Each week, REjournals.com profiles a member of the most recent class of the Midwest Real Estate News Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame. Today, we look at the thriving career of Derrick Johnson, senior vice president for property management with Chicago’s Zeller Realty Group
Years in the business: 26
A bustling portfolio: Zeller Realty Group’s Derrick Johnson has a big job: He oversees the management of the company’s properties throughout both Illinois and Indiana. As part of this job, his responsibilities include directing, reviewing, writing and submitting business plans; coordinating budgets and support schedules; and building and fostering the relationships with owners and clients affiliated with Zeller Realty Group.
A steady climb: During his career, Johnson has focused on providing top service to his clients. This approach has paid off, with Johnson steadily climbing to higher-profile positions at Zeller.
Johnson began his career at Zeller Realty Group as the general manager of 401 North Michigan Avenue, overseeing the physical operation and financial performance of the 737,000-square-foot Class-A property in Chicago. During his time with this building, Johnson revitalized Pioneer Court, the outdoor plaza located adjacent to 401 North Michigan, by marketing the space for lease by temporary users.
He played a key role, too, in retaining existing tenants while also attracting new ones to the property. Finally, Johnson reduced operating expenses at the building and introduced new procedures that enhanced the customer service.
After two years of overseeing the management of 311 South Wacker in Chicago, Johnson, in 2015, was given the responsibility of overseeing the management of Chicago and Indianapolis properties.
The people matter: Johnson has found a career that he loves. And what does he enjoy most about this career? It’s the people.
“I enjoy the interesting people whom I have met throughout my time in the industry, from tenants to coworkers,” Johnson said. “Conversations with those who are not in real estate have been extremely helpful in seeing issues and problems in a new light.”
Serving his profession: Despite his busy career, Johnson has found time to give back to commercial real estate. He has been a member of the BOMA/Chicago Board of Directors since 2013 and member of the BOMA/Chicago Labor Board Committee since 2010. He became chairman of this committee in 2017.
In addition, Johnson is a member of the Magnificent Mile Association Board. He is also a member of that association’s Executive Committee and co-chair of its Planning and Advocacy Division.
Always prepared: Why has Johnson been so successful for so long in CRE? There’s no real secret. Johnson said that he is committed to seeing the assets that Zeller manages succeed and is willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen.
“I take failure very personally,” Johnson said. “I have always prepared for the best and worst results in business situations. I probably would have been a good Boy Scout.”
Out-of-office hours: What does Johnson do when he’s not working? He says he thinks about the last times he played golf or worked out. “Thinking about them takes significantly less time,” Johnson said.
Johnson and his wife also spend plenty of time in gyms watching their son play travel basketball. Slowly, but surely, non-basketball-related travel is starting to find its way back into Johnson’s and his wife’s lives, he said.