Aaron Schuster is a senior director in Cushman & Wakefield’s tenant representation and brokerage advisory group, helping tenants plan and execute complex real estate transactions throughout Chicagoland. He has been involved in transactions with UBS, iManage, Allscripts, Mead Johnson Nutrition, the American Library Association and more.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in the northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park and went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Go Badgers!) Graduating in 2008 during the financial crisis, I secured a job right out of school doing inside sales at a large technology reseller in downtown Chicago. After two years of vital corporate sales experience, I decided to take the untraditional path of teaching English in China and traveling throughout Asia before pursuing a career in commercial real estate. I returned from Asia in 2013 and joined Cushman & Wakefield shortly thereafter. Seven years later, I’ve been fortunate enough to have learned from extremely knowledgeable business partners, collaborated with many creative colleagues and represented a variety of clients throughout Chicagoland and around the globe.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
As a kid, I was fascinated with criminal justice and law enforcement. I watched many action movies and imagined being an FBI agent so I could stop the bad guys and marry the prom queen…just like Nicholas Cage in The Rock.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I’ve been around commercial real estate my entire life, as my mother’s been a commercial leasing agent for over 39 years. Growing up and seeing her enjoyment and success is what initially sparked my interest. After a summer internship in college, I knew it was a career that I eventually wanted to pursue. Once I returned from China, I reached out to a long list of tenant rep brokers while studying for my real estate license. After many coffee meetings and formal interviews, I joined a close-knit team that I am still working and growing with today.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
My mother has been a tremendous role model and mentor to me my entire life. She was a pioneer for women in Chicago real estate while always prioritizing being an exceptional mom first. Through her own actions, she has taught me the value of integrity, hard work and patience, both in business and in life. My other mentors include my two business partners, J. Frank Franzese and Steven C. Bauer, for whom I have the utmost respect, as their guidance has been invaluable.
What does a day in the life of Aaron Schuster look like?
There is little consistency in my daily schedule, which is what keeps my job so interesting and exciting. Developing new business opportunities and solving client issues are what ultimately drive me day to day. This means our team is constantly meeting with existing and prospective clients, negotiating deals over the phone, conducting market research and running extensive financial analyses. There is never a dull moment.
What do you like most about your job?
I really enjoy the people I work with, both clients and colleagues alike. We represent many sophisticated companies, get to learn about different industry types and help solve business problems through real estate. In doing so, we negotiate with extremely inventive professionals to achieve the best results for our respective clients. The sales cycle can be a very long, intensive process, so there is a real sense of accomplishment once a deal comes to fruition.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I am grateful for my team members, as they’ve helped support and guide me through this fast-paced, hyper-competitive industry. I am also proud to work for Cushman & Wakefield, which has provided the resources needed to succeed. I hope to continue to build on these foundations in order to drive more business for our team and overall market share for the company.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I am very involved with the Shedd Aquarium as an auxiliary board member and volunteer scuba diver. Being a volunteer diver keeps me close to the ocean, and I get to feed the fish, clean the exhibits and partake in an occasional photobomb. I also enjoy being active outside, attending concerts, traveling and spending time with family and friends.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
I am a nature lover and adventure seeker. My favorite place thus far is Malaysian Borneo, as it offers world-class scuba diving, jungle trekking, mountain hiking and caving. When it’s safe to travel again, I plan to do a liveaboard dive trip in the Galapagos Islands.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Jason Houze at CBRE. I’ve worked with Jason on opposite sides of several deals and really respect his work ethic, temperament and long-term outlook on the business. He has a successful career ahead and is, without a doubt, a future leader in the Chicago real estate community.