Fifteen Outstanding Developing Leaders Shaping a Bright Future for CRE

Winter 2015/2016
NAIOP Chairman Steve Martin (far left) and President Tom Bisacquino presented the 2015 Developing Leader Awards at the Commercial Real Estate Conference in Toronto.

NAIOP’s 2015 Developing Leaders Award recipients have distinguished themselves through exceptional commitment and contributions to the industry.    

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT, and these young professionals intend to make it all the way. Drawing strength from the high energy, fast pace and collaborative nature of commercial real estate, the recipients of NAIOP’s 2015 Developing Leaders Award are throwing themselves into the industry at full throttle. They received this prestigious honor on October 14 in Toronto at NAIOP’s Commercial Real Estate Conference 2015, in recognition of their exceptional commitment and contributions to the industry. Read on for glimpses into how the unbridled enthusiasm, tenacity and leadership of these 15 young professionals continue to impact commercial real estate in powerful ways. 

Q: What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?

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John Drachman
Stillwater Investment Group

A: I love building a company from scratch and seeing my projects come together to provide value to my investors and to the local communities in which they are located. 

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James Love
Founder/Managing Partner
Distribution Realty Group LLC
NAIOP Chicago

A: Development is rewarding in a tangible way. Outside of building new buildings, as an industrial landlord I have a great view of the businesses that fire our American economic engine. America’s industrial companies are doing and making some really cool things.

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Alison McGavigan
Senior Associate
Colliers International
NAIOP Edmonton

A: The most rewarding aspect of my job is that I have the flexibility to work on a variety of different asset classes. No two assignments are the same; some days I’m working on developing land and other days I’m working on a high-rise multifamily building. I value the diversity and complexity of appraising different properties.

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Lauren Richter
Assistant Project Manager
The Rockefeller Group
NAIOP New York City

A: In the development field, the ultimate satisfaction is to see a new building come to fruition. With numerous years going into a single development before construction even begins, I like to see the smaller undertakings, such as finishing negotiating a contract or obtaining site plan approvals, as rewarding aspects of the job.

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Melissa Scofield
NAIOP San Diego

A: I absolutely love helping clients achieve their real estate goals and teaching them about the sales process. For many private clients, managing their CRE investments isn’t necessarily their day-to-day profession. They rely heavily on me to look out for their best interests and help them capitalize on current market conditions to achieve their financial goals.

Q: How has being a member of NAIOP helped your career?

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Ryan Hoyt
Senior Leasing Manager
NAIOP Georgia

A: Being a member of NAIOP has given me the opportunity to build new relationships with industry professionals as well as maintain existing relationships. I have also had the opportunity to network with professionals who don’t necessarily focus on what I do on a daily basis. My involvement with NAIOP Georgia’s NAIOP Future Leaders (NFL) has truly been invaluable. NFL has helped me learn more about the organization and its charitable causes, and offers monthly opportunities to meet the leaders in our industry. NAIOP is undoubtedly an essential key to my success as a CRE professional.

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Nicole Wilhelm Smith
Business Development Manager
ECS Mid-Atlantic LLC
NAIOP Maryland

A: NAIOP has been invaluable for me in my career. It has introduced me to a group of people who are incredibly knowledgeable and eager to help me succeed. At my relatively young age, it would have been impossible to have entered the inner circle of the Maryland commercial real estate industry without this association.

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Coleman Team
Linville Team Partners
NAIOP North Carolina Piedmont Triad

A: I have been a NAIOP member since the first year of my career. As a younger professional in the industry, NAIOP provided a great platform for industry knowledge and networking with our market’s top leaders. NAIOP also provided me a leadership opportunity through service on the board early in my career, where I was able to dive deeper into national market trends and further understand the effects of NAIOP’s lobbying efforts across our entire industry, both locally and nationally.

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Mandi Thorn
Assistant Vice President, Construction and Maintenance
Harsch Investment Properties
NAIOP Southern Nevada

A: The relationships I have formed as a member of NAIOP have become vital to my career. I can pick up the phone and call any municipality, utility, engineer or contractor and reach someone who I met either at a NAIOP function or through a NAIOP colleague.

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Max Vo
Vice President, Asset and Portfolio Management
Barnhart Asset Management
NAIOP Greater Toronto

A: In our business, a strong network is a vital component of being successful. NAIOP is the best organization bringing together real estate professionals in Toronto, and it has allowed me to make great connections across Canada and throughout the U.S. 

Q: What advice would you offer to other young professionals in commercial real estate?

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Jason England
Leasing and Marketing Manager
Argent Development Group

A: Become active in your development community. If a local NAIOP chapter exists, join it! You get out of this business what you put into it. Enjoy what you do; success is as much about your attitude as it is anything else.

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Jonathan LaChance
General Manager, Real Estate
Equium Group Inc.
NAIOP Calgary

A: Never underestimate the power of positive thinking and perseverance. Those qualities, along with networking, are essential for success within the industry.

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Erik Lembcke
Account Executive
First Republic Bank
NAIOP South Florida

A: Don’t waste your time; it’s the most valuable asset you’ll ever own.

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Christine Choi Moore
Leasing Manager
John Hancock Real Estate
NAIOP Chicago

A: Work hard and differentiate yourself amongst your colleagues and competitors. Strategically invest your time to make yourself a value-add in all aspects of what you do.

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Katharine Watts
Vice President
Colliers International
NAIOP Northern Ohio

A: Strive to achieve a balance of humility and confidence. There is always something to learn in this business, whether it’s your second or 20th year. Being open to always learn and adapt helps to keep you humble while also enabling you to gain valuable experience that strengthens confidence.

Who Has Inspired or Influenced You?

My great-uncle Roy Drachman grew up in Tucson, Arizona, did not graduate from college and did not start his real estate career until his 40s. But he had a remarkable career. He has inspired me in my own career to remember that it is not where you start, but where you finish. — John Drachman

I’ve always admired the work ethic of my father. Seeing him go above and beyond in everything he does has inspired me to do the same in all my endeavors. — Jason England

My father. He’s run his business for over 40 years and I’ve never heard him complain about it. He truly found his passion. — Ryan Hoyt

Several individuals have shaped my career through mentorship and professional development, including my father, Nawaz Damji of Equium Group, Bruce Mackenzie of Mackenzie Consulting and Richard Moore of Northam Realty Advisors Ltd. — Jonathan Lachance

My family and mentors. — Erik Lembcke

My grandfather hitchhiked to Nashville, Tennessee, with a seventh grade education and a dime in his pocket when he was a teenager. He went on to start and own his own businesses. He’s not with us anymore, but he’s still a great source of inspiration for me today. He once said, “When it’s your business, you’re the president and the janitor.” It’s true.  — James Love

My mum has been the most influential person in my life by encouraging my ongoing learning and fostering my love of travel. She has always instilled in me the importance of independence and confidence. — Alison McGavigan

I have had the great benefit of having several advocates, mentors, colleagues, family and friends who have all played active roles in influencing my career and shaping me professionally and personally. I am grateful for each and every one of these relationships and how they have uniquely inspired me. — Christine Choi Moore

My parents. My mom has demonstrated how hard work and determination are rewarded in your career and personal life. My dad is the most outgoing and optimistic person I know. He has taught me how to strike up a conversation with anyone and turn every bad situation into something meaningful. — Lauren Richter

There are too many to name. I am grateful to have the most amazing family and friends who inspire and support me in very different but such valuable ways. I feel very lucky. — Melissa Scofield

The president of Heath Design Group, where I worked for nine years and really started my career, has been very influential for me professionally. He taught me to think on my feet and be confident in myself. — Nicole Wilhelm Smith

Without a question, my father. He is the one who taught me the ins and outs of the commercial real estate profession, especially how, at the end of the day, my character and reputation are more important than any real estate deal. — Coleman Team

An amazing man named Randy Kyte. Randy was my boss for nine years, but more than that he was a mentor and someone who always believed in me. Being a young woman in construction has its challenges, but Randy always encouraged me to “tell them what I think.” We tragically lost Randy to ALS in 2014 and it left a hole in my life. I still carry those words with me to inspire me on the days when things get tough. — Mandi Thorn

An inspiring figure I look to preached about the importance of engagement with the outer world while being aware of your inner self. Only then can you “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I’m speaking of Mahatma Gandhi. — Max Vo

My parents inspire me every day. The incredible love and thoughtfulness they show towards everyone in their lives is truly special. They have taught me how to be strong when faced with challenges, the power of positivity, to be inquisitive, thankful, thoughtful, and to stay true to myself. — Katharine Watts