Office N Illinois

NKF's Bill Rolander talks work-life balance, international deals and advice to live by

Bill Rolander talks work-life balance, international deals and advice to li,ph01
Top: Bill Rolander (right) with his partners at a topping off event at 151 N. Franklin St. Below: Bill Rolander’s four children boating on Lake Geneva.

When asked what his career has taught him, Illinois-native and executive managing director at NKF Bill Rolander quickly answered with one word—balance.

"It's hard to be a good dad and father and put in the kind of hours that make you successful. It's a time consuming business and finding balance in important. I learned an awful lot early on about how to manage that better," Rolander told RE Journals.

Rolander has had 30 years to figure out an equilibrium between life, family and his career. He was born and raised in Lake Forest and studied finance at the University of Illinois. After graduating he worked for Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas when he noticed some of his friends getting into the real estate business. He contemplated staying in Dallas to pursue real estate but ultimately decided to move back to Chicago.

"I realized it was better to come home where I had contacts. In my opinion it’s a pretty local business," Rolander said.

Turns out he was right. After working at CBRE, he joined The John Buck Company where, as a principal, he developed a close working relationship and friendship with Jon Cordell, a senior vice president at the company. Cordell is also from Lake Forest and attended University of Illinois. Not only are Rolander and Cordell good friends, but their families are as well.

The pair worked for JBC for several years leasing a portfolio of Chicago trophy and iconic assets. Together they've worked on virtually all of JBC's office developments and acquisitions. Last year Rolander and Cordell joined Newmark Knight Frank as executive managing director and senior managing director to better serve JBC. While the lion's share of their work involves JBC they are expanding with more clients at NKF.

Rolander prefers working on the ownership side of leasing because it allows him to focus and really get to know the account. That strategy has awarded him opportunities to travel and negotiate deals in Germany for JBC. He spent 9 months flying back and forth from Frankfurt on assignments regarding the acquisition of the Sony Center in Berlin and a couple other projects. While he did find a little time to enjoy the country, he worked very long days and long nights—which paid off when he finished the job about six months earlier than anticipated.

Outside of the real estate world, Rolander loves heading up to his vacation home on Lake Geneva in Fontana, Wisconsin when he and his family find time. His wife Susan works at her own firm, Rolander Architects, which focuses on residential properties. Together they have two daughters—one heading off to college next year and the other at the University of Wisconsin—and then two twin boys in eighth grade. In what spare time Rolander has, he spends it wake surfing, sailing and boating. He plays golf too but admitted he needs to carve out more time to work on his game.

Reflecting on what he's learned from his career and life so far, Rolander said the best advice he's ever received was simply to be honest.

"At the end of the day, it's better to get the dirty laundry out on the table earlier rather than later," Rolander said. "You can't always control what's around you but you can control your own behavior and actions."