Origin Stories: CBRE SVP Larry Genet Has Been Passionate About CRE Since He Was 5 Years Old
This series delves into the myriad ways people enter the commercial real estate industry and what contributes to their success.
Drive past almost any major industrial property in South Florida and Larry Genet's name jumps off CBRE's green signs. Co-leader of an eight-person team, he knows how to work both sides of a deal. He's led negotiations for institutional owners including Morgan Stanley, Prologis and the federal government and represented tenants like American Express and Office Depot.
Beyond his deal-making ability, Genet stands out in South Florida as one of commercial real estate's greatest hype men. On his LinkedIn page, or in his columns for Forbes, he acts like an inspirational coach — constantly sharing details about his own struggles in the industry, dispensing advice for everyone coming up behind him and celebrating big wins (not just his, but other people's, too). Genet told Bisnow how he broke into the business he said he's been passionate about since he was 5 years old.
Bisnow: How did you get introduced to CRE?
Genet: My great-grandparents, grandparents and parents were all involved in CRE in South Florida and Pennsylvania. I grew up with it and it’s in my blood. Throughout my childhood, I would go with my father on site tours of houses he bought and flipped, pitch in and help with renovations and be present for negotiations. I always knew I’d be in the real estate world in some capacity. Early in my career, I explored property management, apartment leasing, residential sales and so on. However, I fell in love with CRE after doing my first commercial lease and moved my own dry cleaners into a new building on Biscayne Boulevard called Opera Tower, developed by Tibor Hollo.
Bisnow: What was your first job in CRE?
Genet: When I first started in CRE, I was working multiple jobs at one time. My main responsibility was as an assistant property manager for 200 Section 8 rental units in Liberty City and Brownsville. I was paid $8 per hour. Some of the responsibilities included rent collections, performing maintenance, property inspections and property condition reports. I was grateful to have the opportunity.
Bisnow: What kind of education, certification or official training do you have in CRE?
Genet: My educational background was in Hotel Management with a B.S. from [Johnson & Wales University]. However, I believe my most valuable training came from just doing deals from a young age, learning through trial and error, and pushing beyond my comfort levels. In many ways, I consider myself to be “self-taught.”
Bisnow: What is one skill you wish you had coming into CRE?
Genet: A better understanding of debt and structured finance products would have been helpful. To educate myself, I ended up reading any old offering memorandum that I could get my hands on. I also sought advice from mentors in the field who were willing to share their knowledge with me.
Bisnow: What were you doing before you got into CRE?
Genet: My first commercial sale was very overwhelming. I had no idea what to do and there was limited interest from prospective buyers. It definitely was an unsettling experience as I did not want to fail on my first real sale. Thinking outside of the box, I cold-called the city of North Miami (where the building was located) to see if they would be interested. Fortunately, the Facilities Management Department ended up buying the building to park and service the maintenance truck fleet. I made $20K and it was the best day of my professional life up to that point.
Bisnow: What were your early impressions of the industry, good and bad? How has your impression changed?
Genet: From the start, I thought that there was a lot of opportunity and that the CRE industry was lagging in terms of marketing in comparison to other industries. Today people are catching up, but there is still a lot of room for growth.
Bisnow: Have you had a mentor or sponsor?
Genet: Yes, I’ve been extremely lucky to have had many great mentors. One person who comes to mind is my first broker, Dorothee Rubin. She introduced me to high-profile commercial land sales and development. More importantly, she took me under her wing and taught me everything she knew. She put me in positions to learn and grow. I will be forever grateful for that experience.
Bisnow: What is a key lesson someone taught you, either kindly or the hard way?
Genet: When I was young, my father always told me that we would buy buildings together when I was older. For many years, into my early 20s, I thought that I would rely on him to help me in my career. Unfortunately, when I was 23 years old, my father passed away from cancer. I was left without anyone holding my hand or any financial support. It was a very difficult time.
In that moment, I made the decision that I wanted more for myself (and my future family) and that if I was going to be successful I needed to forge my own path. I started working multiple jobs at once and challenged myself in new ways. That pivotal life experience taught me a hard, but very important lesson: The best path is usually not the easy path. The only key to success is hard work, hard work and more hard work. I continue to carry with me that drive, passion and determination.
Bisnow: What do you warn people about when they join the industry?
Genet: Work for honest, hard-working and top-producing brokerage teams. Find people you like and trust who treat others with respect. You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Life is too short to be around dishonest or unkind people, even if they are “successful."
Bisnow: If you could do your career all over again, what would you change?
Genet: I would have spent less time in class and more time, early on, working in the CRE real world. I would join a top 3 firm and a high-value team even if I had to work for free for the first few years because that experience is invaluable.