Principal Q&A: A Conversation with Rawly Lantz, SIOR

What was your first deal like?

What I want to focus on is not the first deal, but my first assignment.

It was a complex called Oak Creek Center in Lombard. 450,000 square feet. It was a huge assignment. Started my career and put me on the map. We worked on it for 5 or 6 years and it was what kickstarted my career.

How about a memorable deal? What stands out about it?

The one that comes to mind was right in the middle of COVID. Listening to the radio (Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio station at 960 AM), I learned a company was looking for a new corporate headquarters in the Park Ridge / Desplaines area.

I ended up representing them in the purchase of their new headquarters at a 50,000-square-foot building in Lincolnshire. This was at a time when everybody was masked up and things were tight in the market. And even in that atmosphere, it was an awesome process.

I enjoyed getting to learn more about them and helping them through the purchase of their new headquarters (a 50,000-square-foot building in Lincolnshire). To this day I still see Relevant Radio bumper stickers on cars and it brings a smile to my face. I love knowing that I played a small part in helping them find their new headquarters in the northern suburbs.

How do you stay updated on the latest trends and market conditions in the industry?

It is a bunch of different things.

It’s subscribing to Crain’s daily updates and Costar’s information and networking tools.

But the biggest thing for me is this SIOR network. That network (both regionally and nationally) is how I stay abreast on what’s going on, particularly on a macro level—trends in the industry, what folks are seeing in different markets, and how that applies to our business.

What is your process for building and maintaining client relationships?

There’s no silver bullet here—it’s just a matter of touches.

One of the things that I think I’m pretty good at that’s helped me in my career is that I’m always in front of people. I’m a big communicator, and it’s not from a formalized standpoint—that’s not who I am. It’s more about staying in touch with people on a regular basis through deals.

If they’re former clients, I make sure I’m reaching out a couple of times a year to see what they’re looking at, what they’re seeing. I’ll reach out to share some of the things I’m seeing at the SIOR conferences I attend.

Overall, it’s simply about staying in touch with people—being visible to folks, either current clients or past ones who might become future clients.

What’s something that motivates you?

What brought me to this career— and what I ultimately enjoy every day— is the people.

You’re always dealing with somebody new every single day, and that’s what excites me about this business. No two days are ever the same— they’re not even close to the same. Personalities are different and I get to see and talk to around 50 people a day (via email or in person).

Everybody’s motivations are different, and it’s just a matter of managing those to the best of my ability for whatever side of the deal I’m working on.

What’s special about the industry, the market, or the location you serve?

What’s special to me is that most of the folks that I deal with are entrepreneurial. Some are mom-and-pop, and some are bigger than mom-and-pop, but even the institutions we work with are looking for entrepreneurial perspectives.

That’s what’s special to me and what fits my personality the most. It’s why a lot of clients have come to me and Cawley because there’s a match in our thinking about how to get things done in an entrepreneurial way. Frankly, even the institutional clients that we worked for, they’re to the point where they want maybe more of an entrepreneurial mindset to help them with their assets, and that’s the advantage that I have brought and continue to bring.

Zeroing in a little bit more on yourself here, what was your start in the industry like?

I started at Cawley Chicago. Previously, I had worked in the corporate world for eight years directly

out of college. I didn’t know anything different— that’s just what everybody did (go to college, get a corporate career in sales or marketing). And that was going on just fine, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

Until I was 28 years old, I didn’t know commercial real estate existed.

Around this time, I started to meet a few folks in the industry and the personalities of the people lined up with mine. I liked what I saw with them, and I thought maybe real estate could be something that would work well for me.

Fast forward a little bit, I met Dan Cawley at Cawley Chicago and learned the business from him.

Going back to that first assignment I mentioned earlier, Dan was there with us and helped us chase that book of business, which ultimately kicked my career off.


What ultimately attracted you to the industry?

It was the people of course, I keep saying that, but the draw is the people and their personalities. They’re very creative people. Not artsy necessarily, but creative thinking. Nobody’s stuck too much in their own line of thinking. It’s more about how to come at a situation and solve a problem.

It’s the creativity of it.

And then frankly, it’s the fact that you’re not chained to a desk every day. You’re expected to be out in the field where your business is located. You need to be out and about, seeing what’s going on in the market, seeing what these developments are doing, and seeing what those spaces might look like.


What would you say has changed the most since you got your start?

It’s all technology. That’s the biggest thing.

When I first started, it was very common to go door-to-door, knocking on office doors and trying to get to the decision-maker. There’s a lot less of that going on now, of course. Today, I’m reaching people through technology, through networking with clients, tenants, contracts, or whoever it might be.


What advice would you give someone looking to get their start in commercial real estate?

Please do, for starters. But think long term.

The first couple of years, unless you get extremely lucky, are going to be thin, financially speaking. Longer term, if you can weather the initial storm and stay patient, the fruits of your labor will come to you.

Something else I would add: when you’re new to this industry, you can’t necessarily look at what the senior-level people are doing on a day-to-day basis to map your day. What you’re doing as a new entrant to the market is dramatically different than what I do right now or what others at any level do right now.

Having been in the business for a while, it’s much more of a managing type of situation with clients old and new. But when you’re first coming out, you don’t have any clients, so you can’t act that same way. You have to develop your own path, your own relationships. You have to leverage the people around you, of course, but your day-to-day cannot be the same as the people who have been in the industry for many years.

Unfortunately, too often, some of the newer guys don’t realize that you’ve got to work a little harder in the beginning.

Outside of work, what do you do to recharge?

I’ve got a 7th grader and a 5th grader, and they’re active in everything you could possibly imagine. So that’s what I do outside of work, it’s recharging through them.

I play a ton of golf as well. And my kids are getting to the age where we’re doing that together, so it’s all family time.

Is there anything about where or how you grew up that influences your approach?

Everything that I owe in my life is due to where I grew up and to playing golf. I grew up in a small town playing all sorts of sports growing up, but I was the best at golf and played that the most.

I think the one thing that translates from that upbringing to what I do now is when I was younger, I was playing golf with a lot of older gentlemen and through that experience, I got to know how to interact with people who were older or had more experience than I did.

That’s a lot of what we do on a day-to-day basis—talking and interacting with people. Everything that I have is through golf, and the people I met in this industry, I met through golf. Golf is how I first learned about this industry and how I ended up in this career so that upbringing led me to all of this.

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