Tim Hennelly grew up in Elk Grove Village, in the shadow of the industrial park there, and worked part-time jobs in at least a dozen warehouses during his high school years. After graduating from college, Hennelly had no idea what he wanted to do, but thought he could be a pretty good salesman. Figuring he might as well sell something big, Hennelly got his real estate license and started knocking on doors in the industrial park.
“It took me about six months of working for a small broker/builder in town to realize the limitations of being part of such a small operation,” said Hennelly, president, Great Lakes Region at Ryan Companies US, Inc. “So in the spring of 1986, I joined Inland Real Estate where there was a group of maybe 20 of us—a great group of people—selling Inland’s apartment buildings and trying to get third-party listings. It was a busy year but the tax laws changed in 1987, which significantly impacted the appeal of syndicated apartment investments.”
Ultimately though, Hennelly wanted to get back into industrial brokerage so he left Inland and joined Baird & Warner in late 1987.
“I worked with a great bunch of people under the direction of Vern Schultz—people like Ken Franzese, Mitch Greenberg and Brian Carroll,” he said. “Baird & Warner was a much larger platform than my original company, and that allowed me to work on bigger deals with corporate clients. After about 18 months, I decided it was time to expand my knowledge of the development business, so I interviewed with, and then worked for eight years, at The Alter Group. Before joining Ryan in 2002, I spent six years at FCL Builders to round out my skill sets by learning the construction side of the business.”
Over the years, Hennelly noted that he has been fortunate to work with companies that were involved in some very interesting projects. “That provided me with a real opportunity to gain insights and perspectives. Additionally, especially now with my work at Ryan, there is a lot of diversity, which keeps it very exciting. On any given day I could have a meeting at 9 a.m. to discuss a new medical office building, a lunch meeting to plot new senior living developments, and an afternoon pitch for a corporate build-to-suit.”
No day is the same, and that’s a very big reason as to why Hennelly loves doing what he does. There’s also a social aspect to the Chicago real estate market that Hennelly has enjoyed.
“People in this industry are great,” said Hennelly. “Even among competitors there is a lot of camaraderie; people are always helping each other out. Over the years I have developed some great friends who I compete with on occasion but we can still get together for a beer and a golf game.”
At Ryan, Hennelly pointed out that they are committed to building lasting relationships – and it’s not just something they say. “Three generations of the Ryan family have led the business guided by this commitment. Ryan’s dedication to serving our communities also sets our company apart. Year in and year out our people regularly contribute time and talent to local charities, community groups and more.”
Right now Hennelly’s working on a number of things that are exciting; things that reinforce the whole diversification concept.
“We’re working on an expansion of our senior living product line with new developments that are working through varying stages of the planning, development and zoning process in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and northwest Indiana,” he said. “We’re also working on several new speculative industrial buildings that would turn some of our industrial land portfolio into new buildings in Randall Crossing in Elgin, Ill., and Laraway Crossings in Joliet, as well as a significant multi-family development in the City of Chicago. We’re evaluating and pitching various other opportunities in development and construction, so it’s an exciting time for Ryan, much like it is for a lot of people in real estate today.”
A lot of people have said it lately: it’s a great time to be in commercial real estate. Hennelly believes it will remain that way for the first half of the year, at the very least.
My expectations are that the industrial market will remain hot with vacancy rates continuing to decline,” Hennelly said. “As an industry we’ve shown pretty good discipline to not overbuild. The office market in the suburbs is improving but there is still a lot of vacancy, so anything new will come from renovations and repositioning as opposed to new spec construction. That being said, we do feel there is a lack of high-tech, class A office space in Oak Brook so we are looking at a very interesting repositioning where we go with a spec building. Stay tuned.”
“The senior living market remains in full swing,” he continued. “I am excited about that market in general, and our continued work to develop and expand our Thomas Place and Clarendale brands. The retail market is improving enough so that we are looking closely at opportunities in that sector. We entered the Chicago area market more than 15 years ago known for our retail work. Given market conditions we haven’t done a lot of this work lately, but that could begin to change.”
So how does Hennelly find the balance between work and the things that keeps him sane?
“Ryan’s corporate culture really pushes a work-life balance. We organize events that help people get out from behind the desk to get involved. Ryan is based in Minnesota, so many of the leadership as well as my contemporaries are hunters and fishermen: real outdoorsmen. I am not one – as a matter of fact, I refer to myself as an avid indoors man—though I do love to play golf, and try to get out on the course with clients as often as possible.”
Hennelly’s greatest accomplishment outside of CRE is his family. “I have been very happily married for 27 years, and I have two great kids. A son who is a freshman at Western Michigan, and a daughter who is getting ready to start high school next year.”
One habit Hennelly tries to do every day is read for a few hours. “I usually read two or three newspapers – from the national ones down to my local paper – and I try to get through a few books a week. I don’t read much of anything online, I’m one of those old fashioned guys who like to hold actual paper in my hands.”
With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, Hennelly will certainly be celebrating with great company.
“Drawing from the Ryan family’s Irish heritage, we host an annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration in our office (several of our other offices across the country host an event, too),” he said. “We’ll do that next Tuesday, March 17, in Naperville. Gathering together employees, customers and peers in the industry is a great way to express our thanks and maintain connections. We’ll have Irish food, live music and, of course, a pint or two to share. We’ll also continue another tradition—the hanging of a new Guinness poster.”
After 27 years in the industry, Hennelly has learned many things. If he were able to give himself advice when he was just entering the industry, Hennelly said he’d note two things.
“The first is actually the same advice I was given by Rich Gatto of the Alter Group early on in my career: “Get out there and get to know the people in the business.” Those words are as true today as they were almost 27 years ago. You don’t realize how much of a network you can build by reaching out, meeting for lunch or at industry functions, etc.”
“The second piece of advice is, “Don’t fall in love with the deal.” It can be easy to get too attached to a deal and new people in the business do it all the time,” he added. “But if it doesn’t make sense—isn’t right for the client or the marketplace—you need to have the discipline to be able to walk away. Kill the deal quickly rather than let it die a long slow death.”