What makes for a successful CRE career? Closing plenty of sales, of course. But what about making a difference in your industry? Richard Matricaria is doing just that. He is senior vice president and division manager in charge of overseeing the entire Midwest region while working out of the Chicago downtown office of Marcus & Millichap. As a division manager, he is responsible for making sure that Marcus & Millichap’s associates reach their goals and provide the best possible service to their clients.
Midwest Real Estate News spoke to Matricaria about his career and his role as a mentor. Here is some of what he had to say:
Midwest Real Estate News: What led you to a career in commercial real estate?
Richard Matricaria: I went to the University of Alabama on a golf scholarship. In the summers, I worked odd jobs at an apartment complex. That was the initial seed of a career in real estate for me. Doing the math, I could tell that the economics behind the apartment building I was helping to do maintenance on were really strong. I remember standing there pressure-washing the sidewalks and thinking that the owner of the apartments seemed to be doing all right running this student-housing deal.
With that as the initial seed, after college I started looking at real estate-oriented jobs. I interviewed with several companies and found Marcus & Millichap. Marcus & Millichap had a real good mentorship platform, which still exists. I’ve been with Marcus & Millichap since 2000.
MREN: What do you enjoy so much about this business?
Matricaria: I really enjoy helping our associates service their clients and helping them develop their skills to improve their own business. I enjoy helping someone’s career grow and develop over time. That’s what gives me the most juice. Then there’s the fact that the industry is very dynamic. You meet a ton of wide-ranging personalities who keep you on your toes. You always have to think through situations in terms of problem-solving. Basically, there is never a dull moment. This career is one that is engaging mentally.
MREN: This variety is certainly a positive for people in this career. Can you give me an example of what your days are like as a division manager?
Matricaria: A typical day is about working with our existing roster of people who are doing investment sales to find out what roadblocks they are facing in their service of the clients. How I can remove those roadblocks? How can I help them provide their service better? I spend a huge chunk of my day doing that.
The other chunk of my day is spent interacting with clients on behalf of our people. I am a non-competing manager. That is a big distinction, and it’s a principal that our firm holds dear. The people on my side of the ledger don’t compete with the agents. Everything we do is for them on behalf of their clients. My job is to help them source clients and cultivate relationships or help them directly behind the scenes to support their clients.
MREN: What kind of help do you provide?
Matricaria: As an example, different associates specialize in different things, different product types. They might specialize in retail, office, industrial or hotels. Yet our client base more and more own a cross-section of product types. We might be working with a client who owns a retail building as well as an office building. My job might to be help our clients figure out the best team to put on the field.
With our associates, the help I provide might be just about anything. I operate almost like a concierge service for our associates. If our associates are having a problem with technology, we try to solve it. If we have a staff person on maternity leave, we backfill for that. It’s all of the little things that help on the operations side of the business. We do that on their behalf.
MREN: How much of a difference does it make that you are not a manager who competes with his associates?
Matricaria: That is a major distinction between how we operate and how most of the rest of the industry operates. If you look at my peers at other firms, most have some type of role where they are a player/coach. That is not something that Marcus & Millichap does. It does, I think, help us develop strong relationships between our associates and managing directors.
MREN: You are now responsible for overseeing Marcus & Millichap’s entire Midwest region. How strong is the commercial real estate market here these days?
Matricaria: We are seeing a lot of transactions right now. The movement in interest rates and the volatility in the stock market, combined with the tax reform legislation, are all playing a role. All of these factors are inspiring people to make moves. People are weighing their situations against the backdrop of those factors. There is a little volatility in the market that is actually creating demand and velocity. People want to access their equity to take on other opportunities and lock in debt before the interest rates rise further. Because of all this uncertainty, we are seeing more activity.
MREN: How nervous are investors and owners about interest rates?
Matricaria: I wouldn’t say they are nervous. The rates are more of a catalyst to inspire them to act, though. Sellers have to understand that as rates go up, the value of assets has to be adjusted downward eventually to offer safe returns to buyers. Buyers still have the opportunity to do deals and get access to debt at relatively cheap rates when you look at history. But buyers know that these rates won’t last, so many are trying to act now before they get higher.
Then there are people who might have a balloon due on a loan that they would normally refinance a year from now. Some are doing that now instead of waiting. That’s smart because the rates are probably going to be lower today than they will a year from now. Interest rates are having some positive impact on activity. It all depends on the different motivations and client situations.
MREN: Looking back at your own career, why do you think you’ve succeeded in this industry?
Matricaria: I was a broker before moving to the management side. I worked as a broker for 10 years. I saw the whole run-up and run-down in the last market cycle. I experienced the ebb and flow firsthand as a broker. That experience has helped me as a manager. I have a lot of empathy for clients and agents. They are on the front lines. I understand that my role is to be a support for them. Because I’ve experienced what they are going through, I have the empathy and ability to understand the dynamics they are facing. I have that commitment to helping them get through their challenges. That has served me well.
MREN: What different skills do you need as a broker? And what skills do you need as a manager?
Matricaria: The main thing you need as a broker is to be focused on serving your clients. As a manager, because you are not on the front lines, you need to focus on supporting the people who are on the front lines. You have to enjoy the camaraderie that comes along with supporting your people and know that this support does trickle down to the clients. I have always enjoyed the mentoring aspect of the business. Being a manager allows me to do more of that.