Competing for the Best Brokers

Industry ReportThe competition for first-rate brokers, who tend to function like free agents, remains heated among New Jersey’s commercial real-estate firms. Personal relationships drive recruiting and poaching of other companies’ staff is common. The process, says industry veteran Sheldon Gross, is “very inefficient.”

Gross, owner and head of Sheldon Gross Realty in West Orange since 1962, recently hired a broker to focus on the southern and central Jersey markets, and he is looking to hire more.

As for being raided, Gross sounds unconcerned, saying his firm has very low turnover; some employees have been with him for up to 20 years.

Meanwhile, Bob Hackett, area director/principal at Trammell Crow in Florham Park, also has his eyes and ears peeled for good brokers and other real estate pros. Hackett says his firm recently hired seven people, including two senior brokers, from various competitors and is searching for more. His firm is in the midst of the industry rough and tumble: Trammell Crow lost four brokers, one senior- and three mid-level, since the second half of last year, to competitors including Cushman & Wakefield, Hackett says.

“Hiring, in the New York metro area has picked up in the last 18 months,” says Hackett, who declined to peg a target for new brokers. Trammell has been expanding in the state for the last five years, and its strategy involves providing a full line of services—an industry trend that Hackett says is becoming more entrenched. Thus, the firm is also looking to hire more property- and project-management specialists.

In Edison, Bernard Zimmel, CEO of Zimmel Associates, is another industry veteran whose work with some clients dates back to the 1960s. Like larger competitors, his boutique firm is on the hunt for quality brokers.

E-mail to kkim@njbiz.com

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