Real Estate Career Advice By Richard Gilchrist

Where Are the Careers in Real Estate?

Stan Ross and James Carberry interview Richard Gilchrist, president of the Irvine Company Investment Properties Group in Irvine, California.

How has the recession changed the company’s approach to staffing?

Since the recession began, we have gone through a sea change in how we are staffed. In the past, we had a lot of vertical capability. We had people for practically every function, from traffic engineers to members of development teams, all working in different business units under the direction of very experienced senior people. We have changed that approach over last year or two. As we start to see a pickup in business, we are following more of an executive development model. We will use more outside consultants, supervised by key senior executives. So instead of having 20 in-house landscape architects, for example, we will hire outside architects to work as consultants when their services are required.

What changed the company’s staffing strategy?

All of us in this business had become too fat and inefficient. The proof of the pudding for us was that we have cut back on people in many areas; however, we haven’t lost anything in executing our business strategy.

How will companies generally approach hiring in the future?

For a number of years in this industry, the tendency in dealing with an issue was to hire more people: we tended to throw people at problems. In the future, companies will be much more cautious about adding people. For big operators like us and others in the industry, operations and management are much more important. How can we squeeze more efficiency out of our platform? How can we be the lowest-cost provider? How can we get an edge in leasing?

Where will graduates find opportunities in real estate in the future?

Just as in U.S. businesses generally, growth in real estate will be in small companies, and that’s where graduates should look. For example, some small firms have a lot of capital, but they need deal sourcing, and that takes people on the ground. More small firms will be offering outsourcing and consulting services to large companies such as ours, and, again, these companies will have a need to add people. If I were just graduating from a real estate program and had a chance to join a small company with growth potential, I would go for it.

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