Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With HFF Senior Managing Director Susan Hill
This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.
Susan Hill worked her way up at HFF. Her first position was as a receptionist in 1987. As the company expanded, so did Hill's role, and she accepted a position as a producer. As a single mother of one daughter, it was a chance to make more money.
Other than 18 months with NorthMarq, Hill has spent her entire career with HFF. She is responsible for originating debt and equity placement throughout the southern United States across all property types.
Hill has completed more than $8B in transactions, including refinancing the 6.1M SF Columbia/HCA Medical Office Portfolio, the 3.1M SF Southern US Office Portfolio and Greenspoint Town Center, a 2.1M SF retail and office space.
Throughout her career, one of her biggest goals has been to increase the number of women in commercial real estate. She served as CREW Network's national president in 2013, on the network board of directors 2010-2014 and on the CREW Houston board of directors 2003-2008. She has also earned the woman of influence award from Real Estate Forum.
Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?
Hill: I work as an intermediary for a capital markets firm where I specialize in placing debt and equity on commercial assets. Or, in other words, I am a matchmaker between those that want to deploy capital and those that want to consume it.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?
Hill: I would own a small boutique specializing in clothing and accessories.
Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?
Hill: Not sure I have ever had a “worst” job, but I began my career with HFF as the receptionist at a time there was not as much technology as there is today: no direct lines, no voice mail capacity; just 15 lines ringing all at one time. It was a challenging job but because I was the first touch of contact I got to know all our clients really well.
Bisnow: What was your first big deal?
Hill: I guess you could say my first big deal to me was the first deal I closed and originated myself. But in terms of size, it was probably the recapitalization of Greenway Plaza.
Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?
Hill: My biggest failure is probably not taking risks when I should have in my career. I tended to wait to ask for a promotion until I had all the skills necessary to be successful in the position. In hindsight, I should have just gone for the promotion and figured out the rest as I went along.
Bisnow: If you could change one thing about the commercial real estate industry, what would it be?
Hill: Hmm … this is a tough one. Maybe for there to be more females in my generation of commercial real estate. There seem to be more women entering the business now, which is good. I enjoy seeing these ladies grow in their careers and helping them achieve their goals.
Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Hill: Probably when individuals don’t communicate even if it is just to say they are working on something and will get back to me.
Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?
Hill: This seems to be such a focus now and when I was moving up the ranks it was not such a focus. There have been many people that have helped me along in my career but if I had to select one person it is probably Mark Gibson. I worked with him from the beginning at HFF, and he was the one that really saw the potential I had to be successful. He encouraged me to take the risks necessary to go into production.
Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?
Hill: Best advice I have gotten is not to take things personally and if upset about something wait to respond until you have had time to really think about the issue.
Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?
Hill: My greatest extravagance is shopping for clothes.
Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
Hill: I really don’t have a favorite restaurant. I enjoy trying new restaurants and have a group of friends that all get together to try a new restaurant every month. I guess you could say my favorite food is Mexican food and I really like Spanish Village.
Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?
Hill: Stop tweeting!
Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?
Hill: My biggest risk was my best risk — moving into a production role, which is fully commissioned.
Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit in your hometown?
Hill: Galveston. I have a bay house and love it there.
Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?
Hill: Probably my deals when something is not going right.
Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
Hill: My family. I love spending time with my grandchildren!