Jennifer Pierson

Real Estate

Jennifer Pierson: Handling Conflict With Respect

On the eve of the most tumultuous election I have witnessed in my lifetime, I would like to, for just a brief moment and in a very small way, highlight something good.

On the eve of the most tumultuous election I have witnessed in my lifetime, where one candidate is hiding emails and Lord knows what else, and the other is threatening to sue if he loses the election as if he were a 4-year-old fighting for his toys, I would like to, for just a brief moment and in a very small way, highlight something good … the fact that there is a better way.

A year and a half ago I left a very large firm, CBRE, after being there for 21 years. It was my second home, but I had always dreamed of owning my own company and after my 45th birthday, I figured it was now or never. For months, I ran numbers on costs, overhead, rent, computers and finally, I drafted my resignation letter and reached out to my boss, Chris Hipps.

I was more nervous than I expected as he and I approached the all glass conference room amid a large office swarming with activity. We sat down and he looked across the table at me with concern. I was choked up. I had that sour face you get when you are trying to fight back tears but the emotion is getting the best of you. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking. Is she sick? Is something wrong with one of her kids? Still not able to speak I slid my resignation letter across the table and he began to read. He looked at me and instinctively gave me a much-needed hug. Then without a beat he said, “You are very valuable to this company. You are important to us. Explain to me why you want to leave.”

I told him it had always been a dream of mine to start my own company, and I was so grateful to CBRE for the solid launching pad to the second part of my career. He understood and he smiled. He wished me great success and he thanked me for everything I had done for the company over the past 21 years.

Then came the part where things could get ugly. The money—how do we work out the money? Close confidants told me to be ready for my phone to power down and to be escorted to the door. I heard I might not see a penny of the transactions I had in the pipeline and to get ready for a fight. Not the case. Unlike our current fight for the presidential seat, those involved were civil, kind, respectful, and forthright. I watched my boss at every turn strive to do the right thing by the company and by me. I had 22 deals in the pipeline and while sitting at my newly formed company, we brought virtually every one to fruition, side by side. We took care of the clients, and the transition was relatively invisible to them. It was not just CBRE putting their values into practice, it was good business. We all won—our clients, CBRE, and me.

For all intents and purposes, we were adversaries—competitors. But CBRE handled our new relationship with respect. They were not pushovers; they had a fiduciary to their company and they stood firm by that. But they were kind, and they were fair. They made me proud to be a part of such a great organization for so long.

As I continue to build Pierson Retail Advisors, I am mindful of the values I want our brand to uphold, the values I watched CBRE display, the values that, to a person, everyone I respect upholds. Life gets messy, work gets competitive, and the fear of losing what we have or not getting what we want can make emotions run high. But if I can just treat others with respect, if I can strongly disagree but still be kind, I will have been a success.

After tomorrow we will have a new President-elect. I cringe at the damage these two candidates have done to get that coveted seat. It didn’t have to be this way; they didn’t have to lose their dignity in the process. They didn’t have to embarrass our country with their fight. But hopefully, as is the great American way, we will all rally around our new President as he or she faces the daunting task of leading our country, and we will all put this adolescent behavior behind us.

Jennifer Pierson is president and CEO of Pierson Retail Advisors.

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