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Joe Stettinius Reflects On Two Mammoth Mergers And Two Years Of Change

In August 2014, Joe Stettinius was CEO of Cassidy Turley, a midsized, DC-based brokerage with 60 offices nationwide. Since then, transition has been a constant, as a consortium of investors bought DTZ, merged it with Cassidy Turley, then merged that company with Cushman & Wakefield to form a 43,000-employee global giant. Now, Joe is chief executive of the Americas for the third-largest commercial real estate firm in the world.

Cushman & Wakefield CEO-Americas Joe Stettinius

On June 29 at the Ritz-Carlton, Joe and JLL’s Americas CEO Greg O’Brien will share the stage at Bisnow’s Washington DC State of the Market Part 2. The two are Trammell Crow Co alumni—sometimes it seems like every real estate executive in DC is—and while it seems like the brokerage space is getting smaller every day, it’s still much more diversified than industries like cable TV or athletic apparel.

“CoStar reported to us that there are 224,000 brokers in the US, and 10,000 of them work for CBRE, JLL and Cushman & Wakefield,” Joe told Bisnow from his downtown DC office Thursday morning. “The business is still so fragmented. We’re not out there trying to beat ‘em, there’s plenty for us all.”

Joe can’t be focused on his competitors anyway; he’s had to integrate thousands of employees, different systems and processes, all while going on a hiring and acquisition spree. Since May, C&W has hired around 3,500 new people, Joe says, and it’s bought three companies: Gibson, a property management firm in South Florida; its affiliate Oxford in Austin, TX; and just this week, MHA, a multifamily capital markets brokerage in the Southeast. 

With a whirlwind of new faces and new places, C&W has broken down the merger proceedings into three buckets: people, processes and systems. The process segment has been most challenging: with so many new lines of business coming together, breaking down silos and making sure brokers take advantage of the expanded platform has been key.

C&W decided to outsource some of the systems transition, bringing in Accenture to help implement company-wide technology. The pleasant surprise, Joe says, is how smoothly the "people bucket" has integrated.

“The chemistry and culture is where we thought we’d have the most challenges, and that’s actually gone the best,” he says.

The exception is in Boston, where C&W’s head of New England capital markets, Rob Griffin, left and took most of his 54-person team with him to Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. Market leader Luis Alvarado also left the group.

“On paper, that should have been a compelling fit, and it just wasn’t from a personality perspective,” Joe says.

C&W has since hired a full capital markets team from Eastdil Secured in Boston.

New England has been the only market to see such attrition. Despite the seeming flood of brokers jumping from place to place, Joe says C&W’s models show that an average of 250 brokers could leave the company each year, based on an average 10-year tenure.

Joe Stettinius Reflects On Two Mammoth Mergers And Two Years Of Change

“It hasn’t even been half that,” Joe says. “Our turnover rates are really in the mid-single digits. So we’re significantly lower than you would believe.”

But, despite the day-to-day realities of combining multiple companies under one roof—which is expected to happen at 2101 L St NW next week as legacy Cushman & Wakefield employees move into the once-Cassidy Turley space on the sixth and seventh floors—Joe says not much has changed for him, including his office, where we snapped him above a few years ago.

“For me personally, I don’t know that it’s that different to be honest with you,” he admits. “We’ve got a terrific team in place, lots of resources, people who know how to do their jobs. It’s been really fun understanding why people choose to do certain things and their strategies. It’s been a great laboratory and it’s been a ton of fun.”

And while Joe’s home base is DC—he even has a farm in Upperville, VA, where he raises horses and cows—he’s now traveling around the country three days a week. “I’m really not based anywhere,” he says. The only constant in Joe’s life, as in all life, is change.