When is the right time to start your own commercial real estate business? Bill Menish would say it’s whenever you’re ready, even if that means opening your doors during a pandemic.
Menish should know. He’s the owner and managing director of SVN Menish in Louisville, a business that he officially opened on Feb. 15 of this year after having worked at SVN|Premier CRE & Auctions in the same city since 2010.
A former TV newscaster who worked with both WHAS 11 and WAVE 3 in Louisville before getting into real estate, Menish has deep ties to Louisville. He’s also a natural storyteller, a skill he honed during his news days and something that he says helps him when marketing commercial real estate to potential investors. He’s also brought talent with him to his new business. Joining Menish at SVN Menish are industry pros Ron Pregliasco, senior advisor; Tommy Clark, advisor; and Jonathan Laise, advisor.
Menish’s goal with his new business? It’s simple: He wants to share with investors the stories of Louisville’s commercial properties, from the most iconic to those that others would consider simple office or retail buildings. And he isn’t letting COVID-19 stop him.
Midwest Real Estate News recently spoke with Menish about his new business, the thrill that commercial real estate holds for him and his plans for the future. Here is some of what he had to say.
Why was this the right time to open a new commercial real estate business?
Bill Menish: There are a couple of reasons. Necessity came into play. It was time for my former partners and I to go our separate ways. I am very aggressive when it comes to building a business. I have visions of running a successful, large office. So I acted on that after the first of this year and started SVN Menish.
Then there was the timing. Coming out of the COVID pandemic, as difficult and horrible as it has been, has almost been a rebirth for some businesses. Some have gone through this rebirth out of necessity, like restaurants. Others like ours are using this time as an opportunity to make changes. I think commercial real estate has hit another point where it won’t ever be the same again. Offices won’t be the same. The style of operation won’t be the same. Commercial real estate will be more progressive. It will be cutting-edge and tech-driven. That’s right in my wheelhouse. I was eager to jump onto that approach as soon as possible.
You enjoyed an earlier career as a successful newscaster. Why did you make the switch to real estate?
Menish: I’ve been around real estate my entire life. My mother was the co-owner of a real estate brokerage in Greenwood, Indiana. It was one of the most successful brokerages in that area. So real estate was always in the back of my mind. I was comfortable with it. After I left TV news, I worked at a couple of other businesses while I learned and prepared for real estate. It was almost dumb luck that I was able to join SVN in an auction capacity. I learned CRE from the auction side first.
Why has real estate been such a good fit?
Menish: It fits my personality. I’m a storyteller. I’m big into marketing. Effective marketing is so important when it comes to success in auctions. Real estate gave me the chance to flex some of my marketing muscles. It was a perfect fit. I had an opportunity along the way to become part owner of the SVN franchise I was working at. I headed the auction side. My goal now at my new company is to hire someone to, essentially, replace me, to be the me of 11 years ago. I want to hire someone to take over my book of business so that I am free to be the managing director. I can then get out there and create the progressive company I envision. I know that hiring phenomenal people is what will make that dream come true.
How important has your background in news been in your CRE career?
Menish: I believe that every property has a story to tell. If we simply give people the facts and figures, we’re lacking something. If a news story is just facts and figures, it’s forgettable. If it is filled with people and passion, it becomes powerful and emotional. It’s the same thing with marketing a property. Say a commercial property was the previous post office of a little community and meant so much to that town. Now it is an office building. You can’t leave out the post office part when marketing it. The story of the property needs to be told.
I recently cold-called on a FSBO. The property I was calling about was a former post office. But that information was nowhere in the marketing materials.
Why do you think you’ve been so successful in commercial real estate?
Menish: I’ve been in commercial real estate since 2010. I left the TV news business on Leap Day, Feb. 29 of 2008. At first, I worked in residential real estate. But then I met the folks at SVN, and the commercial real estate portion of my career was born.
I think I’ve been successful partially because I focus so much on service. I do think some of the people in this industry have lacked a bit in the service side. I answer almost every phone call when it comes in unless I absolutely can’t. I return every email that moment. I constantly get great feedback about this. People are always telling me how surprised they are when they see a proposal that I promised to send them arrive in just a couple of hours.
I write notes and letters to my clients, keeping them appraised of what is happening with their properties. I put out reports on properties on a regular basis. I just overdo it on the service side. When you do that, the word spreads quickly. This kind of commitment to service seems to be less common than it should be. I’m on the opposite end of that.
Do people appreciate that kind of service?
Menish: I get positive responses from people every day. They are always surprised at how quickly I respond or how quickly I get them a proposal. A phone call came in yesterday about a $1.7 million property. I had the listing agreement in their lap in a two-hour period. I understood the importance of this to them. I knew it would impress them to get that agreement to them so quickly.
You started your business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Did this worry you?
Menish: Maybe I should have been more worried. But I have too much optimism and too strong a belief in what we are doing. I actually think the timing is perfect. When we come out of the pandemic, the economy will be strong. There will be a lot of money available. More and more people will be investing. I want to spread the word that commercial real estate is where you should be considering investing.
The pandemic has impacted every U.S. city. But is Louisville still a strong CRE market despite this?
Menish: I think it is. I would like to see the government here do more to support growth and business development, of course. But the buyers and investors are driving the market. This is an entrepreneurial-spirited town. I saw it when I worked in local news here in the 90’s and I see it today. The entrepreneurial side of the city has grown even stronger since I left the news business.