How These 4 Women Prove CRE Isn't a Good Old Boys' Club
Diane Butler, Beth Lambert, Eliza Solender and Leigh Richter shattered the glass ceiling to lead some of Dallas' biggest companies. We sat down with them to learn their biggest deals, challenges and secrets to success, and we know you'll love to hear more at Bisnow’s Dallas Power Players: The Women Who Rule Commercial Real Estate event on Dec. 16 at the Marriott Quorum.
When Cushman & Wakefield of Texas executive managing director Beth Lambert launched her career in the late ‘80s, commercial real estate was a male-dominated industry. Instead of being intimidated, it inspired her to work harder to prove herself to her colleagues. “Early on, I felt like I had to be better, but much of that was my own competitive nature,” she tells us. To stand out from the pack, Beth says she overprepared and looked at deals from every angle, running analytics and examining every "what if" scenario. Beth is known as the go-to capital markets person at Cushman for the deals that require extra attention. She was also a 2014 Dallas Bisnow Power Woman. That's Beth hanging out with country music star Miranda Lambert in Luckenbach.
From ground-up development to acquisitions, Beth (standing in yellow, with past fellow CREW Dallas Outstanding Achievement Award winners) says she sees deals in all forms crossing her desk. She mostly focuses on office, industrial and retail but gets a little bit of hotel and multifamily. The projects span all of the risk profile spectrum from core to core-plus and value-add. Those lines have become more and more blurred as the market reaches peak pricing and “pricing to perfection” in some markets, she tells us. The deals are also geographically diverse with a lot in the Southwest, but also in Portland, San Diego, Phoenix and other markets. It’s usually debt and joint venture equity concentration with some asset sales. She’s settling in at Cushman after riding the M&A train from Cassidy Turley to DTZ and now Cushman. The biggest challenge? Connecting all the teams with technology, she says. But, the expanded reach Cushman offers makes her optimistic. Without a permanent leader at the helm of the Dallas Cushman office (Steve Everbach resigned to head Colliers International North Texas just before Thanksgiving), it’s still business as usual for the senior leaders, Beth says.
Bradford Commercial Real Estate Services SVP Leigh Richter (here with husband and colleague Paul Richter at a recent Bisnow event) earned the nickname “queen of the cats and dogs department” from Bradford top dog Kevin Santaularia. If you have a deal with hair, regardless of size or kind of deal (just no multifamily), Leigh wants to take a look at it. This year, she’s sold the final building of a 13-building listing assignment for a very large NYSE multibillion-dollar tech company. In a pro bono project for a nonprofit this year, she helped the group finalize construction costs to open its second transitional living center in the east Dallas area. “I like using my day job to do good,” she tells us. She’s also combined work with her service on the preservation issues committee at Preservation Dallas. She’s been able to double up there, too, as a conduit between the preservation community and building owners.
Leigh (center, wearing corsage, with Bradford colleagues after being awarded the CREW Dallas 2014 Outstanding Achievement Award) also spends a lot of time mentoring SMU MBA students. She serves on the SMU Cox School of Business board and is in her fifth year of mentoring. It goes way beyond simply making introductions, she says. Throughout her career, Leigh says she has had multiple mentors who pushed her beyond her comfort zone; and that’s important. She likes to expand beyond traditional mentoring and coach the grad students on how to deal with difficult people and examining a variety of scenarios. It’s a huge part of what has helped her become who she is today in business, she tells us. Her secret: being able to manage conflict and finding out what the client really wants.
Butler Burgher Group CEO Diane Butler led her national commercial real estate valuation, advisory and assessment firm to grow more than 30% in 2014. Last year, BBG acquired the Leitner Group in New York. The firm is still growing; six months ago, BBG went through a recapitalization with Silver Oak Services Partners. That was a critical piece of the puzzle, Diane tells us, to bring in a capital partner to continue fueling growth. Pictured: Diane, right, with Gables Residential president and CEO Sue Ansel and Chief Partners co-founder Bill Vanderstraaten at TREC’s Fight Night in April. Diane is the incoming TREC chairman for 2016.
BBG has been adding service lines, too, with advisory and financial reporting services as well as assessment. That has contributed to the growth, Diane says, as many clients who are ordering valuation reports also need other due diligence. By bundling services with the appraisal, it makes it easier for lenders in today's fast-paced environment. BBG ranks among the four largest commercial real estate valuation and consulting firms in the US, with 21 offices nationwide. Diane was the national CREW president in 2012 and was one of only four women presented with the Distinguished Leader award at the 2014 CREW Network Convention and Marketplace. She was also named a Bisnow Dallas Power Woman in 2014.
As property values and rental rates are on the rise, it’s getting more challenging for nonprofits to find the best locations within their budgets, says Solender/Hall president Eliza Solender. The best real estate to serve their client base is in the central areas of Dallas with access to rail and bus, but finding those locations requires some creativity. Eliza says many are turning to multiple locations rather than trying to find one central location. She’s also seeing her clients consider a lot of nontraditional types of properties like old churches and former retail spaces.
This year, she helped a Fort Worth charter school acquire a former fitness center that had been repurposed into a church. It was purchased for a great price and converted easily into a school, she tells us. She’s seen a lot of nonprofit movement as they expand and branch out. Many are looking to move to the Stemmons and Mockingbird area because of lower rates and good bus service. Eliza says she spends a lot of time studying the bus service lines and driving the bus routes as she explores potential locations for clients. She has also served as CREW president on both the local and national levels, and is the founder and chair emeritus of the CREW Network Foundation. Pictured: Eliza and her husband, real estate attorney and Solender/Hall broker Gary Scott.
Don't forget to register now for Bisnow’s Dallas Power Players: The Women Who Rule Commercial Real Estate event on Dec. 16 at the Marriott Quorum.