It doesn’t take three words for Daniel J. Benassi, SIOR, Principal of Entre Commercial Realty LLC, to name what is most important to him; it’s only two – family and friends. In a recent interview with Chicago Industrial Properties, Benassi shared his zeal for work, family, and adventure. Here’s what he had to say.
Daniel Benassi entered the industrial real estate business in 2000, after working for PricewaterhouseCoopers as a consultant for 4 years, and for a bank for a year prior to that after college.
“Les Spinner recruited me to Paine/Wetzel,” he said. “I am friends with his daughter and he had a similar background as me, before getting into industrial real estate, when he was at a similar point in his working career.”
Benassi says he was looking to get into a field where he could use his financial experience in more of an entrepreneurial and sales-driven environment.
“I was 27 and single, with few obligations, so I figured it was a good opportunity to take the plunge,” he said. “In 2006 my partner, Dan Jones, and I left to form Entre Commercial Realty. We specialize in industrial real estate brokerage, property management and construction.”
The first several years in the industry were tough, Benassi said, going from climbing the corporate ladder with a good salary, expense account and a nice title, to being a commissioned salesperson in a completely new industry.
“In our industry your reputation and your relationships mean everything,” he said. “But when you start out you have no reputation, or relationships, so it is difficult. However the longer you are in this business the more fun it gets. You begin to realize that most of the people in the business are good, solid, hardworking folks who are doing the same thing you are doing – working hard, raising a family, etc.”
He continued, “The people you deal with – your prospects, clients and colleagues become friends. You find more often than not, that when you’re working on a deal, you are working with friends and good business colleagues with common interests and goals. The business gets easier and more fun the longer you do it.”
What Benassi enjoys most about industrial real estate is the ability to control your own destiny.
“You can choose what to work on and who you want to work with. Your earnings are directly proportional to how hard and how smart you work. You can also have a great work/life balance. I don’t know many other industries where if I want to leave in the middle of the day, to go see my kids’ school musical, I can adjust my schedule accordingly so that I can do it.”
The biggest challenges in the industry, according to Benassi, are the deals that take a very long time.
“A lot of what happens is outside of our control,” he said. “You can do everything right, but if at the end of the day a client cancels the project after you’ve spent one to two years of time, you can walk away with nothing. Although even when that happens, you’ve probably learned a lot, and developed some good relationships along the way, which is going to benefit you in the long run.”
The premise that Entre Commercial was formed on by Benassi and his partner, Dan Jones, is what he says sets the company apart from the rest: They would be more creative and entrepreneurial than their competitors.
“Most of our people came from larger shops where everything becomes a numbers game,” Benassi said. “You often end up getting spread so thin that you cannot adequately service your clients, or have the time to think of creative solutions to help a client achieve their goals. We offer our brokers higher commission splits and empower them to think outside the box.”
“We incentivize our brokers to do more than just broker a transaction – can we also help with the construction, property management, development, etc.? We also foster cooperation and information sharing internally. At our internal sales meetings, we share 100 percent of all information on what everybody is working on, and everyone is encouraged to help each other. I’m fairly certain that is unique amongst our competitors.”
In the past year, Entre commercial has expanded their brokerage staff, and their construction group, Iris Construction, is having its best year ever.
“We also recently hired Mary Meagher to help grow our property management group,” he said. “I am very excited about that. She is a 20-year veteran and has already done a great job of positioning that side of our business for future growth. Actually, just last week we were hired by a large national financial institution to manage a couple of their industrial/flex properties here, so that was a great win for us. Property management is a great complementary service to brokerage and construction.”
When Benassi isn’t working, he and his wife have four and 6 year old daughters who keep them very busy.
“My wife also works full time, so our schedules are basically 100 percent full. I do try to sneak out for an occasional round of golf or bike ride, but it’s tough to find much time for that.”
Something Benassi’s peers may not know about him is that he is a closet adventure-seeker.
“Back in the day I did some bungee-jumping, paragliding, amongst other things. I have a few too many people counting on me not to kill myself doing stupid stuff like that now, but part of me still wants to go skydiving!”
Outside of curbing, to the best of his ability, his appetite for adventures, family and friends is what is most important to Benassi. He guesses work is a distant third, but it isn’t a major factor at the end of the day.
“The reality is that the legacy you leave is with your family and friends, nobody cares how much money you made or what your title was.”