Kyle Hanna, one of Canada’s leading industrial brokers, was awarded CBRE’s Vice Chairman title this summer, just the eighth CBRE sales professional to achieve the distinction.
Hanna joined the company in the research department in 2005 and moved into industrial sales the following year. Just 15 years later he’s CBRE’s newly minted Vice Chairman. In the past five years alone Hanna has transacted over 30.0 million sq. ft. of industrial space. Not bad for a humble kid from Burlington!
We spoke with Hanna about his new title, the secrets to his success, and what lies ahead for the red-hot industrial market.
What does the Vice Chairman title mean to you?
It’s an acknowledgement of all the time, effort and perseverance that goes into getting to this level. There are a lot of hours put in behind the scenes. It's a team award, too. There's no way I would have reached this title without having such a great team around me, from the support of (CBRE President and CEO) Werner Dietl and the management team, to the assistants and junior partners that I have. It’s nice to have the title but it’s also a reflection of the great people I've worked with and collaborated with.
To what do you attribute your success?
I’ve been lucky to be able to use the CBRE platform to my advantage and have had some incredible mentors. On the Industrial side specifically, I was able to start my career learning from Evan White and he was a huge mentor to me for many years, along with other senior brokers when I started in Toronto West, like John Lafontaine, John Planeta, Phil Cheung, Scott Steele, Mike Bellissimo, and Chris Bournakas.
I had great people to mentor me and learn from; they showed me the ropes and how to navigate transactions and how to work hard. It says something when the strongest industrial brokers in the industry have all helped my development, along with others throughout the CBRE network like Peter Senst, Iain Ferguson and many more. I have had great collaborative partners for many years, including the National Investment Team and great brokers from our office, retail, and land groups.
As I said before, my success is also attributed to an unbelievable support system within my team. I have the best assistants in the industry and hardworking junior partners as well as management that is aligned for all of our success.
Can you remember your first deal?
I remember my first big listing, a property on North Queen Street in south Etobicoke. I was the third name on the sign. I went to take a photo of my name on the sign as I was so proud to see it up there. There were no selfies back then and LinkedIn didn’t exist for me to post it. But it cemented the fact that I was really in the industry and going to do deals. Seeing my name on the sign was a big thing for my confidence.
There've been some funny stories over the years, as well. Like the time I chased a guy down on the golf course to get a waiver signed for a deal. I showed up at his golf club, hopped in a cart and found him, and got him to sign the waiver for a big sale deal on the seat of the cart the day it was due. His buddies thought I was crazy, but I got it done.
On another one of my first deals, I didn’t know what the process was, so I brought the deposit cheque to the landlord’s office and gave him the paperwork, and then stood around expecting to get the commission cheque. And he looked at me like, Are you crazy? He said, 'You get the commission cheque when it closes, and we mail it to your office. I can’t just cut you a cheque right here!'
How have the industrial market and real estate services evolved over the course of your career?
It’s definitely become more challenging to get deals done. There are a lot more legalities involved in deals; leases are longer, more complicated. The market gets tighter and tighter and it’s harder to get transactions done and find opportunities for clients. What has counteracted all that is that there’s much more collaboration among brokers at CBRE as well as throughout the entire global platform.
Real estate itself has become a centralized corporate function for companies, which positions CBRE and its platform well to assist. These days you get more deals done through relationships. Having a strong broker who is well-connected is more relevant than ever. A lot of deals are done off-market or through knowledge and intelligence, not through a search engine. It’s the relationship-driven deals that are getting done.
What advice do you have for tenants and investors in this heated industrial market?
You have to be working with a broker who you trust and have a relationship with. The advice and value-add of agents is stronger than ever. Institutions want to buy and tenants want to lease space, and so they rely on our knowledge of the pricing and availability. The market is so extremely tight that the advice and guidance on an asset-specific basis is essential. A lot of our day-to-day work is focused on helping clients to understand the rapidly changing market and what I would call more consulting work than pure transactional brokerage – that comes as a biproduct of the relationships.
What advice do you have to young people considering a career in commercial real estate?
First off, get ready to work hard. Try to outwork the person at the desk beside you; come early, stay late, stay focused. Do all the hard work. I was never smarter than everyone else, it was just keeping my head down and spending those first five years or so working extremely hard and many long hours. Secondly, alignment: You need to align with the right people. That’s the best basis on which to start your career. Alignment can come in the form of partnerships with brokers in your office, across the country, in different specialties and even at other brokerages. Collaboration gets deals done.
Industrial is still a big market and there are always opportunities for people to work in this space. But I think it's important to come in with a view of something you want to specialize in versus being a generalist. It says something when a young person has a strategic vision of what they want to do. Within the industrial asset class there are many sub-verticals and geographies that new brokers can specialize in.