Commercial real estate leaders push for more diversity

Every year, about this time, the commercial real estate industry congregates for conference season. It’s a time to gather, learn and network.

When the pandemic struck in 2020, we found ourselves doing this virtually. I’ve embraced virtual meetings in a big way, but conferences just don’t work.

Yes, the learning sessions are OK, but the real fun of a convention is passing someone in the hall on the way to dinner and inviting them to come along. Or grabbing a quick cup of Joe with an acquaintance from another market. These chance encounters are all lost when conferences are conducted virtually.

Annually, two or three of these decorate my docket — the Lee & Associates Summit, Society of Industrial and Office Realtors and one other. The “other” this year was the Commercial Real Estate Influencers Summit. Others such as NAIOP, CCIM, Crew Network and ICSC abound. If so inclined, you could bounce from one to another for the entire month. But two this year were enough for me!

So, let’s talk about what’s in store for our industry in the years to come, based on what I learned.


Commercial real estate brokerage has been a male-dominated industry for decades, and once was tightly held among families such as the Daums, Dunns, Cushmans, Beitlers, Klabins and others.

Akin to an apprentice program within trades, our craft was passed to the next generation, primarily men. But that is changing! And I say, bravo! It can’t happen soon enough.

Half the participants in the CREi Summit were women and minorities. Slotted among the leadership team for this event were several women who have made themselves quite famous through social medial marketing. Commercial Real Estate Women Network’s incoming president Barbi Rueter from Tucson, Arizona, along with Casey Flannery from Memphis, Tennessee, presented at the SIOR conference.

SIOR Global CEO Robert Thornburgh also has signed a pledge committing “to real change in commercial real estate” for our organization. That pledge can be found at I look forward to the days ahead when our business reflects the world.


There were speakers galore in both of the gatherings I attended. Generally, these are folks who have taken down Bin Laden, scaled Everest without the aid of oxygen or conquered a similar superhuman feat. Motivation is the theme.

Gained from their experiences are applications to our business. Certainly, some of my deals this year have been tantamount to a K-2 summit attempt, but I digress.

This year, however, found our attention peaked – sorry – toward the future.

David Nour has written a new book, Curve Benders. I found the story of Amazon’s rise to prominence especially intriguing. You see, we all plateau in our careers. Finding a way to bend our “curve” upward is the challenge. “Commit and then figure it out,” is the mantra of Southern California’s own Mick Ebeling of NotImpossible Labs. Please look into some of the “impossibles” Mick has made possible. He’s truly mind-blowing!


Everything is so much better when a story is told. I suspect many of you are like I am when I say stories are memorable when they inform, educate or entertain. Oh yeah, and when they’re not too long.

Sure, I can tell you I closed a tough deal similar to the assignment we are discussing. But, if a story is weaved into the fabric, the experience is forever with you.

Bolstered by a beautiful baritone voice and riveting stories, Phil Darius Wallace ranks among my top three best speakers I’ve ever enjoyed. Still within my psyche are his descriptions of the lovely eagle and the chicken who didn’t realize her potential. You see, the chicken had been told her entire life she was a chicken when in fact she was an eagle. My, what soaring goals she missed laboring under someone’s opinion of her.

Wow! What an incredible two weeks. But, I’m happy to be home and invigorated for the months ahead.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at or 714.564.7104.