Meet Ian Elfner

By May 15, 2020 No Comments

Q: How did you get into commercial real estate?

A: I was on a week-long class field trip in the San Francisco Bay Area with a group of students from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.  I was having drinks with a couple guys that were on the trip and they asked me if I was looking for an internship for the coming summer.  I said yes.  Soon thereafter, I started working at a CBRE partner office in Milwaukee, WI.  From there, I went on to lead the company’s research department for a couple years before diving into Commercial Brokerage full time.  From there, the rest is history.

Q: Were you in CRE during the 2007-2008 financial crisis? If so, what lessons are you taking from that and applying during this pandemic?

A: Right before the crisis unfolded, I was working as an in-house leasing representative for a Real Estate Investment Management firm based on Denver with properties spread throughout the Country.  I went back to work at CBRE for a 2nd stint in the fall of 2008, just in time to live through the pain.  I was working 16-18 hour days and something had to give.  Always knowing another major event like the financial crisis could and would arrive once again made me prepare for the inevitable next downturn.  The greatest lesson I experienced was learning how to work smarter and not harder during those trying times but ALWAYS remaining focused on doing what is in the best interest of the client.

Q: What’s your most memorable deal?

A: You’re only as good as your last deal.  I have many most memorable deals, although, the deals that I remember most were the deals that never happened.  There are many lessons to be learned from deals that didn’t happen and why they didn’t happen and what you can do differently if the same situation arises on another deal in the future.     

Q: How do you describe what you do to friends, family and people outside the industry?

A: I am a Commercial Real Estate Broker specializing in retail and office leasing with an emphasis on retail and office investment sales. I save my clients time and money and I reduce the risk associated with any commercial real estate transaction. 

Q: Work-life balance is frequently talked about in our industry. How do you manage your career and while making time for your family and personal life?

A: Time blocking is critical to make this happen.  I set aside specific blocks of time each day to focus only on my family and personal life.  Simply put, if you don’t set aside the time, you won’t do it or you will get pulled in another direction.  I have also engaged with a commercial real estate coach to work on additional aspects of achieving work-life balance and improving my business. 

Q: Walk us through an average day. What is your normal routine?

A: I wake up at 5:00 AM to get a jump on the day.  I use this time to catch up on email, enjoy some coffee, explore and produce relevant social media content and prepare for the meetings and calls for the day.  Starting at 8:00 AM when my kids typically leave for school, the time blocked day begins which leads to stronger execution and focus.  I try to wrap the day up by 5:00 PM to play with the kids and spend quality uninterrupted time with them.    

Q: What hobbies and passions do you have outside of work?

A: I love to travel and see live music.  I also like to ski, snowboard, and occasionally play golf.  Although, I prefer to play golf non-competitively and simply for fun.      

Q: What’s something not many clients know about you?

A: Many of my clients have been clients for the long haul and have become close personal friends in which the relationship was started by an outgoing cold call.  I credit this to the sincere efforts I put forth towards building relationships, and most importantly, earning a clients trust and keeping a constant eye on their long term success. 

Q: Any advice you would give your younger self?

A: Select a specialty or defined niche within commercial real estate and be the resident expert for the specialty you pursue.  Too often, brokers try to be a jack of all trades but they end up being a master of none.