ULI Arizona News

Program Recap: Breaking the Mold – Women Leaders in Commercial Real Estate

By Peter Madrid/MadridMedia

In an extremely competitive field such as commercial real estate, it’s a juggling act closing the deal and at the same time overcoming problems, taking risks, “making the ask,” and finding mentors or becoming a mentor.

A ULI Arizona interactive breakfast panel addressed these issues, but from a unique perspective: the panelists were women who have risen to prominent positions in brokerage through very diverse paths.

An audience of more than 80 listened as the panelists discussed how they built their individual brand and used it to differentiate their firms. They also offered what advice they would give their younger selves, and how they see the future of real estate in the Valley.

Jennifer Understahl, a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie, moderated the event held May 17 at Biltmore Financial Center. After each panelist shared how they got their start in the industry, the discussion moved to problems that have arisen in their careers and how they overcame them.

“When I first started, the challenge was that not many women were doing this,” said Jackie Orcutt, a first vice president and industrial broker at CBRE. “I was young, and I had this assumption that marketing was going to be my role. Then as I started to transact and have my own properties and deals, I felt more confident. I learned you had to define yourself and stay true to what you’re doing, especially for your clients.”

Beth Jo Zeitzer, president and designated broker at R.O.I Properties, said as owner of her company, she had to “put my own signature on things.”

“Starting out (with her own firm) I didn’t have the confidence I do now,” she said. “I was surrounded with people who did have that confidence in me. A lot were males. It also took some time to realize the importance of organization and priorities. While some can ‘BS’ their way to get through to the other side, I made relationships a priority. Once I got to know people my client base opened up and I could build my business.”

A problem she has overcome and helps others overcome, said Mindy Korth, executive vice president for investment properties at Colliers International, is keeping herself balanced.

“We love the work, the strategy,” she said. “Keeping that in mind is very helpful. So is understanding your self-esteem. Don’t ever discount yourself. Confidence in who you are isn’t an ego thing. It’s who you are and what you’re doing that are important.”

All three panelists took risks early in their careers. One started her own business, one changed her career, and one challenged a male-dominated field. They also talked about the importance of being mentored and then paying it forward by becoming a mentor. Taking risks drew some compelling discussion.

“You have to ask yourself what is risk, and realize that at the base is fear,” Korth said. “There will be some feelings of uncertainty, but fear is a good emotion to keep you protected. You need to have courage and be brave. That’s when you really start having fun.”

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