5 for Friday – Craig Morris, National Co-Chair of SVN | Realty Advisors

5 for Friday – Craig Morris, National Co-Chair of SVN | Realty Advisors

This week, our 5 for Friday features Craig Morris, National Co-Chair of SVN | Realty Advisors, based out of Newport Beach, California. Craig’s product specialty is Corporate Real Estate.

1. What advice would you provide to an aspiring advisor who is new to the industry?

The real estate industry has changed dramatically since I came into the business – IT, complexity, competition and client expectations.  That being said, below is a summary of items I believe are very important to being successful on a long-term basis

  • Listen – most brokers sell – the best ask questions, listen to what the client tells them they want, and then provides them the solutions they asked for. If you ask them what is their biggest challenge, or what keeps them up at night – they will tell you.
  • Sell and work as a team – most brokers sell themselves, the deals they have done, “me” and “I”. The best approach is to sell the strength of the organization (“we”), the firm’s relationships, wins, case studies, and benefits. Working as a team is more productive, fun and rewarding.
  • Go where others don’t – this has helped me tremendously during my career – if everyone is going left, go right – find your own path, own it and monetize it. In my 2nd year in the business, after making $22k my first year off my runnership program, I decided that I was only going to work on industrial deals over 100k sf. CBRE owned the market for deals over 50k sf. My office laughed at me. My logic was that not every listing or deal in my market of that size could go to one firm. I grossed $550k my 2nd year.
  • From Day 1, keep track of all of your clients, dates, options, et cetera. Brokers tend to go from flower to flower, instead of using all of the legacy information they have to insure repeat business.
  • Make the calls – make lots of calls – otherwise you will die. No one is doing them for you.
  • Learn – look at what other industries are doing and define how that can help you in real estate. Our industry is one of the most backward and slow changing industries in the world. From IT, to sales, presentations, networking and approaches, look outside real estate for leading concepts. Also, completing training and designations in the areas applicable to your practice is very important.
  • Network – the most successful do this religiously. New York is the best at it – working during the day, going to 1-2 charity events a night – if you do not have a relationship, your chances of winning a large piece of business are extremely low. Belonging to active charities will help in so many ways – personally by giving back, and also professionally by finding like-minded people you want to do business with.
  • Treat clients, brokers, staff, and all others as you would like to be treated – the world is full of tough people, don’t be one of them. People do business with people they like, so make sure it is you.
  • Work with the Right People – adopting a rule not to partner or work with people (clients included) you can’t trust, don’t like or don’t have the same approach that you do will save you time, headache and money.

2. What inspired you to open or join an SVN franchise?

Supporting our partnership relationship with Kevin Maggiacomo and Mark Van Ness. Collectively we believed that building a sustainable CRES program should be done through and with a local franchise.

3. What learning tools would you recommend to your colleagues to further their knowledge and enhance their careers?

Read about other industries, take the time to review and study new IT solutions and presentation techniques, and get involved in CoreNet, CCIM, and other organizations that allow you to learn while meeting potential future clients.

4. What was your most memorable deal and why?

There are numerous memorable deals and projects:

  • MetLife – We represented MetLife exclusively in the US for 7 years at one point. They decided to define how much money they could save by reducing their number of locations and set-up of offices. I spent a month in my office running complex schedules of over 1,200 locations. We had each MetLife office individually walked and found over 5,000 empty work stations or offices. We set up a new structure of offices they should consider. The result was they saved, on a recurring basis, over $200 million per year from this analysis and implementation.
  • United Technologies – We were invited to pitch the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) work for UTC. The head of real estate at the time, Ron Zappile, had been given the responsibility to take over the real estate in the region.  The believed that they had 1,500 locations in this region, but were not sure.  In our presentation, when we got to pricing, I would not provide a price. We did not know enough and my team was scared we were not answering a key UTC question. My response to Ron was that I would propose that he and I would have dinner and come to a fair and reasonable margin on work levels we both did not understand yet. We were awarded the account – found over 5,000 locations and had to translate all the leases in to a single lease administration program and set up a team of 3 account managers in Paris to get all of the data and transaction work completed.
  • Hunt Foods – We were engaged to sell a 300ksf industrial property on 30 acres in Fullerton, CA. After we were awarded the project, the seller informed us they also wanted us to handle every aspect of the seller’s responsibilities – legal, environmental, pricing, architectural, city relationship, title, leases and closing. We eventually sold the property to Lincoln Property, and it was successful for buyer, seller and our team. A tremendous amount of work we normally do not do or want to due to liability issues. It was one of the largest industrial sales in Orange County in five years at the time, over $40m, took approximately 18 months from start to finish, and paid for my new yard and pool.
  • Verizon – We represented VZW wireless on all their real estate prior to wireless being combined with corporate. On one of our projects, a 200k sf build to suit office project creating $2m in fees to our team, our contact told me a meeting had been set up with me and the CFO of VZW wireless. The CFO thought our fee on the project was way too high.  Great set up for a meeting. The good news is that on all accounts we track all projects, fees, costs, and annual P&L statements. After he told me his concerns, I went through our historical P&L analysis from prior years and the current year. The summary is he agreed that the large deal made up for all of the small deals we worked on, including the related costs, and he did not change our fees on the project.
  • Whittier Law School – We represented the law school in their move from Los Angeles to Costa Mesa. The project included a 20-year lease on 150k sf of office space, and the President of Whittier College wanted us to handle all of the planning, architectural and construction management and move-in. We brought the project in on schedule and on budget, which was very difficult due to the fall school class schedules and constantly changing plans. We did it ourselves, which I would never do again.

5. List a fun fact about yourself – something that people may not know and that they may be surprised to find out.

I am a quiet Type A personality who loves math and art simultaneously. On my off time, I love to fish, golf, go for a walk in the park with my friends, work out, spend time with my grown kids, and continually look for the next best approach for business.


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