Mitchell Kiven, senior associate with Marcus & Millichap’s Chicago Downtown office, specializes in multi-tenant retail and single-tenant net-leased properties. To date, he has done more than $90 million in transactions nationally with companies such as Chase Bank, Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, 7-Eleven, Potbelly, US Bank and Dunkin Donuts.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago; I graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
I aspired to be a playwright and pursued a career as a screenwriter after college. I lived in Los Angeles for almost a decade and worked on a number of television shows. A friend and I wrote and produced “King’s English” in 2010, which was one of the first purely streaming television series. Unfortunately, it was not a profitable venture so I began re-assessing my career goals around that time.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I spoke to as many people as possible in real estate, including tenant rep brokers, investment sales brokers, developers and investors. I became convinced pretty quickly that sales was the ideal place for me, and that a sales role would enable me to learn every aspect of the business, so brokerage became my focus. I wound up meeting with Richard Tucker of Tucker Development, and he was generous enough to give me three contacts: one at Mid-America, one at CBRE and, most importantly, Steve Rachman at Marcus & Millichap.
I liked the fact that Marcus & Millichap really focuses on training and I felt like there was real structure to the process of launching as an investment sales broker. Rachman gave me an opportunity, and after months of bad cold calls, I secured a $10 million listing for a pair of retail centers on the North Shore. Coincidentally, they were properties I knew very well, having grown up in the area. I took that opportunity and really ran with it. Everything I’ve done is a direct result of that first client who took a chance on me with an incredibly valuable asset. I’m extremely dedicated to my clients and grateful that they want to work with me. I take nothing for granted in that regard.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I’ve been really lucky to have a number of people who have taught me and who I can turn to for support. I mentioned Rich Tucker, who was the person who first made me interested in retail properties before I started selling them professionally, but also Steve Rachman and Brian Parmacek, both Marcus brokers like me. And I have a couple clients who I’ve gained immeasurable knowledge from—specifically, people like Bill Shiner at Shiner Group. Also, my friend, Jonny Basofin, at Cloverleaf Group has helped me understand the business from an investor’s perspective.
What does a day in the life of Mitchell Kiven look like?
I’m on the phone or writing emails all the time. It starts early, as soon as I wake up. When I go to the gym, I’m writing emails between sets! It has to be so annoying to everyone around me. But it’s how I push deals forward, and by responding to issues immediately, I demonstrate my commitment to my clients and to the transaction. Beyond that, I have a small team of young brokers I mentor—guys like Bennett Kamps and John Hildebrand—so once I get to the office, I’m meeting with them, strategizing our focus and building marketing proposals, or helping them with phone calls and emails.
What do you like most about your job?
The flexibility and the variety of each day and transaction are appealing, but the ebbs and flows—the highs and lows, and eventual close—of every transaction is deeply thrilling. Winning listings is the single most satisfying aspect of my job. I sell retail centers, so it’s a complicated product in a complicated market. This makes listings especially rewarding because clients are putting their trust in me to get the deal done.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I’d like to sell larger, more institutional-quality retail centers, and I’d like to work on more mixed-use buildings. Most of my transactions have been strip centers and single-tenant net lease properties, but retail is changing and I believe that mixed-use buildings in the city of Chicago or in vibrant suburban downtown districts are still underrated and perhaps a more sustainable permutation of retail in general.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I have a beautiful 9-month-old son named Sacha, so he is the short answer. If I’m not with him and my wife, Samantha, I’m probably working. I still write as a hobby but that has taken a real backseat as I’ve built my real estate career and started a family. My wife and I love movies and tennis, so we try to make time for those interests as well.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
Honestly, Romeoville. I’m kidding, although Romeoville is a great market! My wife is from Montana so whenever I’m in Montana with her family and we’re looking at something truly spectacular like a mountain or a valley or a…river, I say, “That’s so pretty—looks like Romeoville.” The joke also works with other Chicago suburbs.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
I would like to see Jonny Basofin of Cloverleaf Group answer these questions next.