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Origin Stories: Colliers’ Julie Northcutt-Dunn On Why Hiring The Best 'To Augment Your Skill Set Is Key'

This series delves into the myriad ways people enter the commercial real estate industry and what contributes to their success.

Before Julie Northcutt-Dunn left the Midwest and took a job as Colliers International's executive managing director and market leader for the South Florida region, she had heard the statistic that approximately a thousand people per day move to Florida.

"But until you get here and see the impact that has, you don’t really understand it," she told Bisnow.

Since her hire in January, she has been wowed by the influx of capital and talent.

"There are so many different perspectives and personalities to augment your skill set, and there is a vibe in this market like none I have ever seen," she said. 

Julie Northcutt-Dunn, Colliers executive managing director and market leader for the South Florida region

After starting her career at a small firm, Northcutt-Dunn became senior vice president, mortgage executive at Fifth Third Bank, then moved on as regional sales director for CBRE’s Midwest Division, operating out of St. Louis. There, she filled two roles: sales management leader and interim managing director of corporate client solutions. 

The mother of four children (ages 7 to 25) pursued her leading role at Colliers South Florida because she believes there is an abundance of opportunity there and because the Colliers entrepreneurial culture allows for professionals to be agile and nimble and thrive with the ever-changing needs of the market, she said.

She now oversees Colliers' South Florida region, which comprises 183 professionals in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties who cover multiple sectors: office, industrial, retail, hotels, multifamily, land, debt and structured finance, property management, project management and valuation.

Bisnow: How did you get introduced to CRE?

Northcutt-Dunn: I worked for a small boutique firm and focused on land acquisition and development.

Bisnow: What was your first job in CRE?

Northcutt-Dunn: I started in commercial real estate in 2001 at a boutique firm in St. Louis, Missouri. I was an independent contractor and didn’t collect a check for 10 months. I wanted a role that had flexibility because I had two young children at the time, and my family has always owned property, so real estate seemed like the perfect fit.

Bisnow: What kind of education, certification or official training do you have?

Northcutt-Dunn: I attended University of Missouri-Columbia and majored in journalism/marketing.

Bisnow: What is one skill you wish you had coming into CRE?

Northcutt-Dunn: I wish I would have invested in technology, both from a training and utilization standpoint, sooner.

Julie Northcutt-Dunn has taken the reins at Colliers South Florida.

Bisnow: What were you doing before you got into CRE? 

Northcutt-Dunn: I started in real estate right out of college, and then pivoted to the financial side of things and did lending for about eight years. That truly gave me a better understanding of the “why and how” to get deals done more efficiently and effectively for clients. Without a doubt, that knowledge plays a big part in my day-to-day in the role I have now. Truly being a trusted adviser to clients is key, and this experience taught me that.  

Bisnow: Can you remember a moment where you felt in over your head or you worried this industry wasn’t for you? Did you ever think about quitting?

Northcutt-Dunn: Never. I wake up every day and get to meet new people and learn new things. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

Bisnow: What were your early impressions of the industry, good and bad? How has your impression changed?

Northcutt-Dunn: I worked for a small firm that executed large land transactions initially. My impression was these types of deals were easy to come by and highly lucrative. It wasn’t until my mentor explained to me the due diligence and hard work that needed to be done that I learned it truly was hard work and not as easy as it seemed.

Julie Northcutt-Dunn

Bisnow: Have you had a mentor or sponsor? How did that person shape your future in CRE?

Northcutt-Dunn: I have had many people that have mentored me over my 20-year career. I have benefited from the perspectives of a diverse group of mentors, which has shaped the way I have continued to grow in this industry. You are only as good as those you surround yourself with, and you have to incorporate many different talents, styles and ideas to continue to grow with our businesses' ever-changing needs. Hiring those around you to augment your skill set is key.

Bisnow: What is a key lesson someone taught you, either kindly or the hard way?

Northcutt-Dunn: Listen first, and then speak.

Bisnow: What do you warn people about when they join the industry?

Northcutt-Dunn: Commercial real estate is hard work, not always glamorous, highly competitive, and the life cycle is long. You have to be patient and good things will come.

Bisnow: If you could do your career all over again, what would you change?

Northcutt-Dunn: I would have asked more questions sooner instead of trying to learn and figure things out on my own.