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Origin Stories: Colliers Vice President Kendin Carr On Going From Answering Phones To Closing Deals

This series delves into the myriad ways people enter the commercial real estate industry and what contributes to their success.

Colliers Vice President Kendin Carr has come a long way from answering phones at his first job at a property management company in Boston.

The 15-year industry veteran specializing in multifamily transactions landed that first commercial real estate position after graduating from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with a bachelor's degree in economics in 2005. Carr admits he had no idea about real estate before finding his groove as a broker and project manager, a common story among commercial real estate professionals of color.

He founded Realm Property Group in 2008 and led the Boston-based firm for eight years, completing $40M in mixed-use real estate transactions. After serving in advisory roles at Marcus & Millichap between 2017 and 2019 and at Converge Ventures after that, Carr joined Colliers in May.

Colliers' Kendin Carr in Nantucket last September.

A genuine self-starter, Carr today shares his knowledge with other rising CRE experts. He co-chairs the Urban Land Institute's Next Initiative Council aimed toward 35- to 45-year-olds eyeing leadership positions and serves as a board member for the Builders of Color Coalition.

Bisnow: What was your first job in CRE?

Carr: I got my foot in the door answering tenant phone calls for a boutique multifamily property management and development firm in Boston. Working at a small, entrepreneurial firm was integral to my development in the industry because when you work for a small firm, you're able to touch all parts of the business from management to construction to financing to development. I was able to see how all the gears worked, and I've really used that knowledge to leverage my career development.

Bisnow: What kind of education, certification or official training do you have in CRE? How critical was it to landing your first big role?

Carr: Right out of school, I didn't have any real estate-related training prior to entering the real estate field, but I think my degree in economics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, really changed the way I see the business world. I began to see real estate and financial markets through the lens of supply and demand. I really began to grasp and appreciate how nuanced and dynamic real estate markets are.

Bisnow: What is one skill you wish you had coming into CRE?

Carr: Communication and public speaking. Communication and relationship-building is everything, especially in brokerage where you spend a significant portion of your time on the phone and networking. The ability to articulate your ideas in an effective manner can take you a long way in this business. 

Bisnow: What were you doing before you got into CRE? If you changed careers, did you bring anything with you from your past career that has helped you thrive in CRE, or, on the flip side, anything you had to unlearn in order to succeed here?

Carr: The one thing I've had to consistently unlearn is that there is no single way to do anything. CRE is such a broad field with so many disciplines that there is always a new quirk or new dynamic that you haven't thought of that someone else has made millions of dollars doing.

Colliers' Kendin Carr surfing in Nantucket last September.

Bisnow: Can you remember a moment where you felt in over your head or you worried this industry wasn’t for you? Did you ever think about quitting? What changed?

Carr: As a broker, when you're earning on 100% commission, there are always peaks and valleys. One day you're on top of the world and the next, you're questioning every decision you've ever made. The key is consistency and resiliency. Once you've fully committed to taking the actions that are needed to be successful, the peaks last longer than the valleys. It's also important to be able to bounce back quickly after a loss. You wear many hats in this profession, so you can't let a bad experience or a dead deal impact the other aspects of your business.

Bisnow: What were your early impressions of the industry, good and bad? How has your impression changed?

Carr: When I first got into the industry, I thought you had to master everything before you could really be good at it. What I've learned is that there is a steep learning curve, and many of the really successful people took a leap of faith and built the plane on the way down. For many, it's taking action and learning from your failures that leads to success, while many people in the industry are paralyzed by analysis. 

Bisnow: Have you had a mentor or sponsor? How did that person shape your future in CRE?

Carr: I haven't been lucky enough to have what most people would consider a formal mentor, but I have always been a voracious reader and I've endeavored to learn from people more experienced than I am. So, I've built a library of books and articles on the industry and its influential people. I've also always been very observant around professionals who are more experienced and successful than I am. I pay attention to what to do and what not to do, to see what really drives their success.

Colliers' Kendin Carr

Bisnow: What is a key lesson someone taught you, either kindly or the hard way?

Carr: This is an industry that is so fast and so dynamic that if you're not always learning, you'll get passed by in an instant. One thing that an industry veteran taught me recently is that the five most important things in real estate were: Prioritize, communicate, and follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.

Bisnow: What do you warn people about when they join the industry?

Carr: I tell everyone who's about to embark on a career in real estate two things. One, get everything in writing. Two, be ready to be flexible and work with some interesting characters. No. 2 speaks to No. 1.

Bisnow: If you could do your career all over again, what would you change?

Carr: Nothing. I feel like this career path offers the greatest opportunity, flexibility and agency, but it's sink or swim and you eat what you kill. It takes a person with great discipline and character to really be successful over the long term.