Sharon Emerson, founder & CEO of Momentum Commercial Real Estate Services, provides insight into the importance of building and maintaining quality relationships.
My commercial real estate career began in 1996 in Nashville’s industrial sector. At the time, I hardly knew a dock door from a truck turnaround, but I had a great mentor & boss, Randy Wolcott. I ended up staying in industrial for close to five years.
I briefly leased office suites for Regus Business Center before associating with a local Kroger developer. After ten years in retail, I joined The Stanton Group (now NAI Nashville/Stanton). In this woman-owned, full-service commercial company, I got my chops in property management. Founder and owner, Debra Viol, taught me everything I know today about managing commercial property.
I launched Momentum when one of my clients and I partnered in 2019. I assumed the management of their portfolio but didn’t want to be strictly property management when I’m a broker at heart, so I bought them out and moved the office to West End. Thankfully, these former partners are still clients and I’m able to expand my portfolio. I have a great team that keeps the property management part of the business running smoothly, which allows me to focus on acquisitions. I source healthcare-related buildings for a group of high-net-worth investors and closed my first acquisition in September 2021.
Establishing Quality Relationships
Any quality relationship, whether business or personal, is one in which all parties communicate fully, comfortably, and honestly. It is one in which people feel heard, seen, valued, and known. And it is one that has relevance and is durable over time.
In business, from a brokerage standpoint, I learned early on that one can just “list and live.” Listings get the broker’s name out, lends them credibility, and ultimately result in commission income. There is little relationship between broker and client beyond the numbers.
To me, sitting down with a client, listening deeply, getting to know them, and aligning with their goals comes first. What does a particular tenant versus a different one mean for a landlord/owner/investor? How would a lease versus purchase benefit a client? What is the best way to manage a property based on a client’s expectations? Does this particular
transaction fit well into the future of a company? You get the idea.
Creating a quality relationship is a lot like growing perennials (you know, the flowers that come back year after year). It means caring enough to first learn what it takes for them to grow and bloom and thrive—soil conditions, how much sun, water, when to prune, etc.—and then willingly, responsibly, and capably providing it.
Creating a quality professional relationship means genuinely caring about another’s success. Doing so often results in the professional relationship becoming a personal one as well. And that is the icing on the cupcake.
Growing & Maintaining Quality Relationships
Growing & maintaining quality relationships requires you to be available. Stay in touch with people as much as you are able. Staying in touch takes time and effort and it is not possible for everyone all the time. I feel honored when clients that I called on in 1996 call me either for a question or referral.
I used to keep a journal of things mentioned in meetings such as hobbies, kids’ names, and favorite vacation spots (I think you call that a CRM now). Showing you care about what's important to others will build relationships.
In April 2013, Nashville Business Journal interviewed me and titled the piece “It’s not just about money; you have to love the business ”. This still rings true today. I’ve been in the business for more than twenty-five years. There have been some really good years and some really lean years, but you have to love the business, you have to love people, and they have to know you do.
Expanding your Network
I most definitely favor creating a diverse web of quality relationships. None of us is an island, even within our own areas of expertise.
To expand one’s network and build quality relationships, first, take stock of what it takes to make your professional world go around. For example, from a commercial real estate acquisition point of view, there is the seller and their broker, there are investors, CPAs, attorneys, inspectors, engineers, appraisers, underwriters, bankers, and many others. Look at the number of relationships possible!
Within each profession is the professional—a person. A person whose expertise you will first evaluate to be sure they have the knowledge and skill to best fit your niche. Then, you may learn more about them personally from their bios, social media, or from others who know them. Maybe you have things in common: alma maters, sports, church, pets, charities, etc. Those personal commonalities may influence the choice you make to add that person to your professional team. When you do, a new relationship begins.
Choosing Quality over Quantity
The key to balancing quality relationships is understanding what is “possible.” It takes time and intentionality to deliberately create and cultivate a quality relationship. The quality and depth of relationships evolve over time and shared experiences. It is unrealistic to think that a quality relationship can be developed with every new connection one makes.
Heavily investing in a smaller circle of quality relationships may sound limiting, but it isn’t necessarily true. Again, no one is an island. Most everyone has numerous relationships (their circle of influence) to which they add value and from which they draw benefit. Some circles are more populated than others. My CEO coach knows just about everyone. More importantly, he remembers things about them: kids, parents, or he owns this, she built that, etc. He is one person, so for me, he may fit within a “small circle,” but the reach of our relationship is far from small.
The Bottom Line: Why Quality Relationships Matter
A very short list of yields and benefits quality relationships have yielded:
1. Sub-leased office space at a below-market rate – the benefit, a healthier bottom line.
2. The founding of my company, Momentum—the benefit, autonomy.
3. My property management portfolio – the benefit, income.
4. My office team – the benefit, capability
5. A new broker – the benefit, diversification.
6. My first medical office building acquisition – the benefit, of reaching a goal.
7. Vacation in Kauai – the benefit, fun, and balanced life.
All of these were the results of relationships.
If we take a moment to look at all the things going on in our lives today, we can trace most to a current or past relationship. I don’t think we can survive without relationships; some good, some bad, some personal, professional, close, casual, etc. Relationships are inescapable.
I’ve heard it said, and I believe that we discover ourselves through our relationships with others, and that communion with others is a celebration of life.
With over 25 years of Commercial Real Estate experience, Sharon Emerson is an integral part of Nashville's CRE market. Sharon is the Founder, CEO, & Managing Broker of Momentum Commercial Real Estate Services, LLC, and the prior CEO of The Stanton Group. Sharon is dedicated to the growth & development of Nashville and is an active member of the Nashville & Wilson county chambers of commerce, and sits as an active board member for various local organizations.
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