Women's History Month Profile: CBRE's Meredith LaPier, Setting A Standard
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Meredith LaPier hasn’t let any grass grow under her feet these past 15 years at CBRE, quickly becoming one of the company’s top tenant brokers. Along the way, she’s garnered numerous awards, including twice being recognized as among the firm’s Top 100 brokers nationwide and induction into the CBRE Colbert Caldwell Circle for reaching the top 3%.
In all, Meredith, an EVP at CBRE in the Tysons office, has been involved in more than 1,200 real estate transactions with more than $3B in aggregate lease value. And she is nowhere near finished, currently managing multi-disciplinary teams and integrating the firm’s many resources.
Armed with an MBA from GWU, Meredith set out in the mid-'80s to establish a career. Friends had suggested she try commercial real estate. In 1985 she went to Zeke Dodson, (an industry veteran, now at Cushman & Wakefield) who encouraged her, saying he "wished there were more women in the business,” Meredith recalls.
Zeke could think of only two experienced women who could offer guidance, so he suggested she try for a job at Oliver Carr's firm, which was beginning to develop properties in the Virginia suburbs around Ballston and the King Street Metro in Alexandria.
“I knew that I didn’t know anything about real estate,” Meredith says. Carr gave her the chance to learn by working with the company’s various disciplines—development, tenant construction, property management, lease administration, etc. “I looked at going to Carr as getting a second MBA, this time in real estate."
During her 14 years with Carr, the firm grew from about 45 to 250, most of them young, recent college graduates who grew up together and formed lasting friendships.
Three in particular remain Meredith’s friends today—Christopher Nassetta, now CEO at Hilton Hotels; Bob Milkovich, recently named CEO at First Potomac REIT; and Paul Adkins, principal in charge of tenant leasing at JBG.
Following the early 1990s depression in the real estate industry, Carr went public and national, and Meredith—snapped with CBRE's Leah Larson Taylor and the former head of real estate for Gannett, Tim Fitzpatrick—decided to remain local. She switched sides of the street, moving from leasing buildings to the tenant brokerage side of the business with CBRE.
CBRE was genuinely interested in hiring more women, especially senior women, she recalls. The company also wanted to elevate its landlord practice and become the go-to firm for leasing in trophy buildings.
She introduced a team approach, joining forces with tenant broker Cathy Delcoco. They’ve been partners for 15 years now and as executive VPs, along with SVP Brad Davis, they’ve have grown to a team of nine running CBRE’s global corporate services team, what she calls a business inside the CBRE business.
What’s her best asset in dealing with clients? Meredith believes it’s her overall business acumen.
“It’s not just about real estate,” she says, but also about understanding her clients’ overall goals and how real estate can support those goals. She advocates spending time with clients to fully understand their business, even those aspects that aren’t related to real estate.
She is also passionate about philanthropic involvement and is on the executive committee of the renowned “Women and Wine,” raising money for breast cancer awareness annually through the Georgetown University Lombardi Cancer Center. This year’s fundraiser is being held on April 20.
As one of the pioneer women in commercial brokerage, Meredith is actively engaged in advocating for women and mentoring.
“There are a lot of skills that women bring to the table that are very attractive in brokerage,” she says. “We very much are about relationships, we’re consensus builders. And we’re very detailed and we listen well.”
The old entry standard of commission-based employment was one of the main deterrents to young women entering the brokerage business, she says, because many of them were uncomfortable without a regular income. Today in an industry where still only about 10% are women, Meredith says women have lots of opportunities to start in salaried positions that can lead to lucrative long-term careers.
Asked for her best advice to young women seeking careers in commercial real estate, the 30-year veteran has no trouble responding. She tells them, “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid to try things. Be a sponge, be really curious and don’t be afraid to ask a million questions.”
Also volunteer when the opportunity of a new challenge arises. Perhaps above all, she adds, “really determine if you’re passionate about this business because it is a marathon and not a sprint.”