Today, Jan. 10, 2015, the national real estate industry lost a titan in Bob Edge. I lost my mentor and my dear friend.
This man changed the landscape of the real estate market! He also changed the lives of those he came in contact with.
His first major impact on the Dallas real estate market was to change the way the market paid its brokers: less, but all up front. This was not a popular change, and the industry was not happy when Cushman & Wakefield “cut” its fees from 6 percent to 4.5 percent. But to agree to a lower rate, he asked that his fees be paid up front; not over time. (How many of my real estate buddies reading this today would like to go back to being paid over the term of the lease? Let’s see a show of hands! … Oh, I thought so!)
No, “tenant representation” wasn’t invented here in Dallas, as great local lore has suggested. Bob was one of the first to “import” this long-time practice of C&W’s by representing American Airlines, Celanese Chemical, GTE, and many other major corporate citizens in relocating to Dallas. (Ask me about the time Bob picked up the CEO of American Airlines, Al Casey, to show him for the first time American’s new temporary home, as they built the now-existing headquarters. He got a flat tire on the way to show him the building!)
Bob’s major impact is felt throughout the industry as Bob Edge disciples (those trained by him) can be found at virtually every real estate firm in town today. But what I want to do here is share with you the five most important lessons I learned from him throughout the years:
• FOCUS. When I joined C&W from a 20-month stint at a local firm, I was working all over the board, trying to sell investment buildings to a German group, a small office deal here, another industrial deal there. I had no real product knowledge or industry-specific knowledge. I simply had no focus. Bob sat me down and directed me to learn one submarket and one industry type. Once you learn that, then we will pick another submarket and, after a while, branch into other areas, like office, he said. But first … I had to become the best industrial broker in the Brookhollow Industrial park that I could be. Bob taught me to focus on my craft.
• PRESENTATION. Shortly after I started at C&W, Bob pulled me aside and said, “We need to get you a better wardrobe!” and took me to Thurman & Reynold’s, a fabulous men’s store in the Republic Bank Building downtown. I couldn’t rub two nickels together with what I was making then, so he bought me a suit, a shirt, and two ties. He said, “As soon as you can afford it, buy another suit, shirt, and tie! Once you are making deals, then you can pay me back for the first one. You only have one chance to make a first impression!” That suit became my “lucky presentation suit” for years. Any time we had a major, important meeting, I always wore my go-to suit!
But presentation to Bob just didn’t stop there. Presentation was much larger than one’s appearance. It was where preparation + practice = preparation. Bob was the first to show me that the real estate profession isn’t a “sales” profession but a professional service expert. I can remember spending hours with Bob “getting ready” for a presentation. That seems so normal today, but this was 35 years ago, when most of our industry practitioners were “salesmen” first. (At that time of our career, there were very few “saleswomen” but our firm, through Bob’s leadership, led the industry in diversity!)
I can remember taking Bob and my written presentation created on a typewriter then sending it by fax or overnight mail to our office in NYC. They had a “word processor” in New York! For a short period of time, Bob and C&W’s presentations were light-years ahead of our competition using this new-fangled word processing technology. (I am aging myself now!)
• LOSE WITH GRACE. When you look at our competitors in the Dallas real estate industry, a great “winning percentage” is akin to that of a good baseball player. A win percentage of .300 is pretty darn good. But what that means is you’re losing 70 percent of the time. Bob was the best at handling rejection or loss.
I can remember back in the fall of 1987. Bob and I had negotiated a 15-year lease for 350,000 square feet of office space in the Towers of Williams Square for Standard Oil of Ohio. The SOHIO transaction was a $150 million lease. We had just received tenant-executed leases around 10 a.m. on that sunny October day, when we received a phone call from the head of real estate of SOHIO. He said, “Hold the signed leases; there is an all-hands-on-deck call in 30 minutes.” Thirty one minutes later, we received an urgent call to return the leases immediately! Seems, British Petroleum had just bought SOHIO and the deal was dead!
For a young, 33-year old real estate broker, this was a career-changing opportunity, and I was devastated with the loss. Bob, too, was naturally dejected, but the very next morning he came into the office as if nothing had happened the day before and said, “Hey, let’s head to NYC next week for some good old-fashioned cold-calling!” He never mentioned the huge SOHIO “close call” again. He was on to other things! That was one of the most important lessons Bob taught me. Move on!
• THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS. Bob Edge is most famously known as a Fight’n Texas Aggie, but Bob was a trained lawyer from SMU’s law school, too. Bob dissected a document like no one I had ever seen—but not as a lawyer, but as a real estate professional. Bob could red-line a document better and faster than anyone. (Actually, Bob really didn’t red-line the document as we know it today, he “red-penned” the document, and his trusty sidekick, Les Templeton, actually did the red-lining on the computer. (If I had only invested in Bic red pen stock!)
Bob’s position is that we negotiate dozens of leases every day, but our clients only do it once every five or 10 years. “Let your client benefit from your knowledge” was his credo. Today, our clients receive a red-lined document with “C&W comments” within 24 hours. This is a Bob Edge legacy lesson for me. No, we are not attorneys, but our experience through our comments helps the process along. (I recently had a leasing agent chastise me for “creating new issues” in the lease document by adding all of these comments. Bob, I thank you and, more important, our clients thank you for the gift of “detail” that you have instilled in us!
• HAVE FUN. Bob was a blast to be with, both during and after hours. When Bob and I would go to New York for our annual (sometimes semi-annual) cold-calling trips, (we really did call on clients!), he always took me and others who were lucky to experience these outings on a tour of the town. Drinks at 21 Club, dinner at Il Molino with Leon Peters (now there is another story!), a tour of downtown to see the building (now a bar) where George Washington addressed the troops when he stepped down as General of the Continental Army.
Bob also arranged golf outings for our teams all across the United States in advance of our national C&W Achievement meetings. The memories of these trips will always be near and dear to my heart, and others who joined us on the wonderful outings. Bob wanted our team to have fun.
But what Bob did better than any of us, is when work was over, he shut it down. Bob always believed in having partners on deals, a practice that is the foundation of C&W’s philosophy today. And whenever Bob and Vicki went on a vacation, he checked out and his partner was at the helm. His trust in his partners always made us better, as we were not about to let Bob or our client down. Bob, I am sorry to say this most valuable lesson is still one that I struggle with. But in the spirit of your legacy, this is one I will strive to work on much harder going forward. (I promise, Patsy!)
Bob Edge’s passion was mentoring young professionals. He was so committed to helping young folks that he set up the Bob Edge Scholarship Fund, which was seed-funded by Bob and Vicki. Many professionals in the Dallas real estate community today have benefited by the further education his scholarships have funded for their development.
You can honor Bob Edge by contributing to the Bob Edge Scholarship Fund, sending your tax-deductible donation to:
The Communities Foundation of Texas, Attention: Elizabeth Liser, The Bob Edge Scholarship Fund, 5500 Caruth Haven Lane, Dallas TX 75225
Bob, I will miss you! Cushman & Wakefield, the city of Dallas, and our real estate industry are far better for your presence, your mentoring, and your leadership.