On Dec. 6, Eugene Golub, founder and chairman of Chicago-based Golub & Company, received the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Urban Land Institute’s Chicago District Council. Under his leadership, Golub has built a solid reputation for Golub & Company as an innovative real estate development, investment, management and leasing firm, with a track record of accomplishments spanning more than 50 years.
With success in high-profile, complex projects being a competitive advantage for the firm, Golub & Company and its affiliates have been involved with more than 45 million square feet of office, industrial and mixed-use projects and 50,000 multifamily residential units in the United States and Central and Eastern Europe. Additionally, Golub has been active for many years in various philanthropic organizations, including the Family Institute at Northwestern University, where he currently serves on its Board of Directors.
Illinois Real Estate Journal recently spoke with Gene about his experiences during more than half a century in the commercial real estate business.
IREJ: How did you get your start in real estate?
Golub: I began over 50 years ago. I started out as a broker and in management and eventually started developing projects.
IREJ: What do you find most interesting about the industry?
Golub: There are two basic needs people require – food and shelter. Real estate is a basic industry. When you start thinking about real estate, it’s very diverse and there are many avenues to apply yourself. Our company is multi-purpose as we are departmentalized into development, investment, leasing, management, marketing and asset management.
IREJ: How has the business changed over the years?
Golub: I think technology has changed the business over the years. There is much more information available on real estate products than there was when I started. When I refer to real estate products, I’m talking about buildings, leases, management concepts, development concepts and especially the progress on the analytical side. When I started, we didn’t have computers. But you just move with the times. You have to stay up on technology as the business is very dynamic.
IREJ: What is the most challenging aspect of real estate?
Golub: It’s a business like any other business. The challenges are to be competitive and on top of your game.
IREJ: What advice would you have to those just starting out?
Golub: It’s a matter of how you’re starting out. You have to get your first job and that’s the hardest thing to do. You have to do a lot of research. I’ve talked to a lot of young people who are out of school and who are interested in getting into real estate. I find that the key is for them to do the research on the companies that they are applying to so that they know a lot about the companies and what they do. They should be able to go into an interview and explain how they could add value to whatever company they’re being interviewed by, which unfortunately a lot of people don’t do. Looking for a job and applying for a job is a job in itself.
IREJ: What does it take to have longevity in the industry?
Golub: You have to have patience and a risk orientation. You also have to be a quality company that is team oriented.
IREJ: What would you say has been your greatest success?
Golub: Staying in business has been our greatest success because the real estate industry is very cyclical. Being able to manage the cycles is the key to longevity. You have to pay attention to your business on a day-to-day basis. You also must be associated with people who have the same principle orientation. Everyone has to feel like they are an owner in the business and whatever they might be doing has to have an entrepreneurial attitude. Everybody in our company has to have a sense of ownership. Whatever their job might be it has to be at the highest level of execution.
IREJ: What do you look forward to most about the future?
Golub: I never try to predict the future. I try to react to what happens in the present.
IREJ: You’re very active in philanthropy. Why do you think it’s important for the industry to give back to the community?
Golub: I don’t think it’s necessarily our industry. I think that in general, if people have the ability to spend some time and energy in philanthropic areas, it is personally rewarding to do good deeds.