Cushman & Wakefield recognizes its top women in business
What was your greatest professional accomplishment in 2015?
In May I was honored as runner-up for NAIOP New Jersey’s Industrial Deal of the Year. These annual awards are considered the Oscars for the commercial real estate industry, and I am thrilled that my two-tiered, complex transaction (Hudson News Group and Bergen Logistics) was one of three nominations considered.
What was your most notable project, deal or transaction in 2015?
There are actually two industrial lease transactions that I think are my most significant to date. Two clients with whom I have ongoing relationships each doubled in size, expanding into contiguous space. What makes the transactions significant is how intricate they were, and the complexities involved on my end in order to blend and extend their respective leases.
How do you manage the work/life balance?
I guess it’s no secret that I’m considered a bit of a control freak, but the positive side to that is I’m extremely organized. I’ve also been blessed with keen multitasking skills. The combination of the two helps me keep my work and family life in check. That said, maintaining a work/life balance is always challenging and something I achieve on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis.
Who or what has been the strongest influence on your career?
Hands down it is my late father, Gene Heller. As president of Hartz Mountain for 38 years and later head of his own firm, he was one of the pioneers in New Jersey real estate. He was also my rock and my best friend. He nurtured and guided me, personally and professionally, until he passed away seven years ago. I had access to him 24/7, and like on that show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, he was the lifeline I called any time I needed advice. He was larger than life but he taught me well, and today I am working to make my own footprints in the industry.
Tell us how and when you began your career in the profession you are in, about your current position and why you chose your profession.
After college I pursued what was then my passion – working in the fashion business. Over time I became frustrated by not being able to get ahead in what I felt was a male-dominated industry. Hartz was starting to grow at the time, and my dad – great salesman that he was – made a proposition that ultimately led me to change careers. Growing up, real estate was not something I’d ever considered being involved in. But I dove in, immersed myself in learning all facets of the business and was lucky to have the most incredible teacher and mentor you could ask for. The rest, as they say, is history.
What qualities/personality traits do you feel make you most successful?
The real estate business is all about relationships. My people skills are my strength: forming and maintaining relationships, being a team player, the willingness to share and support others. I’ve always been outgoing and approachable, and am a huge proponent of networking. I’ve also got a good sense of humor, which you definitely need in this industry.
What challenges and/or obstacles do you feel you needed to overcome to become as successful as you are today?
It may sound like a cliché or yesterday’s news, but the glass ceiling still prevails – and I believe that it’s the single greatest obstacle to success for women in the commercial real estate industry. This is a male-dominated profession, and while women have made great strides, the numbers speak for themselves. Women continue to be under represented in the C-suites across the board, and this industry is no different. The brokerage side of the business in particular has a very small group of active women. In my 20-plus years here at Cushman & Wakefield, I’m one of only three or four women brokers on a net basis.
Do you feel being a woman is an advantage, disadvantage or no advantage in today’s business world?
Why? Why not?
In the commercial real estate world, being a woman can have its advantages. You certainly stand out in a crowd, and being a novelty can help you differentiate yourself with colleagues and clients. When I first started in brokerage, I made a cold call to the vice president of real estate and distribution at Nautica. He was intrigued by the fact that I was a woman, but what led to us working together was my ability to “talk the talk.” The competition in our industry is fierce, and I’ve learned that women need to know their stuff that much better than men. Looking different may get you noticed, but success hinges on being competent.
Tell us about your family.
My husband Steve and I have been married for 29 years, and he is extremely supportive. We have two teenage daughters, Jordyn and Jennifer, and being actively engaged in their lives often makes managing that work/life balance a challenge. Right now I’m involved in the daunting task of helping Jennifer prepare for college. She is driven to make her own way in the business world, and I’m so proud of how motivated and ambitious she is. I’m also seeing how much she and her sister respect me as a role model, and there is nothing more rewarding than that.
What word of advice would you give to a woman about to go into your field?
Like any profession, you have to understand what you’re getting into. It’s important to have an open mind, to be willing to listen, learn and be patient. And perhaps most importantly, you must have strong intestinal fortitude and be able to tolerate rejection. It can be a very lucrative and rewarding career, but it’s not for the faint of heart.