New to Commercial Real Estate?

Posted: June 29, 2017 by Paul Cohen, Regional Director

New to Commercial Real Estate?

Read these 10 books and accelerate your career

It started in the 1990’s and is becoming more and more pervasive.  I’m talking about the new wave of brokers and their shocking lack of reading.

I noticed it first when junior brokers in my firm would start using basic phrases that every salesperson from the pre-nineties era, who had studied the likes of Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn, would never say. Like “You wouldn’t want to make an offer on this property, would you?” I’d cringe and then take them aside, thrusting a copy of Tom Hopkins “How to Master the Art of Selling” into their hands. Months later it was clear they hadn’t read it. I once wrote on the second chapter of “See You at the Top” by Zig Ziglar, “When you read this, come and see me and I’ll give you $100.” They never asked for the money but did tell me they enjoyed the book.

I have given this some thought over the years. Why do these gen-Xrs think they can just wing it? I’ve watched these brokers “grow up” in the business and they make money based upon sheer determination, smiles and their ability to instinctively connect with some clients. However, because they don’t know why they do what they do, they sometimes don’t get the business and have no idea why. Generally, they blame the client, the market or a competitor but the fact is, it’s them. I explain that sales in commercial real estate is a skill that needs to be honed and practiced. Just willing something to happen doesn’t make it so. Learning to build rapport, ask questions, growing a business over time are fundamentals that seem to be missing from the “instant gratification” generation. Don’t get me wrong, I love the optimism and over confidence but a little nuance goes a along way.

If you don’t like to read, you can download an audio book as I like to do. Check out our blog debating the reading vs listening to books. Without further ado here are the ten books I recommend every aspiring commercial real estate broker should read:

    1. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. Warren Buffet took the course and said it was the best thing he could have done for himself when he started out.

    1. The Richest Man in Babylon, George Clason. Time tested principals for gaining wealth.

    1. Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill. Time tested wisdom from a man who studied the likes of Andrew Carnegie.

    1. How to Master the Art of Selling and Listing Real Estate, Tom Hopkins. It’s a little dated but you’ll learn some good basic techniques.

    1. The Secrets of Closing the Sale, Zig Ziglar. In my opinion, this is best as an audio book.  Zig’s enthusiasm will get you pumped.

    1. The Psychology of Selling, Brian Tracy. More sales stuff. You’ve got to absorb this stuff as Brian Tracy breaks down the mind game.

    1. Seven Habits of Highly effective People, Steven Covey.  Probably the best overview of how you set yourself up to be successful in life

    1. Influence, Robert Caldini. Important if you want to understand why people decide to buy.

    1. Spin Selling, Neil Rackham. It seems that every major sales organization rebrands the principals of this book for their own purposes. Get the original.

  1. Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, Napoleon Hill & W. Clement Stone. This was quoted in the Ray Kroc movie (Founder). As the words were recited it reminded me of when I started in the business. This stuff stays with you.

“Hey new broker. Yes I am talking to you.”

I know you think that because you are well liked and you work hard, you don’t need to read these books. Trust me, I’ve worked with hundreds of brokers over the years, and they all make money. However, the ones that learned these principals make much more.  Even if you make just 10% more each year, that’s almost a million dollars over a career. (That’s a Brian Tracy thing. You’ll see.) Now this is just the start, there are hundreds of books you should read. Some haven’t even been written yet. I personally recommend biographies – Sam Zell has a new one out now. Enjoy!

What book do you recommend for new brokers? Send me your recommendations.

Paul Cohen

Paul Cohen, CREXi Convenient TechnologyPaul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales.  Email Paul


Top 10 Summer Reading Picks for the CRE Professional

 Posted: June 14, 2017  by Eli Randel, Director of Business Development and Paul Cohen, Regional Director of Business Development



But first, “to read or not to read” that is the question being hotly debated over a couple of brews at the local tavern.


After a busy day of work Eli and I got a couple pints and discussed life, the Universe and the books we are currently reading. When Eli mentioned that he was waiting for his next book to be delivered, I nearly dropped my beer. I assumed that he, like I, had adopted audiobooks in lieu of carrying around clunky paper books and trying to read them when time provided. He had not. Debate about the best medium for consuming books ensued. Below is how we generally remember it. Who was right? You be the judge……


ER: Call me old school – which is ironic since I’m younger than you – but reading is far superior to books on tape. Seeing sentence structure, grammar, and spelling will make you a much better communicator and writer. Listening can always be distracted by outside events and reading forces you to concentrate which is part of the value.


PC: I can’t believe we are having this debate. Yes, I am older than you but nobody calls them books-on-tape anymore, grandpa. Do you still listen to your gramophone? You are basing your entire argument on sentence structure. That’s like saying I only listen to live music so I can see how they play the guitar!


ER: Don’t get me started on music – also a passion of mine, and I do play guitar. Do you see my hand in front of your face? Good, you aren’t blind. So why are you (exclusively) listening to books? To get through them quicker? What’s the point of being able to get through more books if you aren’t properly absorbing them? There is something timeless about holding knowledge in your hands that won’t disappear when the power goes out.      


PC: You make a good point, blind people certainly benefit from audiobooks so for that portion of the population I am clearly right. As far as absorption, I don’t know that reading vs listening is superior. I think it depends on the individual. Anyway, why are you waiting for a book? Why don’t you just use a Kindle? Let me guess, because it teaches you delayed gratification? You really are old school.


ER: Ha. That’s fair. I could use a kindle. My same points would apply. Speaking of age, do you listen to a Walkman while in the hot-tub on vacation trying to “read”? And yes, visualizing words and seeing how sentences should be written has helped my writing. I owe most of my writing ability to being an avid reader.   


PC: Are you still going with the “I read so I can write” defense? It’s like debating skiing vs. snowboarding and saying snowboarding is better because you look good in baggy clothes. Here are the real reasons for audio: first, you don’t have to lug books around; next, humans are designed to listen to stories, we did it for thousands of years before we were literate; then, there is the sustainability argument; you don’t need to chop down “The hundred acre wood” to read about Winnie the Pooh; and lastly, there is the ability to do other things while you are listening to a book like exercise, drive, or carve soap sculptures!


ER: When you’re doing other stuff you’re not going to properly absorb the content. You’re missing the escape, meditative qualities, and forced concentration and discipline reading develops. An audiobook is like a home workout: yes it works, but it seldom replicates running outside for an hour or going to the gym. Not only are you forced to workout once you get to the gym, but getting there requires discipline which is an added benefit and learned skill set. And yes, writing is important. You’ve seen some of the e-mails we receive from job applicants. There is a generation raised on listening to TV or reading in limited characters who can’t structure good e-mails because of it.  


PC: Driving, running, walking, relaxing in a hot tub – all things I can do while listening to A Brief History of Time. You only have 24 hours in a day so if you can listen to how Howard Shultz started Starbucks while driving thru a Starbucks then I have killed two mockingbirds with one stone. If you think that there is a brain function benefit to reading then I’ll refer you to Daniel Willinghams study. If you believe that reading helps with sentence structure then that would be true if you are reading Melville, Bronte, Faulkner or Twain but the last book I saw you read was that annoying Jim Cramer from Mad Money. Not what I’d call a wordsmith. Anyway, your argument about writing is offset by the benefits of listening which can help with pronunciation and public speaking. The reason why resumes and emails look like they do, is because people don’t write it’s not because they don’t read.


ER: a) How can someone properly write without properly reading? It’s like learning to dance without having seen others do it; b) Confessions of a Street Addict was a good book. Had you read (or listened to) it, you would learn that Jim Cramer was President and Editor-in-chief for the Harvard Crimson before getting his JD at Harvard Law before he became a hedge fund manager; b) my position on writing isn’t about learning how to write elegant prose, it’s about learning how to communicate in written form; and c) listening to a book while doing something less productive sounds like a good way to do two things without your undivided attention.   


PC: Well, I usually do something that doesn’t require my attention while listening to a book like exercising or driving. Last night I was watching the NBA finals on mute while listening to Crushing it in Real Estate at 1.5x speed. We’ll agree to disagree. I want efficiency and you want enlightenment. Talking of enlightenment, what books are we recommending?





Pick 1 (PC) The Real Estate Game by William J. Poorvu. A Harvard professor retells stories of Investors and developers as they “play” the game of real estate.  Well written (so you can practice your writing, E) and easily accessible. Highly recommended for the Real Estate broker who dreams of being a developer/owner.


Pick 2 (ER) Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Excellent book to prepare someone for a life in entrepreneurialism and business. Many assume Nike rose to greatness at birth, but readers will learn about the challenges faced and the persistence required to overcome those challenges. The book is a reminder of my father’s motto said every day when he got home from work: “Nothing’s Easy.” Once you learn that lesson, which Phil Knight illustrates in the book, you are more prepared for a business or entrepreneurial life. In addition to being a great story, Shoe Dog is also a great study in corporate culture and the real life cast of characters is unique and inspiring.  


Pick 3 (PC) Confessions of a Real Estate Entrepreneur by Jim Randel. Once you’ve finished the Real Estate Game; the next stop on your way to being a master investor is Jim Randel’s confessions. This is a more personal account of investing. It covers Jim’s wins but also talks about some failures. It’s not your usual “Get rich in real estate BS” but a practical guide.


Pick 4 (ER) Leadership Legacies (Lessons Learned From 10 Real Estate Legends). Not a long or complex book, but a great introduction to 10 legends who helped shape the modern commercial real estate industry. Zell, Hines, Crow and more. Many of us have heard of some of these legends and know them as the icons, but lack a background on how they became icons or what unique traits they’re famous for. The sections are not in-depth looks, but good starting points. ULI’s book is a great entry level look into the impact the ten legends made on our industry.


Pick 5 (PC) Crushing it in Commercial Real Estate by Brian Murray. Here’s another investing book. I enjoyed the read and I like Brian’s story. Started out as a teacher and then just hustled his way through his first deal. Now he runs a fairly large property company in Watertown, NY. (


Pick 6 (ER) Am I Being Too Subtle? by Sam Zell. Many know the Gravedancer (as he’s been known) as a self-made billionaire but often a rough or crude man, however in my opinion Zell is full of heart and character and has made a career as a contrarian who looks right when everyone is looking left. I don’t always agree with his politics (although he is often right and has predicted many future economic events), but I agree with his general moral compass as described in the book. Zell discusses loyalty, reputation, friendship, and independence from the pack. Like him or not, he’s one of a kind and his successes are in-deniable.      


Pick 7 (PC) The Deal by Adam Gitlin. The only novel on the list. Adam will deny this but I think his Jonah Gray character was modeled on me. In this real estate saga the protagonist, Jonah Gray, is offered a deal too good to refuse. 


Pick 8 (ER) Zeckendorf: The Autobiography of the Man Who Played a Real-Life Game of Monopoly and Won the Largest Real Estate Empire in History by William Zeckendorf. Confession: I have not read this book. It is on my “to read” list as it was recently recommended to me by someone whose opinion I value. Read the Amazon reviews and judge for yourself. Zeckendorf was an Icon and is responsible for shaping a city and industry. I wouldn’t normally put a book I haven’t read on a list like this, but I only recently heard of it and am confident it’s a book real estate professionals should read.


Pick 9 (PC) The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King by Rich Cohen.  Not a real estate book per se, but a great rags to riches story to get you motivated to take on the world (once you get back from vacation).  Well written and an easy read. It follows the twists and turns of Samuel Zemurray as he builds his banana business and takes on the market leader.   Also a great insight into US foreign policy at the turn of the last century.  Inspired by Sam the Banana man, you’ll realize that there isn’t a problem you can’t solve.


Pick 10 (PC) Commercial Real Estate Brokers Who Dominate by Rod Santomassimo. I thought I’d better include a book about brokerage. This is one of the best because it uses real examples of some of the top brokers in the country. Santomassimo breaks down 8 traits and then uses different brokers to illustrate an example of those traits.



What books did we miss? Recommendations are always graciously accepted. Is anyone still reading out there or are you, like me, adapting to more efficient ways to consume information? We would love your feedback.

ICSC RECon Redux

Posted: June 7, 2017 by Paul Cohen, Regional Director of Business Development


In May I shared my Top Ten Tips for Surviving ICSC RECON 2017. Having now had two weeks to work off my hangover, I thought it valuable to share some additional thoughts from this year’s conference. Send me your tips for surviving and thriving at ICSC Vegas.


  1. Stay off the strip. I’ve always found it a little depressing to come down from my hotel room each morning and see an old lady on the slot machines next to an insurance salesman who has been playing Blackjack all night. This year, our team at CREXi used AirBnB to rent a five-bedroom house five minutes from the strip. Initially, the goal was cost savings and flexibility as we hadn’t finalized our roster, but what we found was the time we spent together in the evenings before going to the strip was an effective team building experience. As someone who has stayed on the strip multiple times, it was nice to see where the locals live, go for a run in the neighborhoods without inhaling cigarette smoke on my way in and out of the hotel lobby, and to support some local restaurants and bars. I’m not suggesting readers do it every year, but give it a try.

  3. Not just a pretty face. I got some blow-back on my previous Survival Guide post for suggesting that unless you are “an attractive woman” people won’t just stop by your booth. Some took that to mean that as a female professional you should use your looks and not your abilities to get business. Far from it. I was talking about paid models meant to lure passerby’s in. While the practice seems to be on the decline, when applied it often comes off as tacky and less than professional.

  5. One giant step for man. Take advantage of the vast distances walked by setting step goals for the day.  I took 45,484 Steps over the two days.  Anyone do better?

  7. Elevator Pitch Redux. I visited several booths and asked what I believed to be a simple question: What do you do? I expected a simple elevator pitch. You know, like if you were going up an actual elevator. Here’s what happened instead (on almost every occasion): first, the booth host became defensive and asked who I was while they looked directly at my chest to scan my badge. Five minutes later after completion of their “elevator pitch” I was still no clearer. I felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s Glass elevator on the way to Umpa Lumpa land! I am now getting emails from some of these companies and still don’t know what they do.

  9. Get better swag. Sorry but somebody had to say it. Other than the group that gave out flip flops and the sandwich guys, the swag was very unimaginative. Throw away those stress balls. I suggest that you come up with a theme based upon what your company stands for and then build around that. According to Rich Curran, owner of Expo Convention Contractors (the country’s leading Convention Services provider), “make your theme and swag match. For example, Miami based developer uses a beach theme and gives out sunglasses. You can also use your giveaway to capture leads without asking. You can set up a photographer and offer headshots or a caricature artist. A simple business card drop gets them in line.” 

  11. The booth, you can’t handle the booth. It was interesting to see how companies handled their allotted space. I saw quite a few “closed” booths, meaning booths that had physical barriers to entry and some with gate keepers behind big desks. Booths should be open in my opinion. Think of a playground for adults. They can come in and see what you are doing. Host a Happy hour in the booth. Nothing says welcome to our booth like a Goose and soda. Expo’s Curran added “a welcoming environment keeps attendees there and talking. Making connections are key, so having someone want to stay at your booth longer gives a chance to build a relationship. Make your booth about an experience not just a product or service.”

  13. Don’t go deep the first night. This was in the original post but worth elaboration.  I saw a lot of hurt people on Tuesday morning. My advice is to take it easy for the first night (or two if you’re staying longer) and stay hydrated. When you do eventually hit the strip, know your limits and stay within them. Some of my best relationships have been made with people I get a little “loose” with, but it’s a fine line. Remember this is a company function and any inappropriate behavior can hurt your standing within the firm. Whether you realize it or not.

  15. Go to the parties. I missed the Chainsmokers but got front row to Nelly (Thanks Colliers International!). A confession, I forgot who Nelly was, I was thinking Nelly Furtado so when “Nelly” (rapper from circa 1998) hit the stage I was a tad disappointed. However, once Nelly started the show I got into the mood and found myself singing my own version of his song: 


      If you want to go and list your deals with me
      We’ll stick em on da CREXi real EZ.
      Oh why do we do it this way? (Hey, we don’t cost no money!)
      If you want to go ahead and get on CREXi
      Put on a Triple Net or a storage Facilit-E.
      Oh how do we do it this way? (Hey, we don’t cost no money!)


    You had to be there!

Paul Cohen

Paul Cohen, CREXi Convenient TechnologyPaul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales.  Email Paul