They worked longer hours. They accepted a greater number of small transactions. Senior brokers who had not placed a "cold call" in years returned to making 20 such solicitations a day.
It all paid off in the end.
In 1991, the Newport Beach office of Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services chalked up its best year in its seven-year history, posting a 12% gain in gross income over 1990. And nowadays, as most anyone could tell you, that's practically a miracle.
John Bodenburg, managing partner, said the office's 34 brokers have a knack for "going with the trend."
"Brokers who did business in 1991 the same way they did it three years ago are starving," Bodenburg said. "Luckily, we were able to adjust."
That adjustment meant going after many sales and leases in the $1-million range, in contrast with the multimillion-dollar deals Lee & Associate brokers commonly landed during better economic times.
Bodenburg calculated in early 1991 that his office needed to complete 22% more transactions last year to break even with 1990. A few years ago, transactions for industrial buildings of 30,000 to 50,000 square feet were the meat and potatoes of brokers. "Those same brokers today might have to do two or three 10,000-to-20,000-square-foot transactions to make the same money" as they once made in a single transaction, he said.
A higher volume of deals requires aggressive solicitation to round up new clients. "People who had been in the business just a few years were already working at that pace," Bodenburg said. "The key was, how well would senior people adapt? You take a person who's been in the business for 10 years and tell them they have to start making cold calls again, and it's like asking them to go backward in their career. But everyone here understood that we had to get back to basics."
All nine of the Lee & Associates offices in California and Arizona showed a profit last year, Bodenburg said. However, he proudly added, "the Newport Beach office did the best."