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A whole new ballgame: More women stepping up to the plate in commercial real estate

March 12, 2007

Yogi Berra once said, "You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn't enough, in the second half you give what's left." Women are accepting his challenge with a chuckle, running onto the commercial real estate field and playing to win. They also are balancing home and family. Why not? The U.S. commercial real estate market is worth about $3.5 trillion, according to Real Capital Analytics, a New York research firm.

Bridget Farren, founder of Carmel-based Farren Retail Group, a commercial real estate brokerage and development firm, left her career as an attorney 17 years ago to focus her talents and energies in commercial real estate.

"It's a dynamic industry," Farren said. "I face new challenges all the time, and the potential is limitless." Networking opportunities are growing, too. Commercial Real Estate Women Network, or CREW, has more than 7,000 members in 60 chapters around the world. IndyCREW, the Indianapolis chapter established in 2000, has about 100 members.

"I think the biggest impact is the collaboration women have with each other," said Farren, who is a member of IndyCREW. "We see each other as allies and assets."

Several female professionals in the Indianapolis field shared with IBJ some of their hits and misses in the commercial real estate field.

JENNA BARNETT

Senior vice president, Halakar Real Estate

Bachelor's degree, finance, Indiana University

Years in the league: 5 Making the team: Buyers and tenants hire the broker with the most innovative solutions, thorough market knowledge and the best understanding of the business. Hits and errors: I learned early to focus on long-term relationships. Be receptive to advice from others but also trust your instincts. Before having children, I spent a lot of time doing non-productive work, spinning my wheels cold-calling the wrong companies and networking in the wrong circles. Since having children, I've learned to prioritize and work smarter. Advice for rookies: Listen to your clients and work on fulfilling their short- and long-term needs. Provide the same level of commitment to all businesses and projects, regardless of size. Knocking it out of the ballpark: I represented Nelnet Inc., an education financing company, with its office lease, which was listed as the fifth-largest office lease in 2006 by IBJ. I also represent Woodhouse Day Spas Corp., which opened a location in Carmel in December. Making sacrifices: I sacrifice sleep! I really try to make the most out of every minute of every day. Luckily I have flexibility in my job so I can be productive from a coffee shop, home or virtually anywhere. When I'm with my family, I try to make the most of it and have fun with the kids. If I need to make a work call when I'm with them, my clients understand if they hear their voices in the background. I also make time for community involvement, specifically with Noble of Indiana. Assists: I have been fortunate to work with people who are very knowledgeable and see the value in sharing issues and shaping the best and innovative solutions. I feel I've developed by learning something from a lot of different people.

JENNIFER K. BURK

Senior vice president, Indiana Office Group, Duke Realty Corp.

Bachelor's degree, fashion merchandising, Butler University; law degree, cum laude, Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington

Years in the league: 17 Making the team: Do your job well and approach every day with confidence, positive energy and enthusiasm, then the rest will fall into place. Hits and errors: Not doing my homework to understand as much as possible about a prospective client's business prior to our first meeting. You need to understand a company's business model, goals and challenges to be a more valuable resource to them. Advice for rookies: There is nothing you can't do with a positive attitude. Believe in yourself, work hard and don't waste energy on negative emotions. Knocking it out of the ballpark: Building the Nine Parkwood building, which opened in January 2006 at Parkwood Crossing Office Park, and leasing it well ahead of our projections. This allowed us to [immediately begin] construction of One West, a 185,000-square-foot office building at Parkwood West. Making sacrifices: It's critical to be organized and plan ahead. I try to respect the time I have allotted for work and equally respect time for family, but it doesn't always work. The key is to be flexible. Sometimes I work on a proposal while watching my kids' sporting events or rock a baby while I'm on an important conference call. Assists: I have had terrific mentors. One that stands out is the first attorney I worked for as a paralegal, Charlie Greer with Ice Miller. He gave me challenging work, which I loved, and this prompted me to consider becoming a lawyer. I continue to be well served by my legal back-. KATIE CULP

Senior vice president and economic incentives expert, Colliers Turley Martin Tucker

Bachelor's degree, public administration with honors, Indiana University; MBA, Indiana University

Years in the league: 8 Making the team: I try to ignore the gender issue when approaching deals and hope my work speaks for itself. Hits and errors: I used to be afraid to ask questions, which would inevitably lead me to make a number of mistakes. Now I always clarify things up-front or bank my questions to ask at an appropriate time.

Advice for rookies: Develop a thick skin and don't hold grudges-even if they are well-deserved.

Knocking it out of the ballpark: Working to make our company a national consulting practice. We've done work in about 35 states. We still do a lot of work in Indiana, like last year's 750,000-square-foot Epson distribution center in Plainfield.

Making sacrifices: I have a wonderful husband who helps me juggle it all while keeping his own professional and personal life in sync. Sometimes work dominates more of my time than it should and sometimes my personal life does.

Assists: I've been lucky to have a number of people mentor me throughout my career. Early in my career Jay Archer and Charlie Podell at Duke Realty were invaluable in teaching me how to win business and respond quickly to clients. Pat Lindley, executive vice president of Colliers Turley Martin Tucker, has been a tremendous resource to me and taught me a great deal about commercial real estate and providing comprehensive client services.

ABBE HOHMANN

Principal, senior vice president, Colliers Turley Martin Tucker

Bachelor's degree, consumer and family sciences, Purdue University

Years in the league: 21 Making the team: Regardless of gender, clients appreciate working with real estate professionals whom they believe are the most knowledgeable and trustworthy in their field. Hits and errors: Every assignment involves a unique parcel of land, and you can't rush your analysis of the property. Advice for rookies: Treat your teammates and coaches with respect, be a student of the game and seek out the advice of the team captains. Knocking it out of the ballpark: Selling land owned by not-for-profit institutions with the proceeds going back into the community to benefit such organizations as the Indianapolis Retirement Home, Children's Museum of Indianapolis and Perry Township Schools. Assembling property in Carmel for Lauth Property Group as it prepared to develop the Clay Terrace lifestyle center. Sale of 210 acres at Interstate 465 and West 71st Street for Golden Rule Insurance that was developed as Intech Park. Making sacrifices: As a real estate broker, you set your own schedule and there can be the tendency to work every day. [You need to] balance personal time, family and friends. Assists: I had a great coach, John Jewett, who spent more than 40 years in the commercial real estate business with F.C. Tucker Co., then Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. He retired last year as a senior vice president. I spent my first 18 months in the real estate industry working with him, learning the fundamentals of the land brokerage business. His willingness to share his expertise and include me in every meeting and negotiation was a huge advantage in getting firsthand knowledge.

MARY ZURBUCH

Senior development manager, Panattoni Development Co.

Bachelor's degree, construction engineering and management, Purdue University

Years in the league: 11 Making the team: Understand your part of the business and do what you say you are going to do. Hits and errors: This industry has a lot of intricate parts, and once you take your eye off one aspect you can lose the opportunity. Keep focused, determined and surround yourself with good people. Advice for rookies: Don't take confrontation personally. Do your best all the time. Knocking it out of the ballpark: Opening the Indianapolis Office for Panattoni Development Co., one of the largest commercial real estate developers in the country. Epson America build-to-suit in Plainfield. This project had several complicated details, but we completed it on time and under budget. Making sacrifices: The biggest sacrifice is time. Being in real estate, which is based on relationships and tight time frames, it can be difficult to fit everything into the day. It's especially hard now that I am a new mom of a 4-month-old son. Assists: I have worked with several intelligent people and have tried to learn all I can from each one. Dale Dillon, who was the backbone of Duke Construction for 23 years, had the most impact on my career. He is one of the most experienced design/build professionals in central Indiana. Dale has seen me fail in several aspects of the business, from estimating cost to managing consultants and contractors, but he taught me resilience in his actions and problem-solving skills.
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