MidwestIndustrial Lee & Associates’ Rinkov: No secret formula needed for a thriving CRE career Dan Rafter July 30, 2020 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share via email Family dinners have become the rule at the Rinkov home during the pandemic. Fitness has long been a passion for Rinkov, shown here after he and his daughter completed a marathon that the pair trained for together. Previous Next Jeffrey Rinkov this year celebrated his 23rd anniversary in the commercial real estate business, with each of those years spent at the same company, Lee & Associates. Rinkov started at the firm as a rookie broker in 1997. By 2013, he had risen to become the company’s chief executive officer in the firm’s Los Angeles-Central/Commerce office, a position he still holds. What is the secret to Rinkov’s steady success? How did he manage to become the CEO of one of the nation’s biggest commercial real estate firms? There’s been no magic formula. Like most successful commercial real estate professionals, Rinkov worked hard, built a deep roster of satisfied clients, studied his industry and did everything he could to secure the best results for his clients in every transaction. Midwest Real Estate News spoke with Rinkov about the steps he’s taken to succeed, what he enjoys most about commercial real estate and his hopes for the future of the industry and life after COVID-19. Here is some of what this long-time CRE pro had to say. Can you think back to what led you to a career in commercial real estate?Jeffrey Rinkov: Abject desperation. I had worked in a family business, a textile manufacturing company. That business was fazed out and partially sold. Late in our trajectory, we bought an industrial building. During that process, I had engaged with a few really talented, successful real estate brokers. When the business was no longer occupying that building, we needed a tenant. We called those brokers and hired them to lease the building for us. When we were signing the leases, the brokers asked me what I was going to do now. I figured I’d move back to New York or San Francisco and stay involved in some way in the textile industry. But I said, jokingly, that I was planning to get my real estate license and work for them. To my surprise, they said they thought that’d be great. After we finished signing the leases, they closed the door in the conference room and said, ‘If you can give us to May we might have an opportunity for you.’ They were leaving the commercial real estate firm they were with and were planning to open an office for Lee & Associates. They said they’d love to have me come and work with them. So you took that big leap?Rinkov: I had known CRE brokers for a long time. I had some exposure to the business. I knew it to be an entrepreneurial business that didn’t requite a lot of capital upfront. I knew that your success was driven by the effort you put in. That was the driving force for me. I could work as often and as hard as I wanted. If you did that, there was no ceiling to what you could achieve. That was the most appealing thing to me about entering the business. At the same time, I did have some experience in selling, leading groups of people and engaging with business leaders while working the textile industry. That was all part of my prior experience, which is something that I think helped me when I was getting started at Lee & Associates. The upshot was, I became a CRE rookie broker at 30 years old. Now that you’ve been in the business for more than two decades, what do you enjoy most about it?Rinkov: I love how dynamic the industry is. I love the diversity among the product types and the challenges of adjusting to different market factors. I always enjoy having the opportunity to solve problems for clients. That is why commercial real estate brokers will always exist, have always existed and have a long runway ahead of them. Other types of brokers might become more marginalized over time as technology and business changes. But commercial brokers deal with a dynamic market with a lot of external and internal factors that drive transactions. We work in a landscape that is always subject to change. Because of that, there will always be a need for talented, hard-working commercial brokers. Look at what is happening in the world today. You have disciplines like industrial that even during this pandemic is not only surviving but thriving. Then you see the transition that is taking place in retail. That has been going on for some time now but is only increasing its pace now. Look at how the pandemic is driving discussions about transitioning and repurposing how people use office space. People need brokers to help them make these big real estate decisions. And they will always need them. If you look historically at where wealth has been built, you see that it largely comes from either inheritance, technology or real estate. It’s an interesting thing to have the opportunity to work with successful people in one of those three big areas. That’s why I enjoy this business so much. What are some of the steps you’ve taken to become successful in commercial real estate?Rinkov: Whatever I have achieved in this business I am only partially responsible for. I had the great opportunity to come work at Lee & Associates. If I was not working with the platform here, I don’t think my longevity or success would have been nearly what it has been. It’s been a huge benefit for me to have been a principal and leader at Lee. Before I took on my current role, I was an industrial broker with a wide territory, building an expertise in a product type. I enjoyed collaborating with other partners. I have certainly had some good mentors and leaders to help guide me. I’ve been very fortunate in working with so many talented and smart people. Success is a lot about work ethic, too. I’ve always been self-starting and motivated. I’ve always been goal oriented. That’s a great attribute for CRE brokers. I compete more with myself than I do with any other person inside or outside the industry. How I view my achievements is more important than how others view them. I do set a high standard for myself. I’ve also tried to learn a lot about the industry. Being a student of commercial real estate has helped me tremendously. Whether it’s the education I received being an industrial broker or the work I’ve done to learn about the other commercial real estate disciplines, it’s all helped. As recently as two years ago, we brought in a group in Cincinnati. John Rickert and his group there taught me about the other services that CRE brokers can be involved in that are non-transactional. We call them integrated services. That includes things such as property management, asset management, facilities management, lease accounting and treasury services. John and his team brought an incredible amount of value in supporting brokers and transactions. You’ve obviously closed a lot of deals during your time at Lee & Associates. Does any deal stick out in your mind as one that showed you that you truly belonged in this business?Rinkov: There was a deal that I do remember. I was an associate with Lee’s Commerce office. I had cold-called a client or prospect. This company made shopping carts. It needed a larger facility. I found them 4 acres of land in the city of Vernon here in California. I sold them that land. I then connected them to a developer who helped them develop a building on that land. I also leased out the rear portion of their building for them. To me, that was a great example of what commercial real estate could be. It was full cycle. I sold them dirt. I was active and interactive in the development process. I helped them fill up the rest of the building. Years later when the company transitioned out of that building, I sold the property for them. That transaction showed me the intricacies and nuances of the industry. We helped develop something that will be there for 50 or 100 years. We had developed a great industrial building in one of the highest-identity markets in Southern California. The CRE world is obviously going through a stressful time right now with COVID-19. Do you, though, see any hope out there even during this pandemic?Rinkov: The answer is ‘yes.’ We are just past the mid-year. We are doing evaluations and analysis of our company performance now. I am shocked at how well we have performed. We have a number of offices that are between 90 and 100 percent of their first six-month volume in 2019, and 2019 was a record year of volume for us. We have a handful of offices that are between 100 percent and 130 percent of their first-half volume last year because of recruitment and growth. Of course, this is balanced with concerns about the third quarter. The business development we would have focused on during the second quarter when our offices were in some form of lockdown didn’t happen. But this is an incredibly low interest-rate environment. There is capital that is amassing on the sidelines. Some level of disruption that results in distress is going to be a normal cyclical result for commercial real estate. But there might be some happy results here. You are going to see opportunity capital be very aggressive in acquisitions. Maybe older industrial becomes last-mile distribution facilities. Maybe older industrial becomes ecommerce distribution. Maybe creative office goes back to more traditional office. It’s all about how to transition physical space, how to connect with tenants, how to accommodate something that we haven’t seen in our market for a long time, risk. There is risk in commercial real estate and development. The adoption and understanding that risk exists is very healthy. From a brokerage standpoint, risk is exciting. It creates opportunities. Brokers are excellent at identifying inefficiencies. They are excellent at identifying that and creating a marriage between buyers and sellers and tenants and landlords. When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun?Rinkov: The pandemic and the stay-at-home orders has put an exclamation point on the things I like to do. I really enjoy spending a lot of time with my family. I have two adult children and a child who will be a high school senior. We spend a lot of time together. We have had roughly four months of family dinner. That has been a lot of fun. We have turned the garage into a fitness facility. We’ve had a lot of at-home workouts. My passion has always been fitness. The week before the lockdown orders came in, I ran my first marathon. My daughter and I trained for it together. We were able to get our first marathon under our belt. My boys are running a lot now, too. In a more normal environment, I also enjoy traveling with my family. We have taken some great trips. My two oldest children studied abroad in Italy. My focus has been on family and fitness and competition.