The New Closers: Why Gaedeke Group's Allison Johnston Is One To Watch
Gaedeke Group Leasing Agent Allison Johnston began her real estate career earlier than most. At 31 years old she has been in the game for more than seven years, and has brokered roughly 5M SF worth of leases.
But brokering deals between office landlords and tenants is not Johnston's sole passion. In 2012 she founded Ladies in CRE, an organization for women in their 20s and 30s who are in commercial real estate. The goal of the organization, which boasts 500-plus members throughout the Dallas area, is to help cultivate positive, long-lasting relationships between young women starting out in the industry.
While gender diversity in the commercial real estate sector has improved in recent years, the industry remains largely male-dominated and according to CREW, the income gap is still sitting at 23.3%.
Johnston is determined to defy those odds and to help create a better future for her peers.
"I wanted to create something that would benefit the next generation of women in the industry," Johnston said. "We’re starting to see a lot of synergy."
In addition to running Ladies in CRE, Johnston is a member of both CREW and the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors — through which she has been nominated for the Young Citizen’s Award on three separate occasions.
“She’s got those intangibles for success, which we all look for when we’re trying to build out teams or build out a winning formula. She’s a great team member and partner,” said Elliot Prieur, Gaedeke Group senior vice president of leasing and Johnston's boss.
Johnston was only 4 years old when she was first introduced to the industry by her mother, who had founded her own real estate company at the age of 27.
“She had an office tour one day and had to bring me, so we were there waiting and once the gentleman showed up she said I took his hand and showed him around the office. So here I am at 31 still showing office space,” Johnston said.
A Future In CRE
Before beginning her career, Johnston attended Auburn University, where she studied communications and finance with a focus on real estate in her spare time. This passion ultimately led to her co-founding the university’s real estate society and sitting on a panel to discuss the possibility of rolling out a master’s program in real estate, which now exists as a merit-based program at the university. But despite her immediate drive to work in real estate, her path there was not always so straightforward.
Johnston graduated in 2009 during the height of the financial crisis, making it difficult for her to officially start her career as planned. While she had to deviate from the industry initially after graduating, Johnston said persistence and determination eventually helped her get her foot in the door.
“She’s kind of one of these task masters, when she sets her goals on getting something achieved she’s just relentless at it,” Prieur said.
After landing a job as a leasing associate at Spire Realty Group in 2012, she spent almost two years at JLL, where she worked as a vice president before moving on to her current position as leasing agent at Gaedeke Group. She is now responsible for the leasing and marketing of office buildings across Dallas, including One McKinney Plaza, Millennium Tower and One Legacy West, where Prieur said she has been instrumental in completing large negotiations and transactions.
“I love that no two days are the same. I start the day with a to-do list and sometimes I finish everything and sometimes I don’t. It’s just the nature of the business. You’ll get a call a 2 p.m. and have to go do a tour, [but] I thrive on that unknown," Johnston said. "It’s ever-changing and that’s what keeps me motivated.”
A self-proclaimed Type-A personality, Johnston wasted no time getting involved in other aspects of the industry, such as heading up the women’s networking group Ladies in CRE when she was only two years into the business.
Setting The Stage For Future Generations
While Johnston said she has been lucky to have great male mentors and bosses throughout her career, she quickly recognized there was a gap for women looking to get their start and growth through the ranks in the industry.
“I was in my 20s and noticed there were a lot of other women in the business and you have CREW, but there wasn’t a lot in terms of building relationships and getting started. So I thought it would be kind of neat to start a group like that where we could network with each other,” Johnston said.
The Dallas-area group, which began with only 30 women, now has more than 500 members, hosts quarterly happy hours with more than 100 attendees at each event and allows women in the business to connect on both a personal and professional level, an initiative that Johnston said has helped facilitate business growth for many of the members.
“I am so proud of Allison and her efforts to launch Ladies in CRE,” Hart Advisors CEO and former mentor Tanya Hart Little said. “Allison would say today that this powerhouse organization in commercial real estate was just her idea for a few friends and credits those around her for making it what it is today, [but] she is a learner, constantly seeking wisdom and experience from those in the industry and challenging the status quo.”
This desire to constantly glean from others and to challenge the status quo also seeps into her personal life. Johnston said she expands her mind by traveling as often as she can and gives her time to organizations such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, as well as an organization called Bed Start, which picks up and delivers enough furniture to furnish an entire apartment for families in need.
“It’s kind of become a passion of mine, so I would like to see this organization grow. It’s amazing how many people around the city need those resources. When you can provide those means for those families, it’s neat to see that impact,” Johnston said. “There’s a quote by Arthur Ashe that kind of changed my perspective — 'From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.'"