Glen Missner is the president of The Missner Group in Des Plaines, Illinois. He’s also no stranger to the commercial real estate business. Missner, who along with his brother, Barry, represents the third generation of his family to run the development, property management and construction company, has been in the commercial real estate business for more than three decades.
And during this time? He’s developed a reputation for creativity, hard work and a commitment to both his clients and employees. This combination has helped him build a CRE career that’s still thriving today.
Midwest Real Estate News recently spoke with Missner about his career, what led him to commercial real estate and why he’s so proud of his company and his family. Here is some of what he had to say.
What led you to the commercial real estate business?
I grew up working in the trades and the construction field. Working in construction was probably the highest-paying job you could get as a kid. I was making an hourly wage that was probably twice what my friends were making. Initially, that drove my interest in the business. I was a young kid who wanted to make a bunch of money in the summer. Also, knowing that this was the family business, I knew there was a good chance that I’d go into this field.
I started out as a laborer for The Missner Group. I worked in the carpentry, concrete and masonry trades. I had the opportunity to be an apprentice carpenter and learn that trade intimately. Really, I gained an understanding for construction from the age of 15.
What kind of twists did your career path take before you ended up working for the family business?
I went to undergraduate at the University of Arizona. I had declared myself an architecture major, but I was also a student-athlete. I was a hockey player. I grew up loving hockey. Doing those two things at the same time was difficult. The architecture degree was probably one of the hardest undergraduate degrees to get. Eventually, I decided to pursue my student-athlete endeavors and switched to a major that didn’t require quite as much work. I ended up getting a bachelor’s degree in economics. My dad had convinced me that architects were overworked and underpaid. As an impressionable young man, I decided that it was time to change to either a finance or economics degree. I enjoyed economics, so that’s what I chose.
Eventually, after college, I came back home and went to work at Rubloff. After spending time there, I went to work at the family business, The Missner Group.
I came through the different parts of the company no differently than I did as a younger person learning the trades. I spent time learning how to lease our own properties. I learned about the asset and property management side of our business.
My father was at the helm and was one of the smartest construction guys I ever met. He told me to keep my ears open and mouth shut. He wasn’t the mentoring type in terms of his level of patience. But he did have a lot to offer. I learned as much about the construction business from him as I did from everyone else combined. He had real skills as a real estate developer. I had the opportunity to listen to him and learn about putting together a real estate development. He’d put many of those developments together on the back of a napkin in a restaurant. He was a napkin guy and a gut guy, an old-school guy.
You’ve had a long career. When you look back, what makes you especially proud?
I am proud of our company’s history. Our father taught us that our handshake is more important than a signed contract. We are given one last name. How we treat that name defines our company.
I am proud of the type of employer we are, the kind of people I know we are. I’m proud of how we treat our employees and the philanthropy we do in the community. My grandfather and my father had a commitment to excellence. We only put our name on projects we are proud of. The ability to drive by a building and see that you have left a legacy and that your name is etched on that building somewhere is something to be proud of.
You are a smaller company, with about 35 employees. What kind of relationship do you have with them?
We want to be a good employer and look out for our employees. When people introduce me as their boss, I shut them down. I tell them, ‘I’m not your boss. We work together.’ Because we are a smaller company, we get to know them on a more personal level. We get to know their spouses and children. We have a commitment to our employees.
My brother and I have grown our company significantly. We have been able to expand our development endeavors. We have become a larger contractor. At the same time, we still keep our fingers on the pulse of our projects. We have never lost sight of wanting to stay a manageable size. I have a lot of pride in what we have achieved as developers and how people see us. I hear it all the time. People tell us, ‘We’ve checked you out. You guys are honorable and professional and stand behind everything you do.’ That gives me the most pride.”
What have you most enjoyed about this business?
That’s a really good question. There are some components of this business that can be difficult, as it is with any profession. Construction at times can be Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will go wrong. You are bringing so many components together for a successful construction project. There are architects, engineers, building departments, zoning boards. At any given time, there are 30 to 35 subcontractors on a project. There are so many pieces of the puzzle that have to fit together to build a piece of real estate. Being at the helm of all these moving parts is exciting. It kind of keeps me in the game, the challenge of bringing this all together.
There are times when I look at a set of plans and look out onto the field where we are going to build and I wonder, how am I going to take 200 pages and end up with this pretty building? There is that challenge of going from the beginning to the end. I love the design component, the rolling up of your sleeves and thinking problems out and coming up with solutions.
What are some of the bigger projectes your company is now working on?
Pursuing development and construction opportunities is always an exciting challenge. We have recently begun a large-scale development in the West Loop, where we are converting a 100-year old manufacturing building into a brand new state-of-the-art commercial loft office development of 150,000 square feet, our first project of this scope in the downtown area. We are also doing two large-scale residential/mixed-use projects of 116 units and 65 units. These are some of the new challenges that spawn new excitement.
How about the challenges? What is most challenging about this business?
About two or three years ago, we hired a chief operating officer of our construction company. That helped with the challenges. Now I am able to extricate myself from the construction day-to-day work and work on marketing our company. I work with our business development people. That has brought an incredible amount of enthusiasm to my day-to-day activities.
The daily construction work was difficult to oversee when there was so much else going on. You might have 10 projects going on at one time. If that’s the case, you probably have 350 subcontractor contracts. You could be working in 10 different villages and working for 10 different clients. Then it starts raining for six days or it’s below zero for a week. Having the new chief operating officer has been the change I needed. I have a new surge of energy. I can also focus more energy on working with my brother, assisting our business development people on a variety of levels and work with our youthful and hard-charging marketing and communications director on array of ideas and projects germane to the branding of our organization, something more important today than when I first started.