Weekend Interview: CRE Recruiting Founder Allison Weiss
Allison Weiss is the founder and CEO of CRE Recruiting, an agency that partners with all sectors of commercial real estate to help with talent acquisition. She founded the firm in 2019 after working in talent recruitment roles for Colliers and Marcus & Millichap.
Weiss firmly believes that the industry needs to increase its focus on diversification and attracting the next generation of talent. She also believes in the power of travel; if you’re reading this on a weekend, the digital nomad is likely out somewhere exploring.
The following is lightly edited for style and clarity.
Bisnow: Baron Rothschild once said the “time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.” Where is the blood today?
Weiss: I’d say suburban Class-B and C office and outdated, enclosed malls with vacancy issues, from an asset class perspective. The potential for creative adaptive reuse is there — if the capital is on hand or can be assembled. My most successful clients are those who run toward the disruption — they’ve been building their cash reserves in anticipation of market headwinds and strengthening their teams with creative, entrepreneurial problem-solvers to capitalize on the opportunity.
Bisnow: What is your most controversial CRE opinion and why are you right about it?
Weiss: Our most pressing problem is that we aren’t attracting the next generation into our business at the rate that CRE professionals are retiring from or leaving the workforce. CRE is a well-kept secret — a career path that is passed along primarily through family or community connections, which reinforces our lack of diversity. I firmly believe that CRE is the lowest barrier to entry, greatest generational wealth-building opportunity in the world — yet, our industry is simultaneously invisible to most and everywhere you look.
We need to share our stories and access to attract the next generation, adopt more progressive approaches to the way we work, and embrace technology and social media to do so. Our future depends on it.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in real estate, what path would your career have taken?
Weiss: A travel writer and photographer. In October of 2020, I gave up my apartment, 95% of my possessions and embarked on a full-time digital nomad journey — I’ve spent a lot of my free time exploring and documenting as I go. I’ve been to over 20 states in the last two years and will be spending this Thanksgiving in Paris and Barcelona!
Bisnow: If you could make one change to the industry, what would it be?
Weiss: The compensation model for new CRE brokers, which hasn’t changed significantly in decades, despite the massive increases we have experienced in the cost of living, education and housing. Beyond working for 100% commission or a draw against commissions, many new CRE brokers are saddled with long-term (or indefinite) junior/senior fee-sharing agreements that diminish their ability to earn, often long after their senior broker has stopped adding value to their deals. Many early career brokers need to leave their firms to get out from under these agreements, as leadership tends to protect senior brokers, and the revenue they generate, over retaining younger talent who might compete with them.
Bisnow: What is one thing you would do differently from early in your career?
Weiss: I’d spend more time following my intuition and being introspective when making big decisions and less time worrying about or asking for the opinions of others. I’ve found that we often know what we want to do but are afraid of failure, being seen, judgment, a short-term reduction in income or even of success.
I spent 11 years in the corporate world, despite knowing almost from day one that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I used that time to cultivate a unique skill set and expertise, find my voice and build relationships that serve me well today — but I didn’t need to wait that long to start working on my dream.
Bisnow: As a leader, how do you decide who is worth mentoring and who is simply not a good fit?
Weiss: As time is my most valuable resource, I tend to work with those who do their research ahead of conversations, come prepared with thoughtful questions, take constructive feedback and advice, follow through on their commitments and follow up to keep me in the loop of how things are going.
Bisnow: What are your thoughts on the metaverse? Does it have any relevance for CRE?
Weiss: I believe it will have more relevance as technologically savvy digital natives advance into leadership positions — until then, I think CRE’s interest in, understanding of and participation in the metaverse will be limited.
Bisnow: What do you see as the lasting impacts of the pandemic on CRE?
Weiss: “How did your company navigate the pandemic?” is one of the most relevant and insightful questions you can ask in an interview today.
Every day is full of moments where the trust between an employee and a company can be created, strengthened, repaired or destroyed; the pandemic and concurrent sociopolitical factors impacting the workforce heightened the significance of people’s desire for trust, safety and certainty.
Companies will have to answer for how they navigated this period in history. Those who were strong stewards of their people will be the net beneficiaries from a recruiting, retention and an overall performance perspective.
Bisnow: As you know, there is a massive conversation underway regarding advancing more people of color and women into the C-suite. What are you doing to address those voices and that movement within your own organization?
Weiss: There’s nothing I think about more than improving both the quantity and quality of opportunities for women and people of color in CRE. As a White woman, this means using my voice to advocate for change, and more importantly, promoting and sharing the voices of those with diverse backgrounds who are underrepresented in our industry. As a leader in the people side of the business, that means carefully screening and selecting clients who believe in making CRE a better place for everyone, not just the majority.
I’d encourage everyone in CRE to broaden their horizons by attending events, becoming members and supporting incredible organizations like AAREP, REA-L and FIIRE who are leading the way.
Bisnow: So, this is the weekend interview. What’s your typical weekend routine?
Weiss: I’m at my happiest when I’m traveling, spending time in nature, being creative, learning new things and helping others through volunteering — but every weekend is different. I’m busy exploring Lake Tahoe on the many miles of trails near my Airbnb, knitting a sweater for myself and some Christmas gifts, and taking classes on mindful writing and southern Italian cooking.
I’m also working on some incredible initiatives as a board member for The Resident Relief Foundation, which keeps responsible renters in their apartments with short-term grants and financial education to overcome financial hardship, and the Stephen J. Wampler Foundation, which runs Camp Wamp, a free summer camp near Lake Tahoe for kids from 8 to 18 with physical disabilities.