From Old School Sales to Modern Brokerage, John Moe on Leading Colliers’ Real Estate Services

Colliers International, John Moe, San Francisco, Blackstone, Equity Office, Equitec Properties
Image Courtesy of Jared Erondu
Colliers International, John Moe, San Francisco, Blackstone, Equity Office, Equitec Properties
John Moe, Colliers International

By Meghan Hall

Some jump straight into real estate, knowing it is a career they want to pursue, while others fall into the industry more organically. For John Moe, what started as an interest in the finance sector has transformed into a life-long career in commercial real estate, working for some of the industry’s biggest players, such as Equity Office and DivcoWest Group. Now, Moe has accepted a position as Colliers Internationals’ new Executive Managing Director. The Registry recently caught up with Moe on how the business has changed, and the firm’s plans for growth throughout Northern California.

You join Colliers with more than 30 years of commercial real estate experience, most recently as a former Blackstone/Equity Office executive. How did you originally get into the commercial real estate business?

Coming out of college in 1984, I was originally focused on getting a financial analyst job with Equitec Financial Group, one of a handful of Bay Area-based publicly traded syndicators at the time. I was ultimately hired in the real estate division, Equitec Properties Company, as a Leasing Agent charged with canvassing and cold calling office buildings in the Oakland Airport and downtown Oakland office market. I had no idea what I was doing, but loved the introduction to sales and marketing. And yes, I was kicked out of a lot of buildings by lobby security. This was “old school sales” – the way the leasing business evolved – good old-fashioned hustle and drive to “eat what you kill!”

Thirty years later, I still love the real estate business. It’s entrepreneurial, complex, creative, multi-disciplined, and the results in terms of creating value are very tangible. 

Can you tell The Registry why you were drawn to make the leap to Colliers as new Executive Managing Director?

My career until now has been on the principal side of the business throughout the West Coast, with private developers, public REITs, and most recently, with private equity. I wasn’t really considering the service side of our business but once I did, Colliers clearly stood out as a company that was making some very notable investments in talent across multiple markets. They are clearly demonstrating a commitment to grow their platform in virtually every service line, with new tools, technology, and systems to better serve clients. The new leadership at Colliers was simply refreshing. I would not have joined the organization if I didn’t feel the company was poised to attract top talent, innovate and grow. 

What are the biggest lessons that you have learned over the course of your career that you will take with you into your new role?

That’s a tough question because I have learned so many valuable lessons. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with great leaders and mentors. First and foremost, I’ve learned, “you’re not as smart as you think.” It’s critical to surround yourself with smart, hard-working people, with fresh, creative ideas, and “listen, listen, listen and ask lots of questions.” You also have to empower people. Too often, very structured environments don’t allow people to have a voice. Everyone needs an avenue to grow and if they don’t, the model fails. Amazing things can happen to organizations when you provide the tools and runway to grow.

How have you seen the business of brokerage evolve in the Bay Area? What must brokerage firms do in order to remain competitive in markets like Northern California?

It boils down to people. The winners will be those firms that retain and recruit the best talent, professionals of integrity, creativity, and a sincere commitment to service not only existing clients, but to grow their client base over multiple service lines. We have a strong and growing global platform and legitimately respected leaders in all those areas, but we need to always go that extra mile to add value for our clients. It’s a very competitive environment, but we remain incredibly nimble, we have a very entrepreneurial culture that our professionals really thrive in and we’re poised to grow our competitive position. 

Heading up Colliers San Francisco and Peninsula offices, in addition to your other Northern California regional responsibilities, what are your main goals? What specific strategies are you working to employ to improve upon day-to-day management and operations? Why?

My primary responsibility is to drive the profitability of the San Francisco and San Francisco Peninsula offices for the firm. I will play a significant role in growing our capital markets, landlord/agency leasing and property management business in all of our 10 offices in Northern California and in Reno, Nevada. It’s obviously an interesting time in the real estate cycle and in our business, but Colliers is well positioned for growth in all of these markets.

How is Colliers poised for growth within the Bay Area?

We have amazing individuals and teams doing amazing work for our clients, in all “food groups,” throughout the Northern California region. What I can tell you, and the reason I joined this platform, is Colliers continues to innovate and invest in the platform. That starts with talent recruitment and an intense focus on expanding our client service deliverables and growing that client base. I was obviously impressed with the amazing people already at Colliers, many of whom I have long standing relationships with, having hired them as providers over the course of my career. But I’m even more impressed with the new folks joining the firm, at all levels. This momentum is absolutely going to transform the company over the next several years. It’s going to be exciting to be part of affecting transformative change within Colliers.

What is your current perception of the Bay Area commercial real estate market? What fundamentals are you keeping an eye on and why?

Pre-COVID, fundamentals were pretty darn good, despite the fact that everyone was nervous about where we were in the cycle and a pending election. The pandemic has created an entirely new set of obstacles to solve for and we are keenly focused on helping our clients pivot and make sound real estate decisions. It’s not easy. And make no mistake, Colliers is no exception, so we too are doing what we need to do for our employees and their families, but obviously paying close attention to our business partners and clients and doing what we can to address their business needs.

What are the biggest lessons that we’re learning today that will help us understand the market going forward?

The words that come to mind are “flexibility” and “Plan B.” Those that have it, will prosper. Those that don’t have it, are likely to be left behind…

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