Real Estate Career Advice By Jana Turner
May 15, 2010
Jana Turner began her real estate career as a leasing receptionist and advanced to president of asset services of CB Richard Ellis.
Jana Turner is president of asset services for CB Richard Ellis, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm. The asset services division provides property management, leasing, tenant relations, security, maintenance and engineering, financial reporting, and other services to owners of commercial properties in the United States. It has more than 700 clients ranging from large institutional investors to individual owners, a total of 408 million square feet of space under management, and 2,000 employees. Turner is a graduate of Northern Arizona University, where she earned a degree in business administration with a major in marketing. In an interview with writer James Carberry, she talked about her responsibilities, her career in real estate, what it takes to succeed in real estate, and the opportunities for young people in real estate today. Carberry collaborated with Stan Ross, chair of the board of the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate, in writing The Inside Track to Careers in Real Estate, recently published by the Urban Land Institute.
Could you briefly describe your responsibilities as president of asset services at CB Richard Ellis?
My job is to drive the strategy and financial performance for the division. That includes what services we should be offering, how we should deliver services, how we can enhance our service offering, and how we are performing financially. Currently, I am actively involved in developing the long-term recruitment and retention activities of the division—the talent management side of our business.
Did you plan a career in real estate?
When I was in college, I thought about becoming a retail buyer, but the low pay didn’t justify the long hours required. After graduation, I managed the human resources department of a bank.
How did you get started in real estate?
By happenstance, I heard about a job opening with R&B Commercial Management, a property owner and manager based in Los Angeles. I started there as a leasing receptionist.
Where did you go from R&B?
After R&B sold most of its portfolio, I joined IDM Corporation, a Long Beach, California, developer, as senior vice president of leasing, and headed up their leasing team. Among other engagements, we were responsible for leasing up the Greater World Trade Center in Long Beach.
What was your next career move?
I moved to Koll Real Estate Services, a facilities and property management company based in Newport Beach, California, where I was president of the Pacific Southwest region. In 1997, Koll merged with CB Commercial, which was primarily a brokerage firm, and I became executive vice president and manager of the western division of CB Commercial. The following year, I was named president of asset services of what is now CB Richard Ellis.
How have your responsibilities changed since you became president of asset services eight years ago?
Our division has grown, and with it the management responsibilities. We have a much bigger operating platform, with more clients, more properties and square footage under management, and more people in our division.
What are some of the issues that most concern your clients?
Since 9/11, clients have been strongly focused on security, risk management, and business continuity. Ensuring adequate supplies of energy and managing energy costs are also key concerns.
What are among your biggest challenges in working with clients?
Our people are out in the field, working at the property level, and often communicate with clients mainly by phone and E-mail. Sometimes it’s a challenge to maintain close relationships with clients without frequent physical contact. We have developed what we call a customer-centric model to ensure we are meeting the needs of clients and enabling them to realize the maximum value from their assets.
From your experience in starting at an entry-level position and advancing to your present position, what does it take to succeed in real estate?
Among other qualities, you need excellent communication and interpersonal skills, strong leadership skills, and critical-thinking ability. You must be a self-starter, have a strong sense of personal integrity, and be able to build trusting relationships with clients and peers.
Are there particular educational programs that would be useful in preparing for a career?
A bachelor of administration degree in business would be helpful; however, complementary degrees including communications and psychology can be applicable.
What might be a good starting point in real estate?
There are many different entry paths into real estate. One starting point is assuming an entry-level position such as a management associate or assistant real estate manager. After gaining a baseline of property management experience, one can be promoted to the level of real estate manager and achieve responsibility for a particular asset and client. As a real estate manager, your responsibilities mirror those of a CEO. You’re exposed to and responsible for every aspect of business management, including marketing, leasing, operations, financials, and human resources. In a large company like ours, you can move up to managing multiple properties and then managing a geographic region. That’s one of many career paths in our organization. We hire diverse candidates and provide an equal opportunity for everyone to advance in their careers.