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Introspection, Mindfulness And Relationship-Building: Bisnow’s Elevate Retreat Gathers Next Generation Of CRE Trailblazers

Bisnow Vice President Mike Ponticelli delivers opening remarks.

Music City recently got a bit more musical, with the sounds of networking filling the hallways and meeting rooms of 1 Hotel South in downtown Nashville for Bisnow’s inaugural Elevate retreat

This invite-only retreat designed for commercial real estate’s rising stars is the first time Bisnow has expanded its executive retreat series in a decade. Bringing these talented professionals together meant that Bisnow needed to provide knowledge and community that Bisnow executive retreats are known for — and is unmatched at other CRE events.

Bisnow did just that Aug. 16-18, gathering 170 young professionals hand-selected from some of the most prominent CRE companies across the U.S., including Fortress, Starwood, Invesco, Cerberus, CIM Group, Jamestown, Edens and Silverstein Properties. During those two days, participants had the opportunity to gain valuable insight from the industry’s most influential players, reflect on their goals through workshops and insightful onstage discussions, and lay down the groundwork for lasting relationships.

Brian St. Hubert, senior analyst at Jamestown, said that his familiarity with Bisnow and its events solidified his choice to attend Elevate. 

“I know the quality of the events that they put together and the people that they bring into their panels, so I know they had the relationships with the folks in the industry to make it a great event,” St. Hubert said.

The event kicked off with networking over cocktails, setting the stage for relationship-building. Attendees used the Elevate app to exchange contact information and send personalized messages. By the end of the event, close to 5,000 connections were made. 

Bisnow Elevate attendees engage in speed networking.

“Between you and your next check is a person who will help you get to where you want to be,” said Beth Azor, founder and principal of Azor Advisory Services. “Is that person here at Elevate?”

On the first day, Azor led a workshop titled Navigating CRE In A Man’s World about how women can embrace opportunities to advance their careers. This could include going after leadership roles at their jobs or teaming up with other women to trade notes on how to increase their wealth. 

The first day also featured opening remarks by Bisnow co-founder Mike Ponticelli, as well as an overview of the Nashville market by Rise Investors CEO Uday Sehgal. Following networking, cocktails and dinner, attendees dove into conversations by engaging in speed deal-making, an event that sat owners and developers across from capital providers for a series of three-minute conversations about a prospective deal.

Day 2 started early with ice baths and breathwork on the roof of the 1 Hotel, a high-intensity interval training boot camp along the Cumberland River and a mindfulness workshop led by Liberate CEO Liv Bowser.

Bisnow Elevate attendees chill in an ice bath.

When it came time for breakfast, attendees could either continue networking with their peers or have breakfast with either Rappaport CEO Gary Rappaport or Ackman-Ziff President Simon Ziff to gain knowledge and insight about their respective career paths.

Ziff subsequently led an activity called Coffee and Capital, in which select participants shared how much capital their company has available and the attributes that make it attractive. Those who were interested in the funds were able to use the Elevate app to send a message to the provider on the spot.

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker gives a keynote at Bisnow's Elevate retreat.

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker then gave a keynote discussing how each CRE sector has responded to rising interest rates and how CRE professionals need to build a career path that allows them to be resilient against the impact of global events and economic uncertainty. Looking toward the future also involves prioritizing physical and psychological health at a younger age, he said.

“Find time for yourself to take care of your physical and mental health,” Walker said. “If you don’t have your health, you have nothing. You can’t enjoy what you’ve accomplished to the degree that you’d like to.”

Following the keynote, attendees broke out into “tribe sessions,” or small groups that were curated based on individuals’ asset class, location and goals. These off-the-record sessions provided the space for attendees to share experiences, best practices and how to grow the CRE industry.

“You can see the connections, the energy and the sharing of ideas that happen face-to-face at an event like Elevate,” Walker said. “Attending the breakfasts or participating in the tribe sessions and speed deal-making is how people form these lasting connections.”

Bisnow Elevate attendees participate in a tribe session.

Bobby Renner, vice president at Cerberus Capital Management, said that Elevate stood out for is its casual environment.

“It felt like you can really open up, not just about real estate and deals but also about work life and where people are planning to be in the future, how people view their career paths, where they’ve come from and where they expect to be in the next five years,” Renner said.

After another round of speed deal-making and lunch, attendees dove into workshop sessions. Rappaport’s workshop, titled Structuring Lasting CRE Partnerships, focused on educating attendees about deal structuring and how equity is divided among partners.

Rappaport said that looking at industry veterans’ experiences can help young people figure out what they want to achieve in their own career path.

“If I can help the attendees who dream of owning commercial real estate achieve their dream, then I’ve done something meaningful with my life,” Rappaport said. “Elevate provides attendees an opportunity to network with industry peers and gain valuable insights from industry experts. As a speaker, I find Elevate not only fulfilling for attendees but also personally rewarding.”

Elevate attendees network outdoors.

While the workshops were framed in the context of real estate, some focused on helping attendees connect with their own purposes and goals.

The Menkiti Group founder and CEO Bo Menkiti’s workshop, 7 Keys to Wealth Building, challenged attendees to build generational wealth by following a strategic method. Starting with an overview of his wealth-building continuum, Menkiti outlined the key mindsets and steps to building wealth. From identifying their purpose and defining opportunities to determining when to take action, his session described a clear path and approach to financial security and freedom.

Bowser’s workshop, Mindful Goal Setting: The Intentional Path To Success, used breathwork and journaling to help participants identify their goals and barriers and come up with intentions for overcoming the barriers and reaching those goals.

Ziff and CMBS pioneer Ethan Penner gave a closing keynote about the importance of taking charge of one’s own happiness and forming a “bubble of joy,” which helps with building stronger relationships with colleagues and business partners. Penner talked about his book, Greatness is a Choice, which covers many important ideas related to relationships and finding purpose. 

“There’s no going at your career alone,” Penner said. “Having great connections is what makes life special. Relationships come with a win-win mentality. If I’m winning, then everyone else is winning. What fun is it to win alone and have no one to celebrate with?”

Ziff added that the relationships formed at Elevate are likely to continue to be impactful as attendees move through their career.

“Someone you met within the last two days will have an impact on your life, as a great partner, lender or friend,” Ziff said. “Always try to help others and think about building long-term relationships in CRE.”

Elevate attendees left the retreat with the industry knowledge and connections that set the foundation for a long-lasting impact on their careers. Click here to learn more about this community and to apply for the opportunity to participate in 2024.

Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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