They can never get new furniture. They’re never going to do the right thing and kind of reconfigure, reshuffle or restack the space. But I’m from a different perspective because no matter how disorganized and utter chaos it may be, their lease is coming up.

John: Okay.

Jason: Somebody is going to be representing them. “Why not me?” and I’ll do the best that I can for them and I’m always telling them “Look. I’m totally willing to go down this road with you. I just want you to fully recognize that you’ve chosen a path with a ton of pot holes.” So your tires, they will completely blow out. And it’s totally clanged to be there with yet, I’m going to bring with Jack and I’m going to help you put the doughnut into the car. But I just want you to acknowledge that I didn’t tell you to do this. If we can live with that then you and I will take this journey together.

John: I think that’s a great way to approach it versus going blind and shut your eyes and hold them by the hand.

Jason: Yeah.

John: Jason, what offices or companies did you visit that, you may have done it yourself, where you said “Wow! They get it. Their cultures are popping. This is happening. A or B; I was part of it or I got to see it.”

Jason: It’s a good question. There’s a company. I hate to give their name. There is a company that I’m working with right now that they’re up in the Metal land and they get it. They understand like “Hey. It costs us money but we’re going to hire an architect for this because we have a lot –” A lot of them will not relate to the money. There was this one when we used the building architect and sometimes when we use the building a lot of times we use the building architect.

They’re going to cut the space the way that works best for the building. But if you have your own architect, they’re going to cut the space that works best for you. They’re going to design it the way that works best for you, not because it’s less expensive to do it that way for the building. They’re willing to invest into the project; into the endeavour. They get it that by investing this money, it’s going to get done it right. And what I mean by that is that it’s such a unique build out with an exposed ceiling grid and wide open space and they just wanted a certain kind of like really exciting and invigorating techy kind of look that when we go back to the ownership, “this is the way it always should be done in and I tried to do it this way but sometimes tenants just don’t want to do it this way.” You wanted to go back to landlord with your counter proposal as well and not just the space plan.

A lot of people go back with the space plan and they go “Okay, price it.” But how do you or how can you be precise how much the constructions going to be; but how do you know whether or  not they want glass fronts? Or not just whether they want carpeting or carpet tiles but what kind of carpeting. What kind of carpet tiles? You want to go back with the really comprehensive specs sheet. Here’s the kind of carpeting. Not even just the greater carpeting, here’s the brand I want.

Here’s the exact carpeting I want. Here’s the kind of glass. I don’t want a glass panel. I want a full glass front and here’s the exact flooring I want. And when you do that, everyone has the biggest picture because a lot of times the mistake I see is that the tenants give them what they want. They explain “hey, we want glass front. We want this kind of carpeting.” They say it’s great. I can do it. They turn the key and the tenants say “Great! This is wonderful.” They go in. they build up the space. The tenant shows up and they go “I didn’t say it was going to be this kind of wood. I wanted like this kind of quality.” And they go “Hey. You never specified. You just said hard wood.” Or “you want this level of carpeting.”

They say “I want this kind of brand. I didn’t say I wanted this level of carpeting.” And it’s just always interesting that when they go, it changes to that point, by the way, in viewing the result  with the tenant having the right to a surety check. And so when a company is able to do it right and invest a little bit by hiring a company to help along the process, things go so much smoother. Everyone is so much happier and there are no surprises at the end. Everyone is negotiating with both eyes open.

John: I hate surprises. Hey Jason, what advice would you give a young person coming out of school that wanted to explore an opportunity in a real estate business?

Jason: I would say wherever you go; you want to align yourself with a group, or people that are willing to invest in you. And what I mean by that is willing to invest in the training. I see so many people out there that will just sit there. They’re a young guy down at a desk. “Here’s your desk. Here are your pens, your pad and here’s your phone. Good luck. I’ll come back in an hour and see what you’re doing. They don’t teach somebody the basics of like how to cold call; how to properly canvass. How to properly foot canvass.

I’ve talked to so many young guys. I asked Miguel. “How do you list? The call off?” “I Google it.” It’s like “You Google it?” what about like actually going out there and look in at in the buildings. “They never tell me to do that.” Or they tell “Hey, go to buildings A, B and C. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.” But they won’t actually spend the time to bring them into the building and how to go to the receptionist, the right questions to ask; just the right kind of procedure.

John: So what we’re really talking about is a lack of culture. Maybe the fairer term is “a different type of culture that’s not collaborative.” Unlike the Cushman that you’ve talked about, the Cushman culture that you have in New Jersey. It is collaborative.

Jason: Yeah. I mean, when you come in to the door or question Mr. Wakefield, there’s not a pool of young guys. It’s “You’re going to work with John Jones. That’s who you’re going to be working with.” There’s a sense of responsibility whereas in some other companies they throw them up in a fish bowl and it’s eat or be eaten or kill or be killed. If there’s no ownership of somebody, they’re not vested in helping somebody. If they come up with a lead then they go to the managing director. The managing director says “Go talk to Jim or go talk to Daddy.” They’re going to meeting with you. Whereas if you and that person are aligned, you’re going to sit there and teach him exactly what to do, exactly how to say it and exactly just the way to go about it from the first day, from the way to go to how to do it to know how to come back and process that information.

John: I can imagine that the description you just gave. You guys probably have a great pool of candidates and there are people that are sick. They have the side of it that who in God’s name would stand in line for that job?

Jason: I always scratch my head because you’re fighting hard to get that job that pays nothing. I mean. Literally there’s no – It’s zero. Your salary is zero. But the upside is that there’s somebody going to have that vanity. There are two types of people. There’s people who like to walk in and turn off because it’s already built out and they envision exactly how their space is going to look. There’s the other type that just can’t see it and the person that just can’t see it it’s totally cool. It may not be for them. It just isn’t for everybody. The fact is that there are a lot of people that I come across on a daily basis where my son goes to school. I run to people and it’s like “Wow. This person really- They may be challenged in cell.” And that’s a person, that same exact person, they’re a brain surgeon.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t find your calling in life and be extremely successful. Quite frankly, I’m in this profession because I’m not smart enough to be a brain surgeon. I have to find somebody else to do that. Pick it up, here are the bills. I’m at 63. I can’t skate with the best of them quite yet. So I have to find something else to do. You come in life. You want to figure it out and a lot of it is about self-awareness by the way. They always say part of that being genius isn’t knowing all the answers; it’s knowing who to ask if you don’t know the answers.”

John: Exactly. Jason, I’m going to take you to because you’ve spent a lot of time. I want to be conscious of your time that you’re giving to us. I want to take you into lightning round not to cut you off but you know, I don’t want Jason to call me back late guys and say “Man. I missed 3 calls because of you.” So I’m going to move you to the lightning round, okay?”

Jason: Sure.

John: Is there a book that changed your life?

Jason: It’s funny. You and I talked about this all the time and I am not much of a reader by any means and I wouldn’t say that it changed my life but I always seem to find and come across a lot of and found a particular book and a lot of it is just watching a lot of documentaries and history shows. And a lot of it is just saying “Let’s not talk about problems. Let’s talk about solutions, right? Strong and mighty overcome obstacles. The weaker me will succumb to them.” And it’s a lot of like little sayings like you’ll give a hundred percent of the time.

John: So you’ve got a quote to go to for inspiration?

Jason: It’s just different quotes around. I think the biggest thing I always do is “I live my life as if my child was there watching me.” Am I giving 100%? Am I doing? My child can literally follow me around because I feel this though. I feel like I’m always trying to do the right thing.

John: I’ve always tried to teach my kids that character is what you do when nobody is looking. And the only thing I’ve always taught them when they were little, now they’re in their 20’s, if you wouldn’t do it in front of your mother, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Jason: Exactly. That was the one of my list. Doctor Porcopio in Marabou high school  said a similar thing like “Act as if your mom is watching you right now.”

John: Scary stuff.

Jason: Yeah.

John: Now, what company do you admire the most as it relates to culture outside Cushman Wakefield?

Jason: You know what, I can’t imagine being anywhere but Cushman Wakefield. I mean it’s the right kind of environment. There’s no one breathing down your neck. They let you be you. I think a lot of that is because they have the right people there and the right people in place. If you do things right and you’re bringing the right people in, then everyone’s going to work out fine. If you wind up bringing the bad people in, which thankfully they haven’t done, then you’re going to watch everyone like a hawk. You have to make sure everyone is treating each other right. I think seeing the Cushman Wakefield and the brand, it’s almost the NFL is protected with a shield, I kind of feel like Cushman is very protective of the brand.

John: I would agree with you. Big finish, Jason. Here we go. If you had to describe the culture of Cushman Wakefield using 3 words, what would it be?

Jason: Be collaborative.

John: Okay.

Jason: Be ethical.

John: Okay.

Jason: And be yourself.

John: Be collaborative, be ethical and be yourself. That’s great. Right now Jason, how can my listeners connect with you? Email or phone number. Tell us.

Jason: They can reach out to me. I remember I talked about my phone. Give me a call, I’d be happy to talk to anybody. My number is 201-5085232. That’s my direct line or they can always email me at Jason.fray. F- R- A- Y @cushwake.com.

John: Superb. Now, I never end a show without sharing with my guests my favorite quote from Maya Angelo, which is “People will forget what you did; people will forget what you said but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And we hope we made you feel welcome and part of our tribe today and I can’t thank you enough for spending this bunch of time with us Jason. Because I know I promised you 30 minutes but you had some really cool things to say and thanks for hanging in there with us. It’s been extra time with us.

Jason: Thank you very much for the time. I appreciate it.

John: You’ll come back in 6 months and tell us about the big deal that happened in the Metal lands.

Jason: I hope to come back in 6 or 9 or 12 months and talk about several big deals.

John:  Perfect. We’ll have you back then.

Jason: Great. Thank you so much John.

John: Thank you so much. Be well.

Jason: You too.

John: Bye.

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