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William Adjei's Road To Real Estate Started In Ghana


CBRE managing director William Adjei was last year's recipient of the RISE Award at CBRE’s African-American Network Group (AANG) annual conference. Not coincidentally, he's had a fascinating ascent through almost every aspect of commercial real estate. 


William's path to commercial real estate is a unique one. He was born and raised in Ghana until age 4, when William’s father, a professor, took a job at the University of Texas and moved the family to Austin. The family traveled the globe as William's father accepted teaching jobs in London, Scotland, Nigeria and back to Ghana, where William graduated high school.


He attended the University of Toledo on a track and field scholarship—his specialty was the triple jump. William majored in international business with a minor in information systems and says he chose his specialties because they offered the widest range of potential pathways for employment. William says his first exposure to real estate was being part of a campus housing resident adviser staff, managing student housing. After college, he spent a couple of years doing management consulting but didn’t like the lifestyle demands. He eventually entered commercial real estate while working with the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. William says he helped recruit companies to move their HQs to Dallas and relied heavily on research from CBRE. He became enamored of stats like pricing and vacancy absorption and applied for a research role at CBRE in 2004.

Once William was there, he found several opportunities to apply his educational background. At CBRE he learned about client interaction, which he says is more of an art than relying on underlying data and knowledge. After a year, William moved over to investment sales, handling a range of transactions from core to Class-C properties, and multifamily to student housing. His team closed $5B in sales in the run-up to the financial crisis.


After the financial market collapse, William found another opportunity, this time in Chicago. He and his wife returned to the Windy City to be closer to family in 2008, and William moved over to the occupier side of the business, handling transactions for IBM and GMAC, among others. William found that being on the services side of real estate kept him busy post-crisis. The market's volatility provided another opportunity and the timing was right to make the jump to the corporate side.

Over the years, William’s role has broadened. Today, he manages CBRE's Occupier Advisory and Transaction Services team across the Midwest, Northeast and Canada. He’s constantly on the phone with a client, meeting with one of the several teams he oversees, recruiting talent, and is involved heavily in growing CBRE’s market share. In this role, he travels heavily; usually 40 to 50 trips a year, mostly in North America. When in town, he likes to be in CBRE’s downtown office at least twice a week, and the rest of the time he tries to work from home. Away from the office, William loves spending time with his wife, Kristy, and children Jonathan, Erika, Matthias and Efia. All of the kids are involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. On the weekends, they enjoy hosting friends and family for meals and activities. Whenever the weather allows, William bikes, plays basketball or soccer with the kids, swims and takes in as many rounds of disc golf as possible.