CRE's Next Generation: Cresa's Brittney Lane Wants To See More Support For Young Brokers
This series asks rising stars in commercial real estate about their thoughts on some of the biggest issues facing the industry, such as inequality, climate change and technology.
Brittney Lane’s entry into commercial real estate didn’t come from having a family member or friend in the business. Rather, it came from a coincidence: She was working in an office down the hall from the broker who arranged her boss’s lease.
Lane is now a senior adviser at Cresa, where she has worked for about a year and a half. As a member of the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Council at Cresa, she has a voice in efforts to support the company's workforce, and she is using it to advocate for a more diverse work environment, including mentorship.
The broker down the hall who served as Lane's introduction to commercial real estate was Randy Starr of Santa Monica-based Starrpoint Commercial Partners. Starr founded Starrpoint in the late 1980s and had become known for handling leases for the numerous media and tech firms that were moving to the Santa Monica area at the time. Avison Young had just acquired Starrpoint, and Starr was hiring an assistant.
Lane had recently graduated from college and was working as an executive assistant for a venture capital firm in downtown Santa Monica. Her job there gave her a front-row seat for the firm's early stage investments into tech companies, and her familiarity with the tech landscape was useful when she made the pivot to commercial real estate.
Once Lane got the job working with Starr, she became more and more involved in the real estate side. Getting a firsthand look at what the work entailed hooked her.
“I found it very interesting and highly creative in its own way,” said Lane, who got her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from California State University, Los Angeles. It wasn't long before she became a licensed broker.
That her introduction to commercial real estate involved mentorship from Starr was invaluable, Lane said.
"My first six years being with a seasoned broker was instrumental to being able to feel comfortable to complete transactions and have the confidence to manage the variety of situations that can come up," she said. Otherwise, it’s only really through time that you can gain that insight, Lane said.
Having people around you that you can ask for help or a second opinion is critical, especially for those who are starting out in the field. The idea has come up as one of the ways her firm could expand diversity.
“I think it's pretty well known at this point, especially with recent articles highlighting it, that the commercial real estate industry has, in many cases, lagged behind the rest of the business community as far as diversity and inclusion goes,” Lane said.
Recruitment is another focus. Lane said the oft-heard refrain that there aren’t qualified candidates for brokerages looking to hire a broader range of people is a myth.
Programs specifically geared toward supporting up-and-coming brokers, if implemented, could also go a long way toward reducing barriers to entry for the next wave of hires, Lane said.
A particularly high hurdle for brokers just starting out is that most brokerage positions are based on commission.
It can take young brokers a while to build up enough of a client base to support themselves, Lane said. That isn’t necessarily hard for young people who have families who can financially support them. But for young brokers from less affluent backgrounds, the “eat what you kill” approach can be intimidating, Lane said.
It’s a reminder that company diversity should consider more than just race and gender but expand to include bringing in team members who come from a variety of places and have had different life experiences.
Cresa's Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Council has proposed a plan to plan to eliminate the commission-only pay structure for entry-level brokers in a direct attempt to remove this hurdle to creating a more diverse team, Bisnow reported in November.
“I want to see people set up for success,” Cresa Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Council Chairman LaMean Koroma said. “We can’t do this in a subtle way.”
Studies have shown that more diverse teams are more effective and productive, said Lane, and she sees a very specific advantage for her field.
“In real estate, a large part of our job is client management,” Lane said. “I think that when you've got people of different backgrounds on your team, you're more likely to relate to your client at all times, because you've got that diversity of opinion.”