Dave Anderson is a real estate rock star. Last year, he ranked as the No. 1 industrial broker in North America for CBRE, the largest commercial real estate firm in the world. But unlike some limelight-seekers in the industry, Anderson is low-key and likes to fly under the radar. (It took a lot of convincing before he agreed to be interviewed for this feature.) Get him talking about the industry, though, and he quickly becomes animated. It’s clear that he loves the business. “I enjoy it even more than playing golf or going fishing,” he admits.
Anderson grew up along the north shore of Chicago, where his family was in the metal service center business. After graduating from Southern Methodist University—a school he instantly fell in love with during a high school tour—he took a familiar route and became a salesman for Bethlehem Steel. He worked for two years in Pennsylvania, then peddled steel in the five boroughs of New York City—often in some of the rougher areas of town. Three years later he transferred to Shreveport, Louisiana, before making his way back to Texas in 1983.
“You don’t ever want to lose your edge,” Anderson says.
Except for the weather, Dallas is a lot like Chicago, Anderson says. “They’re both in the Central time zone, their airports are similar, and both cities have a can-do, make-things-happen, pro-business attitude,” he says. “I loved Dallas during my four years at SMU, and had a number of friends who were still here and doing well. They encouraged me to come back. It was an easy decision.”
With the steel industry in decline, Anderson knew it was time to make a career change. Friends recommended commercial real estate, which, in Dallas in the early 1980s, was in full swing. Anderson says he had “no clue” what the business entailed, but interviewed at a number of firms. He chose CB Commercial, largely because a fraternity brother who worked there had positive things to say about the company.
Management took one look at Anderson’s background and assigned him to the industrial sector, specializing in the Great Southwest submarket. “It was somewhat isolated from competition, as many of the Dallas brokers didn’t want to drive out to Arlington and Grand Prairie,” he says. “I was able to solidify a position in that submarket.”
He loved real estate from the start. Rather than selling a product like steel, brokers solve problems, and every deal is different. Like most industrial specialists, Anderson works on all types of transactions, representing tenants, buyers, landlords, and developers. He says he tries to look at the business holistically—thinking about what investors would like to own, what tenants are looking for, identifying the best sites for development, and advising on what types of facilities should be built. “It all fits together,” he says.
Despite last year’s No. 1 ranking at CBRE (which was based on 2013 production), Anderson has no plans to pull back. “Every year, I start out with a goal of being the best at what I do,” he says. “Every day in this business, there’s something new to learn, another prospect to call. You don’t ever want to lose your edge—you always want to excel. Maybe it comes from growing up as the youngest of six kids; I always wanted to show them I could do it, too.”