Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Ten-X Commercial General Manager Steve Jacobs
This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.
Commercial real estate is embracing the potential of technology to support and transform the industry, and Ten-X is but one of the platforms helping power the $2 trillion machine. Steve Jacobs joined online transaction marketplace Ten-X, which aims to help investors close more deals faster, in 2016 before being promoted to general manager of the company's commercial division in March 2017. An industry vet who served as managing director at CWCapital prior to joining Ten-X, Jacobs has helped scale the company’s platform into a national tool for investment sales brokers, buyers and sellers to streamline transactions and accelerate close rates. Ten-X’s commercial and residential platform has been used to transact more than $53B since its inception. The company was acquired by private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners in late 2017 for roughly $1.6B.
Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?
Jacobs: We are the nation’s largest online transaction platform for commercial real estate. We are an online marketplace where commercial real estate is bought and sold. As the general manager, I’m responsible for the business as a whole, which includes looking at what we have done well and critically thinking about what we can do better.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
Jacobs: If I had a second choice, I think I’d still be in real estate but on the residential side. I love the residential marketplace — both multifamily and single-family — and I’m always studying various markets and how the broader economy impacts housing. In the past, I have invested in single-family homes and my interest in the residential side of the business hasn’t gone away.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
Jacobs: I’m a licensed architect and when I was practicing, I moved to a different firm where I thought the grass was greener. The job was miserable and because I was always interested in real estate, I resigned and decided to get my real estate license. While getting my license, I landed my second-worst job I ever had, collecting donation cans from stores across the Northeast. I got paid $1 per can of change and often, the cans were missing! The silver lining is that this “worst job ever” led me into my career in real estate.
Bisnow: What was your first big deal?
Jacobs: There was an office project in Northern New Jersey that I repositioned from a distressed situation to a success through hard work, creative thinking and luck. The building was a foreclosed office building, which we ended up renovating and putting a lot of work into. We attracted a large up-and-coming tech company that grew quickly and soon needed more space. We sold them adjacent land that we owned [and] were able to work with them to build a campus-style headquarters.
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
Jacobs: A residential condo conversion in Manhattan, on the Upper West Side in 2006. We were hired to do the conversion, including acquisition and recapitalization. Everything was on track for a successful conversion, but then the economic downturn hit in 2008 and the project encountered trouble due to the market. It became a very public failure.
Bisnow: How do you define “making it”?
Jacobs: “Making it” can mean different things to different people, but for me it really is all about having a culture in place that fosters excitement. When my employees are excited to come to work every day, eager to collaborate and to take on new projects — it really is a game-changer. When people truly enjoy coming to work, that’s what breeds success.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Jacobs: People who have a sense of entitlement without having put in the work or time.
Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?
Jacobs: My first boss out of graduate school, Debbie Kloper. She taught me about the distressed real estate market. This was during a commercial real estate downturn and she taught me how to look at a piece of real estate as a business, complete with revenue, expenses, (hopefully) profit and [to] become a problem solver. That gave me the foundation to manage a business day-to-day, a lesson I draw on to this day.
Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?
Jacobs: My mentor, who I mentioned earlier, gave me the best professional advice I have ever received. Rather than bringing your boss a problem or roadblock, she taught me how to first recognize and develop a full understanding of the problem, then how to determine possible solutions and recommendations for how to solve it. That’s a powerful approach and one I teach my current employees.
Luckily, I’ve ignored bad professional advice, which was to stay put in a comfortable position. Calculated risks throughout my career have forced me to grow and pushed me into challenging situations that were exciting, rewarding and taught me new things.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
Jacobs: I’m a dad of 6-year-old twins and they are my extravagance. I live for them and do everything I can to provide them the safest and healthiest environment without spoiling them (well, not too much!).
Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
Jacobs: A small, neighborhood Italian restaurant in Laguna Beach called Alessa. It has great ambiance, both inside and outside seating [and] great food with a sophisticated yet local vibe that makes me love going there.
Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?
Jacobs: I would ask him to consider that though the economic market may currently appear to be strong, from a market cycle standpoint, we’re on the cusp of change. The economy is cyclical and after a nine-year recovery, there’s bound to be some market correction in the coming years. I’d ask him not to ignore that downside risks in the housing market and other capital markets are very real.
Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?
Jacobs: My move to Ten-X Commercial from a previous job that I was very happy at. However, the risks I’ve taken in my career have led to great experiences and I see that happening at Ten-X. Bringing technology, data and automation to the commercial real estate space is pretty exciting.
Bisnow: Whose work do you most admire?
Jacobs: I don’t want to name specific names, but I admire people who have achieved various kinds of success and are taking action to pay it forward. Many people think about what they can do to help the next person, but I admire the people who go out and actually do it.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
Jacobs: My baseline is worry, so I wake up at night and worry about anything and everything — mostly my business and whether the future will be safe for my kids. But I use the energy behind worry as a motivator to be successful, to motivate employees and to be the best parent I can possibly be.
Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
Jacobs: The flip side of being a worrier is that I have a passion for identifying ways to stay centered. Two tools I have for that is making the choice to live by the beach and doing yoga. Creating a healthy balance between work and home helps me be a better leader, a better employee, a better spouse and a better father.