James Conrad: A music junkie and lover of traveling

James Conrad, sales associate at McLennan Companies, was one of 244 industry professionals who earned the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation at CCIM Institute‘s 2015 Annual Governance Meeting in Austin, Texas last month. In an exclusive Q&A, Conrad tells Illinois Real Estate Journal how he keeps busy and what he’s looking forward to later in his career. He also lets IREJ in on his musical talents and how he keeps active.

Illinois Real Estate Journal: What are your responsibilities at McLennan?

James Conrad: My main role is business generation and brokerage for the investors that McLennan represents. I handle the disposition analysis and leasing for approximately 25 to 30 buildings in the Chicago metro area. A few of those clients are seeking new acquisitions, so I occasionally take on a buyer or tenant rep assignment. Mostly however, I am seeking business development opportunities for new landlord and disposition assignments and assisting my current clients in managing their investments. This market has been very good, so we have been focusing on extending lease terms and improving revenues on nearly all of the assets that I handle. It is a very different commercial real estate world than when I started in 2008.

Recently, I was also hired as the managing broker at McLennan, so in conjunction with the company’s president I am recruiting, training, and supervising a four-person brokerage team. McLennan has provided office management and legal support, so I can focus on mentorship and training of our newer brokers. The team is right sized, so that I can really focus on mentoring and getting to know the two newer hires on the four-person brokerage team and yet still focus enough time on my core brokerage business.

IREJ: How did you get your start in RE?

Conrad: I was hired by a CCIM designee: Chuck Wiercinski, CCIM. Chuck’s name is held in extremely high regard throughout the industry, and without his mentorship, my career would not be the same. We got along as colleagues and friends from the first day I interviewed with him. Chuck was one of the best teachers that I have ever had. I have been his student, and his training has fueled my success.

I am very proud to finish my CCIM curriculum, portfolio requirements, and comprehensive exam. I believe that Chuck’s leadership is what drove me to finalize earning my CCIM designation pin. Down the road in my career, I look forward to mentoring and teaching others the way he did for me. I still have a long way to go and have a lot to learn myself, but that is certainly one of my main career goals.

IREJ: Favorite part about working in the industry?

Conrad: It’s the great people that I meet every day. Also, no two days are the same. The CRE field is packed with amazing small business owners and entrepreneurs, which I am blessed to learn from and work with daily. The amount of niche markets in our economy is absolutely fascinating to me.

The second key for me is that I enjoy having to stay flexible and adapt on a daily basis. Like most people in this business, life would get a bit monotonous if I didn’t have the opportunity to get out and meet new people and work through the issues inherent in CRE deals.

IREJ: Most unforgettable moment in the business?

Conrad: During my first year, I was at a lease signing, and my client invited me over for dinner with his family. It was a great meal, but after dinner we were about to sign the documents and his dog got skunked. His daughter unknowingly let the dog in the house and the whole house stunk to high heaven. My client and I were chasing the dog outside – crying from the skunk’s fumes. It was pretty chaotic and a tough environment to close the deal, but we got it done.

While there have been some other memorable successes, that one stands out as one of those small life hiccup-moments and fun stories that I’ll never forget. My client and I still joke about it.

IREJ: What do you do for fun?

On a day to day basis, I bike in the city, and, recently I have become a runner. In general, I like to stay active. I’ve had a few major knee surgeries in the past couple years (torn ACL), so I haven’t been able to play basketball like I used to. That was always my game of choice; I used to be pretty good.

I also hope to travel more in the next few years. I’ve backpacked Europe and traveled to a few great American cities: Austin, Denver, and my favorite city, Charleston. I have a few trips on the horizon for next year.

IREJ: What do you consider your proudest moment?

Conrad: As mentioned before, I am very proud that I’ve been able to persevere through ACL surgery and get back to sports and running. After my first surgery, I didn’t know if I’d ever play tennis or basketball again. After about 18 months, two surgeries, and countless hours of physical therapy and training, I am back on the courts. I am not playing as often or as successfully as previously, but at least I am out there again. I am probably one of the few Chicagoans that has significant empathy for Derrick Rose.

IREJ: How are you spending the holidays?

Conrad: My extended family has a huge party every Christmas Eve, which is one of my favorite days of the year. We all have a great time and have even gotten Santa to make an appearance, every year since I was two.

After that I am heading to Tucson, Ariz., with my girlfriend to see her family for a few days until New Year’s Eve. Hopefully, we will get on the golf course down there; I’m looking forward to it.

IREJ: What’s something at the very top of your bucket list?

Conrad: My main goals center on travelling. Before I settle down and have kids, which will be soon, I’d like to see Iceland (although the Northern Lights are going away for a while, so this one may get delayed) and also to tour South America. My girlfriend spent a good portion of her childhood in Chile and Columbia, so I will hopefully get down there soon and see some of the beauty and culture throughout South America.

IREJ: What’s one interesting thing about yourself that not many would know?

Conrad: I am a music junkie. I listen to music all the time — at home, in my car before showings, way too often for most people to handle. My closest friends make fun of me constantly, because my playlists are all over the place too. I played the trumpet for 15 years and have eclectic taste. I will jump from the Jurassic Park Symphonic Theme song to Zac Brown Band to heavy metal/grunge and to Broadway show tunes. There is no rhyme or reason to my selections. I just enjoy good music of any genre; talented musicians are amazing to me.