I got into real estate as a sophomore in college. During the summers, I worked for a broker in Dallas whom I learned a great deal from. He gave me a lot of sales training.
From that experience, even though I was a finance major, I knew I didn’t want to do anything purely technical or analytical. I really enjoyed getting on the phone trying to get appointments for him and learning about businesses that other people ran.
I went right into real estate after college and have been in commercial real estate ever since.
I graduated a year after the 1986 recession, which was really bad for real estate, but I landed a job at Staubach Co. in Dallas writing business plans for failed savings-and-loan institutions.
I did that for about a year and then moved to Chicago to work for Trammell Crow, where I was back to cold-calling for the landlord side.
I was recruited to JMB Realty, a real estate investment company that relocated me to Norfolk for what was supposed to be a 12-month move but I stayed three years.
When I first got there, I didn’t know anyone or anything about the market but fairly quickly I got out, pounded the pavement and got to know the entire brokers’ community and the market very well.
Not even realizing it, I had a good gut for markets and what would drive value at a location, such as why it was better to be on one side of the highway than the other.
The tools we have now are much more sophisticated but there’s nothing like going out, standing on that corner and looking at what’s going on right there in a critical way.
The company moved me to the Washington region and that put me on track to work for a series of real estate companies in this market for the past 22 years.
Each new job was moving into a role more significant and broader.
The highlight of my career was when I was at Tishman Speyer. I had a relatively small portfolio as regional leasing director. In one fell swoop we bought the Carr America portfolio and suddenly I had 35 buildings, 7 million square feet and a team of 10 to lead.
I went from being on my own to managing a multi-market department in a large portfolio and working with our investors more directly. It was a wonderful experience watching the team grow into what many people in the market consider to be the best leasing team in the metropolitan area.
I moved to Carr Properties to carve out a broader role. I want to try to implement a lot of the management tenets I’ve learned here. I want to be able to motivate the team and see what opportunities will help them grow.
— Interview with Vanessa Small
Position: Chief operating officer of Carr Properties, a real estate investment trust based in the District.
Career highlights: Managing director, regional leasing director of Tishman Speyer; managing director, Studley; vice president, Jones Lang LaSalle, vice president, JMB/Heitman Properties; associate, Trammell Crow; associate, Staubach Co.
Education: BA, finance, Southern Methodist University.
Personal: Lives in McLean with his wife, Susan, and their four children.