As part of our series, CRE Future Leaders, we caught up with Jeffrey J. Provenza, vice president of Darwin Realty, where he offers a full range of brokerage services, including tenant/buyer/ownership representation, build-to-suit projects, site acquisitions and investment deals. His primary area of concentration is the O’Hare market.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in the Western suburbs of Chicago and attended Glenbard West High School. I earned my bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before I started working in commercial real estate, I did regulatory and consulting work for the commodities industry and worked as an internal auditor and senior financial analyst for Nalco (now Ecolab). I also worked in sales briefly before the recession started in 2008. I actually tended bar for about a year at that time before joining Darwin Realty.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
Like a lot of other professionals in this industry, I knew I wanted a career in business, but I wasn’t exactly sure what path I wanted to take.
How did you get your start in the industry?
One of my fraternity brothers from University of Illinois introduced me to Darwin Realty. I really liked the atmosphere and flat organizational structure. Darwin Realty is a great family-owned and operated company.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I trained with the president of Darwin Realty, Rick Daly. I also have received a lot of mentoring from the founder of Darwin Realty, George Cibula. I still bounce ideas off of both of them to this day.
What does a day in the life of Jeff Provenza look like?
Every day, I start my morning by eating breakfast, having coffee and going through my emails. I spend a lot of my day interacting with clients and other brokers through talking on the phone, exchanging emails, attending meetings or doing showings. Each evening, I take care of administrative activities—recording notes, filing paperwork and doing research on properties or clients. I also usually exercise most weeknights, whether it’s going to the gym or jumping on my bicycle.
What do you like most about your job?
I like that I get to meet new people every day. Each end user client has a different business with unique needs and a different life experience that I can learn from. The institutional investors, developers and owners all come from different walks of life, too. You can learn something from almost everyone in this industry with the variety of different backgrounds.
No two days in industrial real estate are the same. One day I could be working on the disposition of a large site that needs environmental remediation and the next day I could be helping a start-up company lease a new space to warehouse its goods.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I’m interested in working on more industrial redevelopment projects. As we retire some of the older manufacturing spaces in the Chicago area and re-envision them as logistics hubs for last-mile distribution, it’s great to see the improvement and revitalization of the surrounding communities.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I enjoy spending time on the golf course, going to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, traveling, concerts and sporting events. I recently went skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado and will be attending multiple concerts this summer in Chicago.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do hope to go next?
My cousin got married in Tuscany. I flew out with about thirty of my relatives from the U.S. If you looked out the window of our villa it was an olive tree plantation as far as the eye could see in one direction and vineyards in the other direction. Also, we did a small excursion to Rome. I would like to get back to South America sometime soon. I’ve been to Buenos Aires and would love to see more countries in the region.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Sean Olvany at Prologis.