Doug Altemuehle: Talent without character won’t make you a CRE success

doug altemuehle 2by Dan Rafter

Doug Altemuehle joined Cushman & Wakefield/Cincinnati Commercial, REALTORS® in 2011, after more than 27 years at West Shell Commercial/Colliers International.  As a principal and executive vice president, Altemuehle specializes in the sale and leasing of office properties. And he’s extremely successful at this: His office listing portfolio currently totals more than 2.5 million square feet, and he has successfully completed more than $1.2 billion in sale and lease transactions on more than 15 million square feet in his career.

Altemuehle has also been named to the Top Producer Club for 26 consecutive years by the Commercial Real Estate Council of Greater Cincinnati.

Midwest Real Estate News recently asked Altemuehle about his long career and the reasons for his success. Here is what he had to say. 

How did you get your start in the commercial real estate business? Thirty one years ago I started working for a leading locally owned commercial real estate firm.  I was just 18 years old and in night school when I took an internship in the company’s accounting department. It was there that I started getting excited about the real estate industry.

In 1989, I started the firm’s first research department, making the company one of the first firms in the area to regularly publish statistics on absorption, vacancies and lease rates that ran the gamut of commercial real estate. During that time, my interest in brokerage grew stronger.  By 1992, I was one of the youngest licensed commercial real estate brokers in Cincinnati. At that time, I chose to specialize in the office-space sector.

I realized that people spend more time at their jobs than they do with their family or friends. I felt then, as I do now, that I could make a larger impact on people’s lives working within the office side of the business than I could with the other specialties. This type of impact was exactly what I was looking to accomplish with my life. I also saw a constant demand in the office sector.

What do you enjoy most about this business? The highlight for me, absolutely, is working with such great people. I’ve been fortunate to have great partners at Cincinnati Commercial, REALTORS®. I also have great clients. In my business I can make a difference in people’s lives.  How great is that?  There is no better reward than hearing from customers and their employees how their lives have improved and production increased just from moving into new office space. I also enjoy the responsibility of managing risk, meeting deadlines and identifying cost savings for my clients.  These responsibilities are all vitally important and very rewarding, especially when I hear firsthand from a client and/or their employees how much they enjoy going to work.  I’m telling you, there is no better incentive or reward than hearing that.

doug altemuehle 3What are the greatest challenges in selling commercial real estate? There definitely are challenges! The first, and probably most challenging thing about selling and leasing commercial real estate, is understanding the cycle of the business so your clients are well prepared. Every business has its own cycle, and in real estate it has a direct impact on everything from property values, supply, demand and related costs and, really, everything.

A second challenge is for businesses to understand the importance of leveraging their real estate portfolio to provide maximum return to their operations. Basically, it’s helping clients align their real estate with their business plans. When I work with clients, one of my priorities is making sure they keep their real estate strategically aligned to their business. A third challenging aspect is finding new people. Over the past years due to the economy very few new people came into our industry. I’m always on the lookout for new talent in our industry.  Quality professionals who understand the kind of diversity that needs to be brought to the table take many years to develop.

Why do you think you’ve been successful in this business? What are the steps you’ve taken to succeed in commercial real estate? I’ve always kept in mind what basketball hall-of-fame legend John Wooden once said, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” I have always placed a high emphasis on my character. In addition, I’ve maintained a positive attitude, passion for the business and willingness to think creatively for my clients. I’ve been told that I have a reputation for going above and beyond for my customers, and I know I have the ability to approach the business from different perspectives.  Business is also personal for me. I get to know my customers and care tremendously about their needs.  I truly want them and their businesses to succeed.

The most critical step I’ve taken to succeed in commercial real estate, though, is that I’ve remained focused! It’s easy to get busy in this industry, but it’s much harder to be profitable. The way to succeed is to stay focused and steer clear of distractions. Another critical component was aligning myself with great partners. It’s imperative to work with people whom you trust, respect and enjoy working with.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work? I love spending time with my wife and children. I enjoy watching them dance, cheer and play sports. We’ve had a lot of fun on family vacations, and I can’t believe how fast time flies. Besides my family, my greatest passion is the outdoors. Most people know I’m a bass fishing pro “wannabe.” Fishing professionally is at the top of my bucket list. My biggest dream is to qualify for a Bassmaster or FLW fishing tournament. When it’s too cold to be on the water, I’m usually in a tree stand with my bow in search of the largest buck in the Midwest. I also love playing the guitar.

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