by Dan Rafter
After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Dan Trebil pursued a career in the NHL, playing for Anaheim, Pittsburg and St. Louis before calling it quits. He then found commercial real estate, and he discovered that his new career offered its own rewards. Trebil, managing director of the Minneapolis office of NorthMarq Capital, recently spoke with Midwest Real Estate News about the challenges and rewards of building a career in commercial real estate.
Midwest Real Estate News: What led you to commercial real estate after your hockey career ended?
Dan Trebil: I went to the University of Minnesota where there wasn’t a real estate program to speak of. I wasn’t even on a business track at all in college. But after I graduated and while I was playing hockey, I started buying duplexes near the university. I had those as rentals. The idea was to grow that portfolio into something bigger. My hockey career ended before I had chance to amass the portfolio I would have liked to have developed. So I then went to work in Denver for a guy there who was selling apartments. I told him that I would work for free if he let me go to meetings, if he helped me learn the business. He was great. He handed me his list of clients and told me to figure out what people were up to. He told me to generate some business. That was a great experience. It got me used to picking up the phone and calling people I didn’t know.
MREN: You came back to Minneapolis and started working for NorthMarq in 2002. Did any of the skills you picked up during your hockey career help you in commercial real estate?
Trebil: There is something about the competitiveness. I think that is part of why I have had some success and why other athletes have had some success. There is a competitive spirit to commercial real estate. The harder you work, the better things turn out. That was the philosophy when I was playing hockey and it’s the same for what I am doing now.
MREN: What do you find satisfying about commercial real estate?
Trebil: I do like the idea that the harder you work, the more successful you’ll be. There is a direct correlation between success and hard work in this business. I also like the tangible aspect of it. I like that you can drive down street and see what you are working on. And there are some great people in this business, a lot of interesting people in this industry.
MREN: Are there any projects that you’ve worked on during your career that you are especially proud of?
Trebil: I get excited about all the deals I am working on. As of late, though, I have had the chance to work on some projects in the North Loop area of Minneapolis. That neighborhood has taken off with the arrival of the new Twins stadium. I had lived there at the end of my hockey career for a year or so in one of the first condo projects in that area. Since that time, the neighborhood has come a long way. It’s been fun to be back and do some business there. I loved living in that neighborhood.
MREN: What traits do you have that have helped you build a successful commercial real estate career?
Trebil: I consider myself a hard worker. That is a key. I am also strong analytically. Those are probably the two big reasons for the success that I’ve had.
MREN: What advice would you give to people just getting their start in this business? How can they build their careers?
Trebil: When I look back, the most beneficial thing that I ever did was picking up the phone and calling people. I felt like an idiot most of the time. Of course, the odds are that the people I was talking to didn’t give my questions a second thought after I hung up with them. It’s important to not be shy about reaching out and connecting to people. Even if you feel that you might have some ignorance, don’t be afraid of it. The best education is talking to people who are in the business. I learned an incredible amount from them.
MREN: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Trebil: When I retired from hockey, I didn’t spend much time in the rink for years. I only recently started playing again with some other dads whose kids play hockey with one of my daughters. It’s fun to throw a group of guys together and have fun on the ice once a week. I also coach my kids’ soccer and hockey teams. I have two girls, so that keeps me busy. And when I have time, I do throw in some golf, too.