CRE Success: The Podcast, S01E09

michael bull, bull realty




people, commercial real estate, company, business, brokers, started, sales, podcast, training, prospecting, michael, biggest, sell, agent, thought, commercial, day, workspaces, properties, client


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Welcome to CRE Success: The Podcast, where we help people working in commercial real estate achieve their professional goals. Check us out online at cresuccess.co/podcast. And now here's your host, Darren Krakowiak.


Darren Krakowiak:

Hello. This is episode nine and I'm here to present content especially for people who work in commercial real estate.

When I started this project, I did promise to deliver 10 episodes and given this is episode nine, you may be wondering what is happening after our next episode? Well, standby because I have some important news to share about that at the end of today's show.

Before we do that, I must introduce today's guest: it’s Michael Bull. Michael is someone who I've been following for many years. He's the host of America's Commercial Real Estate Show, which is the longest running radio show of its kind which is also available all around the world as a podcast. He's been running his own very successful brokerage firm for the past 22 years, plus, he also has his own suite of educational products that help people in commercial real estate be more successful.

I realise that he's technically not in Asia Pacific, but I also know that you're really going to benefit from Michael's insights and you're going to love hearing his story, so I thought I would make an exception and use the broader APEC definition of geography, which includes the United States within Asia Pacific, and invite him to be part of the show.

Michael Bull is standing by and my interview with him starts in 30 seconds.





And now it's time for the interview on CRE Success: The Podcast.


Darren Krakowiak:

Michael, welcome to CRE Success: The Podcast.


Michael Bull:

Thank you.


Michael, the first thing we do is we ask our guests to step into the virtual elevator so they can give us their you like elevator pitch. So Michael, who are you?


Okay, well, Great, well, first, I guess: Bull Realty, I'm a commercial broker, and I've been in business for 35 years. And that's what I've done all my life and I own a company called Bull Realty. That's headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm licensed broker, nine southeast states around the US. And we have a company that sells office buildings, shopping centers, you know, hotels, all sorts of things around the US. And then I have a show that I started 10 years ago called America's Commercial Real Estate Show, and it's the biggest show in the States about commercial real estate. And then two years ago, I started a company CommercialAgentSuccess.com that supplies video training for commercial agents around the world. And it's 21 one hour videos of incredible agent training. It's all in the cloud things. So that's kind of the three things I do.


You’re a busy guy.


I try to stay busy.


So how did you get started in commercial real estate? What got you into the industry? And why did you land there?


I started, I was going to school at night, a friend told me I needed a job during the day and a friend told me about job this is the hardest thing you have to do to take out the trash once a day. I'm like, okay, I like that. And it was leasing apartments for an apartment rental company. And I got there and they taught me how to do that and taught me how to do everything on management. And then a company hired me to run their management company, 20 years old, and I did that, got my license, and I tripled the size of that company while I was in school. And then at 22, I became a commission-only salesperson. My first sale was when I was 19; I sold a 20-unit apartment building. And so that's kind of how I got started in the commercial real estate business was managing it, operating it, renovating it on then became a broker at a very young age.


What's your favorite thing about working in commercial real estate?


You know, I think it's the people and you know, the ability to add value to people and to the companies and it helped people and companies make money and to help them save money, and to just really seriously add value, you know, to these companies. And you also have kind of a variety of people and properties, and you're out and about, you know, I remember part time, when I was really young, I bartend it and I was at this bar tending bar for four hours in this one little area. And I thought, Oh, man, this is awful. You know, you know what we do? It's fun. We're out with different properties and people, we're always learning and always growing and it's fun to really do a great job for people, you know, and have them really appreciate you.


So you're a 30 plus year veteran of the industry, you've been through several economic cycles, you've seen the impact of things like technological change, and obviously run your own successful real estate practice as you've mentioned, since 1998. But I say all that not to pump up your tires, but just to demonstrate that you have a broad perspective. So, I'd like to ask me what's changed and what stayed the same during your working life?


Well, I guess what's changed has really been the technology, you know, the technologies we use to market properties, to research properties, you know, operations or communications, I can tell you back in the day being in a closing, and you needed something, and the closing stopped, I mean, you know, I was doing this before fax machines were out. So, you know, over the years, the changing technology and I‘ve already been into the technology and I've always tried to stay really at the latest with the latest technology. So that's been real fun to see see happen. I think what stayed the same is the skills you know, the sales skills, the negotiation skills, it's still a people business and relationship business is still a reputation business, you know, and, and people say, you know, Michael, you know, what books should I read if I'm a commercial agent? And I'd say, well sales books and I suppose maybe like the latest one that selling right now? No, you can get the best sales books of all time, that have to do with any type of sales, and they're fantastic.


Can you name a couple of the books that you would recommend to somebody if they wanted to up their skills in sales?


You know, I think some of the big Zig Ziglar’s and, you know, the Stephen Covey's a, you know, I think if you just look at the top selling sales books of all time, you know, that's the ones I would read, and I would read them over and over again. You know, I see some people get into commercial, becoming a commercial agent, and they start reading about investing in real estate and all that, and that's not the biggest skill that you need to learn, you know, we're salespeople, we're negotiators, and so we need to learn how to run a business, build it, make it efficient, and we need to learn how to sell and negotiate.


Right, so there's negotiation and sales skills, which ultimately are people skills as well.


Yeah, they sure are and, and then you think of time management, you know, I throw that in there as well. As you know, it's you know, it's all about how effective we can be in a small amount of time.


So let's talk about leadership, you lead a team of about 35 brokers, I believe, plus additional staff who are across nine states, I believe. Given your experience, what do you think is one or more attributes that makes a great leader?


You know, I think just the sincere desire to help people and to add value to the people around you. I've often thought about that. And I what I tell some of my brokers is this saying, and I think I came up with this, I didn’t dream this or read this and then thought I came up with it, I think it's mine. But it's this: the more you add value to the people's lives around you, the more it adds value to your life. If you think about that, if you add value to the people around you, then it's going to add value to your life is going to enrich you. It's going to build your relationships, your network, your reputation, you know, you help people like making money that, it just it goes around comes around.


So, on the flip side, what's the most challenging part of running a national team?


Well, I think it's just really too as the as the company grows, I mean, we have, we have about 50 people, you know, and as the company has continued to grow, it's really just trying to keep the, the culture and the high quality, you know, the messaging. Now I started the company for two reasons. And one was to that we'd be known for used our company name, we'd be known for integrity, and we'd be known for the best disposition marketing in the country. And I think those two things, it really helped drive us to be successful, and kind of help us make decisions every day, right? If you use integrity in your business, and then you try to be the best that you can be that does what you do, and add the integrity, then you'll do the right thing. So, you know, I think having a bunch of brokers and staff, you know, I have I'm really into training myself and training my folks. My brokers who run the plays that take in the training I give them, they do extremely well, I mean, it's just really great brokers that do really, really well. They don't see some guys that, you know, you think about commercial brokers where we're confident as a general rule, right. And we're social. And we think we know everything, and we don't we don't accept training well enough. And I think that's one of the challenges that brokers have is we think we know everything, and I've always known that I know nothing. You know, I know I need to learn and grow all the time and get better. And I think that's one of the great things about this business. There's no end to how skilled you can be, and there's no limit to your income. So, the most challenging thing is realized helping guys realize, and ladies realize that, you know, don't stop training, you know, just keep trying to get better all the time.


Can you explain to us why you decided to become an industry resource for your peers?


Yes. So, the show, the radio shows started off as an idea to be basically a marketing venue for my company Bull Realty. At the time we were more local and we started on one radio station in Atlanta and he quickly grew and it grew to 60 radio stations around the country and then it became one of the top show around the country. So, it started off as just a really a marketing piece for my firm and then it just grew into something you know, a lot larger. You know, I've always bought all the training for commercial agents that I could ever find from anyone and because I just realized the value to myself and to my guys of having that training and constantly repeating it and just so the best practices become innate to you. And I saw there was a big hole in the training. I mean there you know, there's not good training for negotiating and building your practice and overcoming objections and helping help sellers understand the value of proper pricing, and you know, and then kept searching for these kinds of training and when I did find it, which is so disappointing that I had to start creating it. And I kept creating it, creating it and improving, improving it. And then finally, I said, Well, one day when I get old, I'll produce this and let people around the world benefit from it. And then I realized I was getting old, and I better go ahead and do it. So, that's what happened. And now it's you know, it's online and people licensed them. And the most experienced brokers, at the biggest companies, they almost don't want to see it and then somehow they'll see it because they went in with the next gen or the younger guys, and they're just rant and rave over it. It's a pretty high quality and there wasn't anything out there. So that's why I did it. I had to for myself, and then started sharing.


Well done. So that's the podcast, or the radio show. Did it start as a radio show? What did it start as a podcast?


Sure, yeah. Well, it started as a radio show. And we recorded it and we put it out as a podcast even 10 years ago, and then it grew to 60 radio stations, and I still put it out as a podcast. So, on some of the podcast systems you can actually hear my first show, I did, 10 years ago.


Let's touch on the coronavirus. I'd love to hear your opinion on how you think the current crisis compares to other economic slowdowns that you've experienced and what you think the biggest impacts are or will be for, for our industry.


One of the things that could happen is this could be a shorter turnaround than we saw back in, oh, 08/09 because we have, you know, stronger banks, we have lower interest rates, there's more dry powder out there. And I think we have lower loan to value ratios on the properties in the low rates. I think, you know, there's a lot of people that like to follow the cycles, to buy and sell, and I think, you know, there there'll be some opportunities, especially in hotels and in retail, but I think some of the other sectors there won't be you know, that a real dip in values that some investors like to try to find. So I'm hopeful that the recovery is shorter than the last one, you know, and I think people and companies are going to become more budget conscious, you know, so I think company's gonna, moving forward, will be a lot more concerned about the bottom line and we talked about real estate here, they're going to really look at their occupancy costs really closely. And I think they might in some cases, not cram into the cities in the central business district and they may go to the suburban offices to both reduce costs, potentially get closer to some of their employees and get larger space. So, there's less square footage per person, that’s kind of been what's been going on around the country. And I think we'll see that now where people say, look, let's go back to, let's not go 200 square feet per person, let's go to three or 400. I think it'll change some of the attitudes and things of companies. And I'm hopeful that it's just going to be shorter because of the liquidity and the interest rates and things this time around.


So, what would you advise people to focus on right now, when you're in the middle of a crisis, and it seems like there's no end in sight or no light at the end of the tunnel. What should people focus on right now to ensure they're, I guess, prepared for when the crisis does inevitably end.


I think just be as active as possible. I can tell you I went through a terrible recession. My first one, you know, I've been doing this for 35 years. And I was just rocking along as a young agent doing really well. The world kind of just stopped and I focused on mainly apartments and all of a sudden they were all foreclosed. It was like a light switch. They change the tax angles on them, and all of a sudden the values all plummeted, all my deals cratered. And I really went into depression. I would, for me, I would call it depression, for two solid weeks. It was like, Oh, no, what's going on my life's over, but then I snapped out of it. And what I did was I got extremely busy and I get became extremely efficient and I concentrated on my business, my practice, my prospecting, my skills. I became a much better broker. I would have never, I would have still been a piece of crap agent, just going through the motions if that had never happened to me. So I think, you know, when this happens, it's the time that we should really step up. And then we have to, right, a lot of us just don't have a choice. You know, we go from working maybe for quality hours a day to 14, and we go to just work in in the business every day to also working on the business and figuring out what are best practices in it. Like my training, sales we were talking about before the training sales that I do at commercialagentsuccess.com have really expanded and there's a lot of people realizing, hey, this is a time to train and get better. And I think that's one of the things that can happen for commercial real estate people that are in any type of sales or vendor kind of relationship, that this can make us a lot better at what we do and I think that's what can come out of this and it's what it did for me in the past. And my business has always grown in downturns. Every time they've happened while I may have had a pause during it, my business really had the biggest catapults, the biggest jumps in revenues that continued on, during after recessions, or during the middle of recession, when people are looking harder at who to use, you know, I've always done better. So, when the markets really hot, and it doesn't really matter who they used to sell something, it's kind of seems to be harder to win market share. So, I think it's a time people need to realize: this is a time you can really build your business, get really busy, get really active and run your plays.


Let's talk about the topic of success. It seems like you have some specific strategies that you would employ to, you know, do deliberately and consistently to ensure you give yourself the best opportunity to succeed in your profession. What are some of those strategies that you have to make sure that you're in the best position to succeed?


Well, thinking about it as a commercial real estate agent, I think it's training constantly. And not thinking that we know everything, don't think that we can't get better. And the other one is consistent prospecting that's done the right way. I remember having an agent that had a team and she came in it was want to work at my shop. And she was really proud of the prospecting she'd done for like four hours before she came to see me. And I felt sorry for her because really what she did hurt her reputation and her firm’s, and she just wasn't doing it right. You know, and I felt sorry for her, but you know, it's it's so I think just consistent prospecting. And then consistent training are the two big things I would say that help agents and people to do what we do, be more successful.


So if people aren't in a position where they can ask someone or they don't have someone looking over their shoulder, to give them that feedback, that they're not doing it right, what are some of the signals that they can they can see to understand that: hey, maybe this is not what I'm supposed to be doing?


Yeah, so I think you know, as a trained sales person we really always looking at the audience, if you will, or the person that we're talking to, and we're, we're looking for feedback, and you get the feedback, and you really know, you could tell if you're talking to someone and they lose interest, you can tell by their t body movements and their eyes and their posture. And then when you don't win something, what I always like to do if I'm in a Bake Off or beauty contest, or whatever we call it where brokers are competing, is you know, if I can I go back if I lost it, and I asked, say, hey, what could I've done better? And you know, I think there's you don't want to look at as a win or loss, and you want to look at as a win or learn. And so, if you're constantly trying to get better, and then one of the tricks I've always done if you call a trick is when things don't go well, I always blame it on myself. I don't blame it on the market. I don't blame it on the client. Because you know, one of the worst things I think that happens in our business, is when we know a client should do something and we can't get them to do it. And you know, and I think I look inside I go, that's my problem. I didn't ask the right questions. I didn't pre manage it properly. I don't know enough about what's going on. I haven't developed my sales skills enough. You know, if you blame yourself, then you'll always just get better at things.


Another way of saying blame yourself is take responsibility.


Absolutely. You know, because, you know, you've heard it and people go, Oh, you know, that was it was a terrible client or a terrible market or, you know, it's a terrible property. No, every property is sellable. It's really there's a bad person selling it.


When you ask someone: “Hows’ the market?”, it depends who you ask, if someone's doing well, it's great. If they're not doing so well, they might be blaming the market for their lack of success.


And I'll give you an answer to that, that I have a lot of answers to the things that clients ask in my training that are gold, and one of the questions is that, and you know, I hear a lot of agents will sometimes say oh, you know, the markets pretty good. There's a lot of buyers in the market, blah, blah, blah. Well, this is what you really should say. Like I told you, I sell office buildings in Atlanta, not Atlanta in the US, and we sell large office buildings. So when somebody says, well, how's the market? Well I say, you know, well, there's been 182 sales of office buildings in the US over 50,000 square feet in the class A properties the average cap rate was 5.8%. And the average cap rate for B & C properties was 7.2. And they look at me. Oh, okay, I got my buy.,


It’s an objective statement. It shows that, you know, the market,


Right. Instead of just saying it’s a good time to sell, like, what? That way, and you can learn whatever sector and space and area and geographic area, if you study that and track all the sales, and then you just updated quarterly, then you can come up with statements like that, that just get people's attention. Hello,


Instant Credibility Buildings. Very good. So let's say a Little Johnny comes into your office and he's one year into his commercial real estate broking life. And he says, Michael, what's the one thing that I should do to succeed? What do you tell Little Johnny?


If I had to pick one thing, I would say it's consistent prospecting. You know, because, you always want to have…some people don't prospect, they say they don't have time. And, you know, and so they're not improving their lot in life. Right? So, if you ever had to get a price on doing some work around your property, your home, and the contractor gives you a high price. And then you ask him, Hey, this seemed a little high. And the contractor looks at you say, Yeah, well, I have a lot of business right now. So yes, it is high. If you want me, that's what I charge. We think about that as a broker. If you've got enough opportunities, because you're properly prospecting all the time, you're going to be able to work with more motivated clients, people who price their expectations are more proper, fees more proper, the agreements, you work through more proper, because you have more opportunities, right? So I think having a daily prospecting goal and a daily prospecting minimum that you do every day. And one of the things I found about that is half the minimum, that's low enough that you can get to it every day, no matter what. One day I had a really good day I sold five apartment complexes in one day. And this was before I owned my company, I was an agent, and I had three assistants that worked for me. And I went to those closings and went to closing I wasn’t around all day. And I came back in the office about 5:30. And I went to my desk and I and then picked up the phone and started to make some calls. And the couple of the girls, they were assistants, they came to my front office and said, What are you doing? What do you mean what I'm doing? I'm work here I'm making my dials. And he said, we just thought that since you had a good day, they figured out what I've made that day. And I said No, look, I don't know that every deal I have under contract that half probably could cancel the other half get delayed. I know I have to make my daily calls, get out of here, leave me alone. And I think when you get to that point in your career where you've hit these minimum, no matter what, it's almost hard not to be successful. That's the number one thing I would say.


Love that. Awesome, awesome advice. All right now people might be curious to have a look at your LinkedIn profile. And I saw something on your profile I've never seen on any other profile on LinkedIn, let alone on the profile of a commercial real estate professional. And that is a stand-up comedy routine. Was that a one off? Or do you regularly moonlight in comedy clubs around the US?


No, my company would not let me do it regularly because I'd say something and get that they get me fired, even though I'm the CEO. So, what happened was, as I've mentioned I'm continually trained all my career, and I just think it's a big part of success. You know, when you can train and have coaching and just continually improve yourself in a business like ours that has no limit on your income, why wouldn't you right? So, I like stand up comedy. And I was I got to a club a little early. And I was sitting at the bar waiting for the show to start. And I saw this little pamphlet on going to a class to learn how to do stand up comedy, and part of it in there said look, even if you never planned to be a stand up comedian, it'll really teach you how to sell and to do presentations. And I thought, you know what, that's great. So I took the class and they teach you how to write comedy. They teach you how to present the comedy, and how to be onstage and you can't write, you can't do jokey jokes. You can't cuss, and you can't touch yourself. And my wife said, I couldn't do wife jokes. And I said what's left. You have to write your own things. So you really learn a lot about economy of words, about delivery. So I found it to be really good sales training, and I speak in front of large groups and I tell you, it was a lot more scary being in a comedy club, where the mission was to make people laugh, than it's been for me to be in front of hundreds and hundreds of people talking about commercial real estate training and commercial real estate in general. So, it is a little bit scary, but it's a great experience. And I recommend it.


Michael, you've given us so much value during this interview. So I'd like to get one more piece of value from you, which is just to talk about life, work-life balance, and you know, what strategies you have in place to make sure that you can have the time for your numerous responsibilities at work but also your various personal interests and family.


My challenge, Darren, when I was young as an agent was my challenge was actually stopping I mean, I, I found it so fun to sell investment properties that I never wanted to stop because, you know, I'm on the east coast of the US while my clients on the West Coast so I can really start working at 8am and not have finished until nine or 10pm. And not to mention all the other research and marketing underwriting and all the things you could do off hours. So, my challenge was really just stopping and learning to stop. And one day I was working and I thought, look, I'm doing pretty well. But I'm not doing as well as some of the agents I read about around the country. And I studied them more and more and one thing I found this to your work life balance question was there, a lot of these people that made the ultra high income did have times that they took off and did things. And I read about this one lady that works three weeks of the month, 12, 14 hours a day for three weeks through weekend, everything. And then she took off one week and the two weekends a month, and traveled the world. So, this lady was traveling the world every month, and then she was coming back and doing her real estate business and working every day she was here, she was doing it. I thought wow, that is so awesome. So what I started doing was taking off every Friday at 5pm and then not working until Monday at 9am. And for me that was hard. And for me that was a vacation and I got a second home at a nearby lake, and toys and boats and stuff, and started as a as be a weekend fun guy. And when clients want me to do something, I'm gonna say, you know, I already have a commitment, you know, my schedule is tight if I don't tell them I'm on a boat drinking beer.


So it sounds like there's two positions on and off and you're just gonna know when that switch should be off.


During the week, it just being on all week, you know, from exercise to business, you know, I'm okay with that all week. And then because, I know on the weekends, you know, I'm gonna relax and have a good time and when I have a good time, I like to have a good time. You know, I like to play hard and make sure I'm having fun. I'm not I'm not sitting on the beach with my toes in the sand. I'm right. I'm driving a performance boat or performance bike or off-road vehicles. I mean, I'm because my our business is so fun. If I'm not having fun when I'm off, I'm gonna go back to work.


Darren Krakowiak:

Michael, you've really delivered so much value for the listeners on this podcast I'd like to say thank you for being with us here on CRE Success: The Podcast.


Michael Bull:

I'm glad to do it, Darren. Thanks for having me.



For more information about our guest, visit cresuccess.co/podcast. And now a final thought from Darren Krakowiak.


Darren Krakowiak:

If you'd like to learn more about Michael and how he helps people in commercial real estate, make sure you visit his website commercialagentsuccess.com.

All right at the top of the show, I teased that I have an announcement to make about our podcast. So here it is, we are extending season one for another 10 episodes, which will take us through towards the end of 2020. This is possible thanks to a sponsor having committed to back the show. And it's also thanks to your feedback and the fact that you have listened. I am convinced that I'm not just talking to myself and that we are adding value to the industry. So, another 10 episodes means that we need more guests. If you have any ideas on people you'd like to hear on the show drop me a line via LinkedIn, Instagram or send an email Darren@cresuccess.co

That's the show for this week. Thanks for listening and I will speak to you soon.



Thanks for listening to CRE Success: The Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe to us on your favourite podcast platform and be sure to leave us a five-star review. For more information about the show, just check the show notes on your podcast app or visit us online at cresuccess.co

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