Dave Sansom, Sr. Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield, discusses building a personal brand and the value of intentionally investing in & maintaining your brand.
My interest in property started when I was aged 15 – I was connected with a local residential broker, who took me on as a work experience kid for a two-week period. I was introduced to the total chaos that is selling houses – and I loved it.
After deciding on a Commercial Real Estate degree, I became an industrial broker in North Sydney the very next day after graduation. While I took a great deal of experience away from the short time I spent as a broker, I quickly discovered it wasn’t for me. Compounding this was the fact that I graduated in 2008, which was a far from ideal time for a 21-year-old to start a sales job.
I pivoted into property management and worked my way up the ranks internally until I found myself managing (at the time) the tallest commercial office tower in the Sydney CBD. I was fortunate enough to receive outstanding mentoring and was introduced to the “finer” parts of the CRE industry; namely networking.
I then chased a girl (now my wife) to the U.S.; to Dallas, TX, and essentially started from square one in a new city. While starting in a totally new market (and country) was a challenge at first, thankfully the American South was more than accommodating to the new kid on the block. Again, some brilliant mentoring resulted in my building a personal network of trusted friends and colleagues.
Around 3 years ago, I moved to Nashville. In my current role, I’m responsible for leading and growing our business, which includes new business and clients, as well as identifying, retaining, and attracting the best talent.
What I’ve always enjoyed about the CRE industry are the connections I continue to make every day. I’ve had the incredible fortune of working with the absolute best in our industry, on world-class projects and developing amazing relationships along the way. My experiences & relationships in CRE have yielded many valuable lessons- one of the most important being building a personal brand.
Establishing your Brand: Seek out the Awkward
The most important aspect of creating a brand for me is the ability to be genuine and integral. Of course, building your networking skills is a huge factor. I know a lot of colleagues who avoid networking because of the levels of awkwardness. A radio advertisement that is currently running uses the tagline “embrace the awkward”, which applies here. I’d even go one step further than this – to develop a personal brand, you should seek out the awkward. Early in my career, I hated awkward conversations and would avoid them like the plague. Since then, I’ve learned that people are drawn to someone who can cut through the awkward – that is, someone with the ability to create relatability. Intentionally implanting yourself in awkward situations allows you to practice for the next awkward situation/conversation, thus improving your ability to embrace (or overcome) the awkward.
Building your Brand: Becoming a Resource
Finding ways to differentiate yourself and becoming a subject matter expert is a great way to grow your reputation within your chosen industry. For example, early in my career, I identified one issue that would consistently present itself to my colleagues, yet nobody really knew how to approach it – telecommunications leasing. I intentionally spent time with a telco consultant colleague, became a sponge, and absorbed as much as I could. When the topic inevitably came up in our next meeting, I was able to share what little I had learned. All of a sudden, my colleagues started to call me for advice, and I became known as the “go-to” for all-things telco. I’m still by no means an expert, but this certainly increased my exposure to other teams and professionals.
This is a great example of how you can become a resource to your colleagues – and nothing builds a brand better than being someone with the ability to solve problems for others.
We should all seek to actively be a resource to our colleagues. Never hesitate to support a colleague when they call you for help. A mentor and friend used to end every phone conversation with “how can I help you”, which I thought was an amazing yet simple way of creating a reputation as a resource. My saying here is “this industry is a bunch of good people, doing good things, for good people”.
Maintaining your Brand: Build a Foundation of Support
Seeking out multiple mentors is a must. Focus on a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences – even outside of your chosen career. Intentionality with the mentoring relationship is huge – what do you want to take away and, even better, what can you offer to your mentor? Constantly seek feedback from your mentors and ask them to be honest with you (and have thick skin).
Building a personal brand is so much more than differentiating yourself from the crowd. Investing the time & energy into curating a personal brand will help drive intentional networking, encourage you to be a resource to your team and community, and cultivate relationships that will support you throughout your career. Investing in your personal brand will not only help shape your career, but can yield a lasting and meaningful impact on the teams, businesses, and communities you work within.
Dave Sansom leads one of Nashville's most established Property Management firms, Cushman & Wakefield. Dave is known for his visionary perspective, enthusiasm for building value for investors and managers, and rich experience in property management. Dave continues to positively impact Nashville's current and future CRE market through the innovative management of commercial properties and supporting local organizations such as BOMA, CREW, and NAIOP.
CRE615 is a networking group and educational platform for Nashville's next generation of commercial real estate professionals. To learn more visit www.cre615.com