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The Recipe For A Modern Brokerage Firm

The KIG team at their daily meeting

There is a new formula for a successful brokerage firm. While previous companies created isolated environments of specialization and expertise, the rise of collaborative, team-focused workplaces has begun to reshape commercial real estate. 

No longer siloed into individual roles and departments, modern brokers pair sophisticated market data analytics with human interaction. From detailed market insights to visual marketing campaigns, the process of working with a client now involves communication and collaboration across the entire team.  

At KIG CRE, a Chicago-based institutional multifamily brokerage firm, communication and collaboration are crucial ingredients in the recipe for success.

“The brokerage community has always been a lot like the banking community: There’s a set way to do things and the products produced are very similar,” KIG CRE ‎Managing Partner Todd Stofflet said. “I think the new recipe for brokerage includes dynamic thinking, multiple sources of information and, at the end of the day, you’re creating tailored product for all the people within the organization.”

KIG CRE combines information across financial statistics and a deep understanding of market insights. Senior Associate for Market Analytics Laura Ballou and Senior Associate for Financial Analytics Dan Gonzalez sit side by side and constantly exchange information. Ballou leverages seven years of multifamily experience to uncover the performance and behavior of local markets. She stays in touch with property managers, often on a weekly basis, and tours properties to find the latest amenity and renovation trends. 

“Not only am I keeping tabs on stabilized buildings, but another important part of my job is knowing the development pipeline,” Ballou said. “I am constantly tracking projects from when they are first proposed to when they are delivered. Understanding the trends and knowing what is coming is invaluable to our clients.”

Gonzalez contributes his expertise when owners and investors want to learn more about the financial side of Ballou’s market reports. He provides expense analysis across other comparable assets, capital markets and tax analysis to get the full financial picture of an asset and the larger market.  

Gonzalez’s and Ballou’s reports go into Data Analytics Associate Jacob Albers’s data visualizations. Albers applies statistics and data science to map market trends, tracking geographic, demographic and economic patterns. Albers’s work provides clients with information on rent growth, leasing activity, property taxes and other comparables in a compelling format. 

KIG Senior Associate Laura Ballou, principal Susan Tjarksen and Senior Associate Dan Gonzalez

Compiling robust market data is only half the battle. KIG CRE’s marketing team packages the material to owners and potential buyers in a manner that tells a story about the property. Unlike other firms, where the marketing product comes from a central template, every marketing piece KIG CRE produces for a client is custom and sells a lifestyle specific to that asset.  

“People judge a book by its cover. My role in terms of communicating all the information is to try to do it as visually as possible,” Senior Associate of Marketing Ricky Bole said. “We know in a cluttered and noisy environment top-of-the-pile awareness is super important. I use all of the data and the input not to only put the asset in its best light for the client, seller or buyer, but also to sell a lifestyle. We want it to seem more like a magazine versus a set of tables and boring data."

Public Relations Associate Alex Burnham communicates regularly with Bole, Albers, Ballou and Gonzalez to cater content to the asset, the client and the specific market.  

“A project in River North is not going to be the same as one in Glenview or some north suburb asset, so you have to be mindful of that when using your words,” Burnham said. 

Removing the traditional barriers between departments allows for higher-quality production. KIG CRE’s team-focused culture sets a precedent in which each member is encouraged to understand each other’s work, Stofflet said. From mining the data to the final 100-page marketing document, multiple eyes and hands pore over the content. 

The company’s collaborative nature has become a selling point itself. When clients ask for special projects, it becomes an opportunity for the entire to team to flex its muscles, Stofflet said.  

“Each one of these members has their own set of responsibilities, but they also all have overlap to provide a seamless process and unified purpose," he said. "There is not only respect there, but a team atmosphere. We care about each other. That is unique to the industry when you are talking about brokerage, and that is a recipe for success.”

A supportive work culture binds the ingredients together.

“At the end of the day, we do what’s best for the client,” principal and Managing Broker Susan Tjarksen said. “With our team approach, there is no internal competition amongst the brokers and for support staff, unlike many brokerages.”

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