The Zamudio family has three members involved in the commercial real estate industry in the Bay Area. Mark, the dad, has been an industrial broker for over 40 years, and his sons Grant and Blake followed in the industry after watching their dad traverse the market over the decades. All three work at Colliers’ Redwood City and San Jose offices, and share their inspirational family story, including how their close-knit relationship helped them navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please tell The Registry a little bit about yourselves. What first got you interested in commercial real estate and inspired to join the industry?
Mark: Back in college at San Jose State University, a friend of mine working for JR Parrish, where I would eventually work, told me, “You have to meet my boss. He’s the greatest guy in the world. You should interview with him.” Curiously, I asked, “Well, what do you do?” He told me he worked for a commercial real estate company, to which I replied, “And what is that?”
Even after he explained it to me, I didn’t really understand it. And then a couple months later he suggested again that I should check out commercial real estate, and that it would be a lot of fun. I admitted to him that I didn’t know much about the industry, and that it wasn’t the right fit for me. He kept pushing, telling me we could be partners and would have a lot of fun working together. A few months after I graduated, I ran into my friend and his girlfriend at an ice cream shop. My friend asked me if I had a job yet, and if not, would I be willing to meet with his boss.
I agreed to meet with JR Parrish and as good fortune would have it, my friend was telling the truth. During the interview, JR introduced me to “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino, which has nothing to do with commercial real estate but has a lot to do with developing good habits, understanding how to greet each day and how to be successful in sales. And that’s how I got into the business. Not by personal desire but by happenstance, and I feel very fortunate to have been with the same company now for 40 years.
Grant: Isn’t there a BMW story?
Mark: My friend took me out to lunch the day he asked me to be his partner and picked me up in a BMW. It was the first time I had ever ridden in a luxury car. I was in awe and wanted to know where he got the car. He said it was one of the perks of being in commercial real estate. It was a motivator for sure, Grant.
Blake: After graduating from University of Colorado at Boulder, I wanted to carve my own path and prove myself before moving into commercial real estate. I worked for a software company called Marketo and did software sales for four and a half years. I was able to work my way up and eventually assisted with the opening their Atlanta office. We grew that office from five to close to 100 employees in a two-year period. Working in Atlanta was a great opportunity for me. I gained experience working in a market far from my comfort zone of Silicon Valley and learned first-hand about scaling organizations. Marketo’s acquisition by a private equity firm gave me time to reevaluate my long-term goals and career path. After a lot of thought, I started shadowing my dad and brother, Grant, and eventually made the decision to go into commercial real estate. Now I’m on the flip side of things. I get to help companies open offices in other markets and scale their businesses every day.
Grant: How I became interested in brokerage was through watching the lifestyle my father was able to enjoy. Wanting that for myself, I asked him how I could get started in the business. He told me that the skills necessary to be a good real estate broker don’t directly transfer to other companies or industries, so if you don’t like it, it’s hard to get out. The example he gave was “if you sell servers at Cisco, you can likely apply to sell servers for Oracle, but if you are a broker at Colliers and you want to go sell servers at Cisco, it’s likely an uphill battle.” He suggested I find something complimentary to brokerage before officially making the jump. Because of that, I decided to work at McLarney Construction here in the Bay Area. I learned how to design and construct office space for growing businesses while working with both developers and tenants. Four years later I was hired away by CBRE to do project management in Palo Alto, and after that, Colliers.
Did you feel that you were destined for commercial real estate after watching your father do business while growing up?
Grant: Destiny wouldn’t be a fair statement, but I had a good feeling about it. My Dad seemed to have the best lifestyle of any parent I knew. I remember he coached all our soccer games and even took a month off to travel to Europe and wasn’t stressed about work the entire time. At the time I thought to myself, whose dad gets to take all this time off, do fun things with their kids, have a good lifestyle and be there for all of us? I got into the business because I wanted to have the same work life balance he did – remembering how much fun we had growing up.
Another funny thing I remember liking about the business when I was younger, was that my dad said he would get paid $50 dollars to attend an open house! That seemed like the best deal ever, and I wanted to see if that was true.
Blake: I don’t know if it was destiny for me either, but my dad and brother played an important role in influencing my decision to get into the industry. Real estate has been a part of my life since I was young, and I was fortunate to have a dad who was a great role model and mentor. He exposed us to commercial real estate at a young age, and it has now become something we can enjoy together.
We got firsthand experience watching our dad engage with a lot of different clients, tour countless buildings and rapidly grow his business over the years. It was an amazing opportunity to see how success could be achieved in an entrepreneurial way with a great work life balance. How could you not be intrigued to follow in his footsteps?
Grant: Being your own boss while also having the ability to target whatever business you desire was also very appealing to me. I hear a lot about employees in tech sales who are given territories, limits on prospects they can speak with and are ultimately unable to control their own destiny. That just didn’t appeal to me and my entrepreneurial drive. What I did not realize about this business is how quickly you need to become CEO, CMO, COO, CFO, and head of sales in order to be successful.
What is your favorite aspect of the industry? Why?
Mark: Having a family with three children, what I’ve come to appreciate is the incredible freedom this business offers us. We can work our traditional 8 to 5 business hours, but that’s never the case. So when we do take time off to be with our family we can be flexible with our hours and put in time late at night or on weekends to meet the needs of our clients. The competitive nature of this business is a lot of fun as well. It’s mostly friendly but can be rough at times. I’ve always loved sports and playing competitive games, so this is a nice extension of that.
Blake: Everybody loves real estate, it’s where we live, work and interact with each other, not to mention an integral piece of our economy. I enjoy being an expert in an industry that so many people love and are passionate about while acting as a valuable resource to clients as they look to achieve their goals. I also love that this business is entrepreneurial, relationship-based and that it brings out my competitive nature.
Grant: I am a data driven real estate strategist who helps companies make faster and more effective decisions about their leased and owned real estate portfolios. I enjoy being at the tip of the spear to a lot of business decisions. We help fulfill business objectives through real estate, even things that are not directly real estate related. An example might be, thinking through the logistics of delivering a package to someone’s doorstep in 2 hours, which is as much a real estate strategy as it is a business strategy. It’s fun advising companies to find solutions to complex business problems through real estate.
Mark: If I can add something else, from the moment I interviewed with JR Parrish, I found him extremely personable, very interested in me, a great motivator and a man of great integrity. Over the years, I came to understand how much he cared for the organization he was building and in turn it allowed us to become a solid team and a family. There is a lot of personal satisfaction in being a part of that kind of professional environment.
How did you end up at Colliers?
Blake: When I made the decision to start my career in commercial real estate, I knew I was going to Colliers. I had the unique opportunity to work at the same company with my brother and dad, which was something I couldn’t pass up.
Grant: I had the opportunity to work with Phil Arnautou, who is one of the best in the business. I was told, “When you come into the business, you have to have a good mentor.” Not only was my dad here, but I had the opportunity to work with one of the best, so I took the offer and never looked back.
Mark: I came to Colliers through the company’s acquisition of Parrish. At Parrish, we became a tight family with a strong leader and were autonomous with the types of business we wanted to pursue. Now we’re part of a large corporation with a great flag and market presence all over the world. The transition is one of growth. We’re learning and we expect to be introduced to a lot of new and exciting opportunities and best practices.
Do you feel you are competitive with each other? Why or why not?
Mark: On the golf course? Or in the office? Within the industry, there is no competition between the three of us. Anything we can do to support one another, we do. As far as sports go, I can’t keep up like I used to. These young ones are too strong, too fast and too nimble, but I enjoy playing golf with them and being with them and their growing families as often as I can.
Pre-pandemic, how often did you find yourself in the same office?
Mark: I’m in the San Jose office and Blake and Grant are in Redwood City. Only when they come to San Jose do we bump into each other. It’s like ships passing in the night. And there isn’t a lot of personal interaction when we do see each other in the office.
Blake: Pre-COVID, Grant and I saw each other a lot. In fact, we sat next to each other. Our family and team are very close, so it’s more about succeeding as team than as individuals. Whether we’re working on business or spending time as a family, we always look for ways to support each other. But I will say there’s a putting green in the office, which definitely encourages some healthy competition.
Grant: Honestly, I am more competitive with myself than I am with my father or brother. I strive to produce at the highest level because more than anything I want to make my brother and father proud.
What’s the best and worst thing about having family in the commercial real estate business?
Mark: For me, the best and the worst go along with each other. The best is celebrating each other’s successes. Commercial real estate is a very complex industry, and seldom do things go as planned. It’s an industry, unfortunately, that is fraught with disappointment. I would say the worst thing is watching either son clear business checkpoints to then barely reach finish line. It’s disappointing, but we’ve all been there. You have to find a way to pick yourself up, dust off your shoulders, put a smile on and keep moving forward doing what’s right.
Blake: Celebrating each other’s successes is a good one, I agree. I would also add that another downside of having family in the business is that whenever we get together as a family we still talk about commercial real estate 80 percent of the time.
Grant: I would agree with Blake. The best and worst part about having family in real estate is that we talk about it a lot. We can empathize with one another and offer mentorship in ways most others can’t. We can also end up talking about real estate for hours and forget to ask each other about our personal lives.
What specific lessons have you learned from your father along the way?
Blake: Always show up. Always be there in the office, be there for clients, be on calls, whatever is needed to be present and show that you’re dedicated. This translates into doing everything with purpose, understanding that everything is bigger than you and your hard work contributes to the growth of the greater team and the Colliers brand.
I would also add that attention to detail is extremely important. The more you can stay on top of very small details, the more value you can provide to your clients and those around you.
Grant: My dad has always told me that every client has “MMFI” tattooed on their forehead. MMFI stands for “make me feel important.” Every single day I approach every situation and relationship with that in mind.
The other piece of advice is to be very detailed in everything you deliver. If it isn’t clear, complete and timely, it’s not worth delivering.
Conversely, Mark, what have you learned from Grant and Blake since they entered the business?
Mark: I’m very proud of what Grant and Blake been able to achieve in a short amount of time. Looking back at the way we did business when I joined the company in 1981, business was conducted at a snail’s pace compared what the boys are able to do now. I’m thankful for the relationships built over the years, because I wouldn’t be able to play in the same arena if I were just starting my career now. But it’s great to see my sons’ successes and watch them develop highly competitive skills.
What Blake shared before actually came from my former boss, JR Parrish. He often had great advice, coupled with solid business philosophies. I remember he created a weekly voluntary meeting focused on self-improvement. He would say, “the largest room in the world is the room for self-improvement.” He was highly motivated to improve himself, and he inspired others to be the best that he could be. He also focused on replacing bad habits with good ones. He would say “Mark, if you always do what you say you will do, I can build an empire around you. If you only sometimes do what you’ll say you will do, then you are just another pain in the ass.” This is why I tell Blake and Grant to always show up and be someone others can count on. We hope to pass down a legacy of integrity, honesty and total commitment when it comes to serving clients.
2020—and even the beginning of 2021—has been rough for many in the industry. From a commercial real estate perspective, how have you worked to support each other professionally as the market has fluxed?
Mark: We have a lot of discussions on where we are, where we’re going and what’s likely to occur. The pandemic was a terrible time that rocked the world but we’re coming out of it. And we’re kind of coming out in a roaring fashion. My area of specialty, industrial, has never been more active than it is now. A lot has to do with the Amazon effect and the way social distancing was accelerating their business model. We are now turning the corner toward normalcy again, and you can feel the pent-up desire to get back to being closer to one another again. A lot of companies and individuals are chomping at the bit to get everyone connected again, which underscores how important social connectivity is to the pace of success within this Valley.
Blake: We do all sorts of tenant representation, office, R&D and life science to name a few. When the office market was largely put on pause, we focused a lot of our strategy on development and consulting. Understanding the return to work and the evolution of the workplace was big focus for us, especially with so many of us essentially embarking on a 15-month work from home experiment. We also put a lot of effort and energy into refining our knowledge about life science companies and their needs. These organizations were largely deemed essential and still had pressing real estate needs. We worked together to improve our service offerings and our data to better assist these organization while the office market was in flux.
Mark: Blake’s experience working with Marketo was extremely helpful throughout the pandemic. When social distancing was implemented, it became a real challenge to our business since so much of our activities are connected to in-person service. Being able to continue doing business meant finding ways to create safe environments to connect and having the right communication channels and proper messaging to help us do that.
Grant: I would add that knowledge transfer was a big area of support during COVID. We all have different clients dealing with the same challenges. This allowed for some unique insights to be shared amongst the three of us, which in turn helped us accelerate problem solving for our clients.
From your perspectives, how have the tenant rep/occupier services spaces evolved over the past year? What are the biggest changes you are tracking and why?
Blake: We have a really strong team at Colliers that focuses on workplace strategy, and I would say that was a key topic throughout the past 12-15 months. Workplace strategy discussions started around what configurations would safely allow employees to reenter the workplace and what safety features need to be installed – touchless locks, sanitizing stations, temperature checks, distance dividers, new HEPA filters, etc. As time went on, we shifted our focus towards employee data and the massive work from home experiment that is currently taking place. We are evaluating how employees are adapting to working from home, how productive they are, what are the major challenges, how many days a week will employees want to work from home, the list goes on. Now we’re tracking how the physical office space will change and adapt post pandemic and how it will impact the way companies do business. My team is having ongoing strategy discussions with workplace experts and our clients regarding how office designs may improve to accommodate new wants and needs from companies and their employees.
Grant: The real estate industry is slow to change, which is both a benefit and a detriment. Most of our competition is not using data in the same way we do to make smart and more advantageous real estate decisions, that’s the benefit. The detriment is that big data and technology is changing the landscape so quickly the industry might not be able to keep pace with the future needs of our clients.
What are you looking forward to most in the coming months? Why?
Mark: I’m already feeling hopeful. With the mask mandate expired as of June 15 and a decent portion of the population fully vaccinated, people are feeling more confident and ready to move towards our old normal. It’s definitely an emotional positive getting back to hand shaking, hugging and the feeling of old without the worries of the past. The ability to reconnect is exciting and is being well-received but with plenty of caution by our company. It’s a wonderful happy feeling; like the early morning sun slowly beginning to warm our bodies again.
Blake: Real estate is a person-to-person driven business. To be in this business you’ve got to love being around people. Not having the ability to be around colleagues and client for such an extended period of time was challenging. With the recent surge of market activity, doing more tours and seeing people face-to-face, it makes all the difference. You can really feel a sense of renewed energy all around, and I am excited for that to continue as people get back into the office.
Grant: I too am excited to strategize with my colleagues and clients face-to-face, in a meeting room or over lunch. It’s nice to be more than a screen to someone.
Any final thoughts to share?
Mark: I am so thankful to have stumbled upon this incredible industry. It has been an amazing ride that I have loved every minute of. It’s been uplifting, challenging and never a dull moment. I’m always excited to get up each day looking forward to the fun I’m about to create.
Blake: I feel fortunate to have witnessed the path my dad paved in this industry for the past 40 years. He provides amazing mentorship for my brother and me. It is also a blast to work with my brother on a daily basis. It’s been an awesome four and a half years at Colliers, and I’m excited to for what’s ahead.
Grant: I just want to say thank you to my dad. He has been nothing short of a perfect father who has “Made Me Feel Important” my entire personal and professional life. Without his empathy and support, I have no idea where I would be. He has armed me with skills that enable me to feel like I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I hope to continue making him proud both in my personal and professional life.