Don’t Shy Away from Performance-Based Careers in Brokerage, Mortgage Banking

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA (June 24, 2021) - While some may hesitate when it comes to commissioned-based careers in commercial real estate, dedicated and hard-working professionals who hone their skill set and find that right opportunity say the rewards far outweigh the risks.

Unlimited earning potential, independence and flexibility are among the key benefits of performance-based careers. Nancy Ferrell, who started in commercial real estate in 1979, describes herself as a “Lone Ranger” as a female in the industry. She worked at a bank out of college and trained to become an analyst. She rose through the ranks at NorthMarq Capital to become executive vice president/regional managing director and is a member of the Executive Committee. She has consistently been a top producer at NorthMarq’s Baltimore office.

“I really liked commercial real estate far better than banking, probably because my father was an architect, and he took me on jobs on weekends. I learned a lot about the industry,” Ferrell recalls. Working with clients and being out in the community is most rewarding for Ferrell. “I like to bring deals to fruition,” she notes. “I enjoy helping women who are new in our profession and in our company. I like to give back to the community with an emphasis on education.”

Ferrell says a performance-based career is hard work and long hours, but it’s rewarding, and she feeds off the collaboration.

That career path was appealing to Cynthia Meister, who converted from a successful Los Angeles residential broker and is now vice president of NorthMarq’s Albuquerque investment sales office. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for CREW New Mexico. The pivotal point in her career was joining CREW and becoming a multifamily broker.

“I didn’t know anything about commercial real estate, which was fun from my perspective, because I was literally thrown to the wolves,” Meister recalls. “I really had to focus and learn all of the dynamics of a CRE transaction, and I’m still learning.”

The never-give-up-attitude associated with compensation-based work drives Meister. “When I was in residential, I had two deals fall apart within an hour, which would have equated to an entire year of income,” she explains. It was an emotional blow.

“But I recovered. I picked myself up and started over again,” she says. “I did that time and time again. It’s keeping that drive and focus. What else motivates me is the independence and ability to take time off and disconnect from work when you get sucker punched. You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. Whether you’re working a 9-to-5 or are commissioned-based, you’re going to run into roadblocks and need time to deal with it on your terms.”

Additionally, the unlimited income potential was attractive to Meister. “You get out what you put into it,” she says.

Briana Harney, vice president in NorthMarq’s San Francisco office, agrees. She started in medical office sales, earned her MBA, and landed at NorthMarq, starting as an analyst and working her way up to production.

“I’ve always been drawn to sales roles because the compensation is directly related to my performance,” Harney explains. “I don’t have to question how much I’m going to make based on what somebody else tells me. It’s very self-directed. What I love about mortgage banking, in particular, is it’s rewarding because our job is based on bringing the market knowledge and finding the right solution for our clients for any given need.”

Harney also recognizes how financially liberating a job in mortgage banking can be, because of the uncapped earning potential.

“If I have a good year at NorthMarq, I guarantee you I’m making more than I would in a salary-based role at any CRE firm in my market,” she says. “I realized how it can change my life personally by working hard and building my name and brand and getting to the point where I have a solid book of business.”

Harney thrives in a team-based environment and says it’s a true team effort to complete deals. “It’s like winning the final game and celebrating and then moving on to the next deal,” she explains.

Advice for women considering similar careers
“Engage with seasoned producers to learn how to best understand your skills and interest in this industry,” Ferrell advises, noting that there are many career options in the business.

Find a mentorship program early on, says Meister. If none is available, seek a mentor and align yourself with professionals doing what you want to do, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

“Be a sponge and soak up all the knowledge you can from your senior coworkers and producers,” Harney adds. Additionally, find the right company culture that suits your personality and workstyle.