My New Normal: Wolf Commercial Real Estate's Jason Wolf
This series aims to capture a moment in time, talking to men and women in commercial real estate about how their lives and businesses are being transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Like many in the commercial real estate business, Wolf Commercial Real Estate Managing Principal Jason Wolf started 2020 on an optimistic note.
The company was riding the coattails of what it called “an exceptional performance” in 2019 when the brokerage firm saw gains in the numbers of completed transactions and the size of its deals.
Wolf, whose firm opened an office in Philadelphia last year, told Bisnow he was worried about the future of his 8-year-old company when the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic struck and was unsure what to do at first. His 25-person staff is working remotely, which poses challenges for a company that prides itself on the quality of service it provides to its clients.
The entrepreneur began his commercial real estate career at Colliers International in 1995. During his 17-year career at the company, Wolf earned four promotions and was made a shareholder of the company. He won the Colliers Multi-City Assignment Award for the sales people who close the most multi-city business for 12 consecutive years, and he is regularly recognized as one of the Philadelphia area's most productive office brokers.
We spoke to Wolf at the end of March to get a sense of how his life has changed in lockdown.
Bisnow: Describe your work-from-home life.
Wolf: We are all working remotely. We are a company of 25 people. We shut our office down almost two weeks ago and are committed to practicing social distancing.
Bisnow: How are you transitioning your life and business to the homefront?
Wolf: The real heroes during this — besides all the people on the front lines, the healthcare people, doctors and politicians — in my opinion are all the people who are working from home with kids that are under the age of 10 years old. I have older kids who are teenagers, a senior in high school and a sophomore. They are easy to take care of, but it’s heartbreaking to see their stress as well, socially, emotionally, etc. When you have got a bunch of little ones running around the house during the day and you are trying to run your business it’s a distraction!
Bisnow: What is the state of your business at the moment?
Wolf: This is like Day 11 of all of us working from home. We are able to conduct business as normal. The only challenge we have right now is that the market has come to a temporary halt. People are shifting into survival mode. There are more distractions and we are all adapting.
Bisnow: What is your greatest business concern right now?
Wolf: Obviously the economy. My greatest concern outside of recovering from this healthcare crisis is what effect is it going to have on all these people that are out of jobs. The numbers are dramatically higher. I am curious to see how long it will take to recover from this crisis.
Bisnow: What was your lowest low and the highest high these last few weeks?
Wolf: My lowest low was in the first couple of days when you are in a little bit of a panic. I don’t want to use the word “depression” but the mind games start to play with you. I was thinking this is my fault. I feel like a loser. I was taking it personally. Then I stepped outside of my brain and looked at the bigger picture. [I realized] we are all in this together. It really was a scary feeling the first couple of days of this because I felt vulnerable.
My highest high was: I am standing outside of my house right now and the sun is out. I’m smiling and I am happy. I have a new puppy dog and a wife and great kids. We’ll be fine. We are all going to be fine. There are many we know that are struggling both economically and also with health issues. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions. I am trying to also view this as a “mid-life sabbatical.”
Bigger picture, we are all going to be fine. We’ve been through other disasters and tragedies in our country [like] 9/11 and we got through them.
Bisnow: What are you doing at home to keep your sanity?
Wolf: Drinking a lot. All kidding aside, I have got a nice routine. If you establish a routine and stick to it, it gets easier. I am exercising every day. My normal exercise routine was maybe three or four days a week.
This global crisis is a good opportunity to bring people closer together. Right now we are all distancing, but we as a world will get closer. We have built a COVID-19 Resource Center also on our site to make sure we are providing valuable content.
My family is closer together. … Your colleagues will get closer as well. Not to get biblical, but I feel like this is God’s way of bringing us all closer together and I hope that it’s true.
I haven’t shaved in two weeks. I am not going to lie to you. I love it. :-)
Bisnow: What have you learned about your business or the industry in the last few weeks?
Wolf: Most people are optimistic. Everyone at least in my circle of business life recognizes that we are all in this together. People have maintained a good sense of humor. E everyone knows that we will have work to do as well. The strong will survive and those that are not able to adapt may be in trouble. That's the most upsetting! We also have to keep things in perspective.
Bisnow: How do you think the coronavirus could permanently affect the way real estate does business?
Wolf: There will be changes within our industry for safety and health purposes. People do however quickly forget. Two years from now are you going to look at shaking someone’s hands differently than you are in a month? I don’t know.
I am optimistic our CRE world will get back to normal. There will be adjustments, though.
Bisnow: What are you most hopeful about today?
Wolf: The government is doing a great job with programs to protect the people. I am confident we will recover from this and hopefully quickly.
I am, however, worried about those unemployed and their recovery from this. Many are retailers, hospitality, restaurant workers, etc.
CORRECTION, APRIL 10, 10:20 A.M. ET: A previous version of this story had the incorrect timeline of Wolf's career at Colliers and the opening of Wolf Commercial Real Estate's Philadelphia office. The story has been updated.