What it takes to become a Commercial Real Estate Broker

The journey to becoming a Commercial Real Estate Broker is long one, and each person’s path to success is unique, but there are some fundamentals that never change.   Building authentic personal connections with everyone you meet along the way, and always coming from a place of contribution are an integral part.  

This episode is all about one man’s  journey as told from a very special guest. Tray Bates is a third-generation real estate broker, but after graduating from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, he decided to start his career in Dallas rather than returning to the family business in Corpus Christi. He worked for the real estate arm of a hospital group and as a broker for a large commercial real estate firm before joining real estate group CMD Realty Investors. The environment there and his boss, Bob Gibbons, gave Bates the opportunity to prove himself. 

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Full Transcript Below


Host: Welcome to the young wild financially free podcast and audio experience for we don’t just talk about it we live it


Host: I’d like to start at the beginning where are you from originally?


Tray Bates: Originally from Corpus Christi Texas stay there throughout high school and then went off to school went to college at TCU stayed in that market for about 13 years after I graduated worked with a bunch of commercial real estate firms there… back up a little bit ,my family is a commercial real estate family in Corpus Christi generation broker and in the commercial field and both of my dad and grandfather big big Personalities in the real estate business and have always been great mentors to me and might our life growing up I always knew that I would be in real estate because I loved what they did I love their lifestyle and I just I knew going out of actually before I graduate high school I knew I wanted to do for my life went to TCU have a finance degree with a concentration real estate  So I went stayed the whole time most people change their Majors not me I was lined up there and a year before I graduated I start working for a brokerage company and get my feet wet and started my brokerage business before I even finish college. 


Matthew Teifke: Very cool!  so what about I guess when you were growing up seeing your dad and your granddad I’m working at Commercial Real Estate do they ever take you to the office at work what sparked your interest in that? 


Tray Bates: I think we’re always going to the office riding in the car open up signs it was always something real estate-related me once you get into the business it becomes your everyday and everything we did was real estate-related so is oh we’re not just going to go from A to B if we had to go somewhere we had to go a circuitous route to go look at something on the way that was just how we lived and yeah we always get my dad a hard time because his driving skills are terrible he would pop a curb your kids have a real estate license this is okay that’s so true man and I remember you like it’s just a different world are you like trying to write down numbers cuz there’s not a big MLS and you’re working on the highway and so it’s so true like you just used to that with commercial brokers all kinds of things happen when you doing crazy driving like that but now my wife gives me a hard time about my driving 


So when you started real estate you said before you graduate college so yeah I guess you started that in Fort Worth by senior year found a great company that really had great relationships with that TCU grads and offered an internship and the first six months of that time frame I was an intern for Huff Brouse McDowell & Montesi which has since become something else and as those guys have done different things but that was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and my business professional office environment kind of setting great people high-energy really hard drivers and I really pushed us and I was just a kid and getting in the business and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do and so they assigned me to one of the top Brokers and as my mentor and I helped me kind of just start I was kind of his gofer that starts out but you really learn a lot as you’re going through that process so I highly recommend anybody looking at getting the business especially when they’re young trying to figure out what their career path would be by there for a little while you don’t get paid a lot but it’s certainly worth the the lessons you learn and how you pick up Snippets about the business before you totally dive in because it was an eye-opener to me about all kinds of I had a great time doing it was a very collegial environment we had a lot of fun together we work hard we played hard we stayed up late at the office till midnight. 


Host: Was it always commercial real estate? 


Tray Bates: Well my wife has a residential background and she’s had her license since the mid-90s and and so she said yeah I’m thinking without a put a boutique group together and so in the last number of years we’ve had a residential real estate Boutique firm that small group of Agents only three or four at the max that focused on more higher-end eclectic type homes and things like that .


Matthew Teifke: So with the commercial real estate side has is it always been being a broker or was it being an investor and a broker or what kind (of mix)? 


Tray Bates: had some other deals I did on my personal level is never mixing the two so I stayed really on the Broker side of those like the bigger focus is like just be great at broker


 And most of the investors are just looking for commercial real estate that will bring back a return?


 So when I started in the Dallas-Fort Worth Market it was alot of Big Market corporate clients so I started working with groups like Lockheed Martin and various Hotel groups and work for Texas Commerce Bank when it used to exist doing their site selection various things like that so I started out in retail and and and then migrated a little bit more towards office start working with a lot office clients and doing a representation and also some project representation to project Leasing and then after about 5 years or so I I got a call and someone I worked with in the past   


said he was handling a merger with Presbyterian of Dallas and Baylor was going to be one of those deal and it became Texas Health Resources Dallas real estate which include all the hospital properties in St Paul Medical Center where JFK some of those other partner at that time so I was helping with a bunch of those properties only the big hotels but also the big acute Care Centers they off the mobile office buildings and Medical Office Buildings kind of off-site from the major campuses is responsible for all the relationships with the doctors in those office spaces and making sure they stayed leased up and at the same time working with the the hospital and their leadership in trying to make sure all the other side.


Matthew Teifke: Interesting, so is it kind of like an asset manager type role is that what you call that?


 Tray Bates: It was really mostly handling the the relationship with the hospital and the doctors and the tenants to handling all the construction projects that involved in all it was a big job and I would say probably that first year I probably did 100 leases in a real quick order and then the funny thing about it is that timing of when all that was going on was the industry hit, and had a huge shift the IRS has changed how you can do how not for not-for-profits could operate short so if you could think about back in the day hospital administrator would give a doctor really good office deal if you use my hospital so they would bring great doctors in use their Hospital facilities and there’s a great partnership and they had a good office space but IRS said no,… time out this has to be an arm’s length transaction and has to be full Market rents and then whatever services you offer have to be attractive to so…. I had to be the bad guy to walk in there and go home and actually about half what they should be and oh by the way you have to pay for all these tenets finishes and they’re not twenty-five bucks a foot there a hundred bucks of foot and so that was a gard conversation to have, and some of these guys just going through a few years before that for all his Partners to get into all these doctors to get into Partnerships and the partnership scheme was we’re going to break this partnership I’m going to get more time off and we’re all going to get more time off but we’re all going to work together and we’re going to make more money well that kinda cratered so they were like scared of doing any kind of contract or anything like that so the environment of raising rents and all that stuff much less having this I need a long-term commitment top place to be and I’m was that this would be I would say late 90s. 98-99 roughly so that was an interesting time frame, so it was a challenge being they got to walk in there so I couldn’t just send him a lease or walk over drop off at least sign it I’ll go over review the basic deal points it was I going to go over to repair and they wanted understand everything because it was not going easy, they had just gotten hit financially on this partnership deals much less changing their world on the rent structure so I can I have to see him again next year so… fortunately a Headhunter called me and said hey buildings are in the Sun Belt and work with them and handle there be a general manager handle leasing in construction what is it that was an interesting opportunity and the timing was right because I was not as much fun as I thought it was a hospital bill and anyway these guys came along its CMD Realty investors are based out of Chicago and we handled about 2 million square feet of Class A office space. The Dallas-Fort worth-arlington Las Colinas market and I was responsible for about almost about a million square feet of that space and I was the one spread because I’ve had the experience in for County to be the West Fort worth-arlington Las Colinas Stemmons Corridor all those properties and build relationships with all those brokers in the market there, and try to say hey if you have a tenant come to our building relationships with all those guys and make sure that we had really easy timely commission structures and make sure we took care of the Brokers and bring bring your tennants in, kind of conversations and  was a fun marketing timeframe and what we could do and I had a great experience and every quarter had to go to Chicago to do quarterly reports and experience the different seasons of Chicago so that was kind of a fun experience.


Andrew Roberts: So building those kind of relationships, did that come easy to you?  When you were a kid do you think you’re pretty introverted or extroverted?


 Tray Bates: Most of the time I was pretty extroverted and always kind of worked with a big group of friends I played football and always had a lot of friends that we had a lot of fun but I always have my type friends but there’s always a big group of friends. 


Matthew Teifke:

Yeah I’m personally like a huge believer in relationships and the business and I saw that like three years ago and so I just started just trying to build a relationship I could add value for people connect people, I am curious like how you view lot relationships and long-term relationships and I just feel like it’s like almost 80% of the real estate business the more that I think about it.


  Tray Bates: I would argue is probably a hundred percent relationship if not then you’re pretty much dead in the water


Host (Andrew Roberts): s: Did you learn that from your dad and your granddad?


Tray Bates:

I’ll tell a quick story about my dad that I love about him because he was one of those guys that was a big figure in the community people loved and respected him and came to him for advice I remember one time and I think I was in college I just came home to visit and so like you said how did you end up doing these rides and going to the office and spending time with your dad or grandfather but with my dad I would just sit in his office half the time and hear him deal with his clients hear people come by and come through the office and visit with them and it was always great to meet all of them as well and the the fun story about is I just sat there one time and observe people coming through and there were Community leaders bringing people through coming to him for advice what do you think about this if we did this can we get this done or could you help us or it’s for office coming through and it was kind of one of those deals like if you didn’t go see Bill Bates then you probably we’re going to have a hard time and your campaign if you didn’t get his Blessing and so it’s kind of one of those deals I was just watching this this is kind of interesting and I asked my dad after one of those and I just kind of learned about Godfather and kind of gotten into that and so I asked him “Are you like the Godfather dad?” …  He was like no not at all but he said he was just like you know what happened is a lot of people realize that he had a broad network of friendships and every one of the great thing about my dad which I I really wish I could be as good as he was, as he always made everyone feel like they were his friend and on top of that they all felt like they were his best friend and that was a great quality to have to be able to make people feel that way about you and so he was really good at that not that he intended to try to do that but that was just he was just always positive always happy always with a smile on his face always had a great story and people just gravitated to him and I think that helped him be as successful as he was because you could hear that kind of a personality people enjoyed being around him and he loved people and you love building those relationships and getting to know them and success in all of his business was just like so I learned about it’s not about the deal always it’s about the relationship in the journey in the path and in the friends you pick up a long way because his clients were all his best friends that he loves spending time with outside of work 

Matthew Teifke: For me personally, so I feel the same way like I’m trying to do that exact same thing I want to be that guy and you can’t start doing it whenever you need it right you got to just start doing it because it takes time to build relationships and the people


  Tray Bates:So to me for like like one of the biggest piece of advice I can go meet everybody in and do right by them and should be a good person banking relationships I try to get him set up before you find the deal you have to be and it’s going to take time and it’s easily 6-12 months before you get your first Real Deal the most people go through a path if they’ve got a rigorously build a relationship build the network and build the trust because especially as a new person people look at you can go are you can I trust my deal with you and

Matthew Teifke: So I have a question about commercial real estate that I experienced myself and I’ve heard people say the same thing and it was when when I was first becoming a broker in commercial real estate broker, you know this task?  With calling on the signs you know the information nobody would ever call me back and it’s that’s like a real thing in the business and I hear from people that aren’t Brokers you know I can never get anyone to call me back and for me it took a year-and-a-half and then people knew who I was then they took my calls and I can never figure out because I’m not like that at all and I my only theory is like they’re just too busy and they get a lot of people calling the that want to put it in something that makes no sense in this building, and they probably know that, do you know what I’m talking about if you have any theories on it?


 Tray Bates: I have a few theories on that and yes I understand exactly what you got Matt and that’s a frustration that the consumers the public has with real estate people in general and specially commercial real estate because there’s so little information out there available about commercial real estate because you have to pay a subscription for very expensive service to be able to have access to that or hope it’s in the MLS and being distributed that way which is typically is not, so is very little information is out there so people really only can get that information through the Brokers yeah.. I believe here’s a theory why Brokers are so have such lack of responses they get hit with so many wasted enquiries and so if we spent all of our time focusing on everything all the time, then we really have to learn to focus our energies and it and try to be as productive as possible because it’s really like 10 or 20% of the people you talk to are going to end up making a deal with you and so that’s really the challenge and I think that’s why they get kind of calls  sometimes and just kind of say you know I’m not going to answer all these calls if they really want to know that and that’s certainly an area we can do a better job as a profession because we should if you think about it we’re serving our our clients and we need to do as good a job as we can making sure that their property information gets out there so that we can find that deal faster and I look at real estate on this end of the spectrum and the stock market on this end of the Spectrum, the stock market’s are very fluid, that you can buy and sell like that but on real estate is hard it takes time you have to go through all these hurdles and the closer we can move it towards the stock market type transaction to make it more fluid where you can convert something into cash in the faster way the better for the industry. That’s better for our clients that get back but it is kind of a general theme that I’ve experienced and it was so frustrating I have like 20 properties to call on and I only get answers on five well it kind of goes to the 80/20 rule 20% of those guys that you were calling are probably the successful ones. 

Matthew Teifke: 

My boss Jeff Townsend has that edge I mean he’s one of the, in my opinion best retail brokers in Austin and He’d call everybody back all the time!


 Tray Bates: 

And their the ones that do all right


Host (Andrew Roberts): 


 I listen to this podcast recently about it was an interview with an author who wrote the book recently that he came over this Theory or I guess this concept that in the world there’s givers there’s takers and then there’s mediators in the middle and the goal is I guess to become like a giver and like it when you evaluate yourself  I guess the true core behind that and in reference or I get to what we were talking about now is like with these new relationships with no commercial real estate I think probably beginning people don’t know that you’re a giver even if you are it’s probably a little bit from me an after that you were putting in the work people actually saw, “ okay he’s a giver”  and saw what that relationship is going to be.


Matthew Teifke: 

 That’s a good point and buy some general because literally I just try to meet people right and I think thinking about you say like a lot of people just like I have I have no interest in meeting with you and I’m so confident about my mind that there are ways that I can help this person out there things that we can do things together, but they don’t they’re shutting me off at the beginning ..I don’t I don’t know if it’s just  

those are that’s just how some people are too small percentage and you move on or is there a better approach you know who are you buy coffee see if I can help you out with somebody have you have you had a big push towards reaching out to new people and got any negativity or what’s your theory on that ?

Tray Bates: 

All the time we always trying to build relationships and reach out and expand that sphere of influence that can help us with our business much less just help us have a greater more full life but one of the ways I did that how I accomplished it was to be a more of it on the giver side of that, is I started getting more involved in the association and I realized it early on so like my dad and politics kind of stuff when I was 7 years old I was holding campaign signs at polling places I was walking blocks for friends of ours that were running for Council and and I got in trouble one time because I was stuffing mailboxes, …I learned that the power of what we do is an association that we’re all members of his Realtors is we have a really strong capacity for being involved in a legislative or political process to help help our customers and our consumers better have an environment for the ownership of real estate so they can have a good tax environment they can have a good property owner rights environment where we don’t have a burdensome zoning code when we don’t have a burdensome fees and permits kind of structure all those things playing at the local level at the state level as well and federal and so I saw that is something I was intrigued by and I love the political side of what we do because it’s a great story because no one can say no,  It’s such a great way to start a conversation is like you know I spent a lot of my time my free time bright trying to help make sure that you can have a less burdensome tax environment so that you continued on that property because we don’t ever really own property cuz we always have to pay rent to the government. If we have to make sure we have a good relationship with the government so that we can make sure that our voices are hurt and it’s a good environment for you to continue invest in properties make money so that you can create more jobs and make the community stronger so those are all good conversation to have in so that’s a way for me to kind of break some ice.


Matt Teifke, I am reading this book on L.B.J. and it this huge fourt part series and it’s fascinating like his route to to where he got.


Tray Bates

I need to do that but I’ve read a lot of autobiographies and biographies on presents I love reading those LBJ was always one that was interested in me, my wife and I went to the LBJ Ranch Sunday afternoon we said let’s go have lunch in Johnson City and then we drove out to the ranch and just did the little tour I love that stuff and hearing his audio recordings from his phone calls  some of them are bad some of them really funny how he’s reading the riot act to some of these people are just tearing them down he was he was he was just full frontal on everything but he’s an interesting character certainly a flawed character but had a lot of interesting things about him.


Matt Teifke it’s fun to read is just what I got is he’s a master networker like he would just really stay in touch and soak everything up and make somebody feel like so close to him and you know I need it with like Sam Rayburn speaker of the house and it just facinating.


Andrew Roberts: So coming  back to your story line so you somehow made your way back to Corpus right?


Tray Bates: yeah so after about five years or so after 13 spring 13 years Dallas-Fort Worth Market away from home I came to the situation we’re okay I was considering going to grad school okay just nice little flame okay and I was I was applied to NYU and I was almost heading that way and to get an MBA up there and focus on real estate and I was thinking shoot this could take me anywhere I probably end up in New York somewhere whatever so I was just kind of just seeing where the world could take me on that thinking it would be a fun challenge Dallas Business Journal published their Heavy Hitters list and Tray Bates was on that list and so no one knew who Bates was in Dallas Fort Worth right now at home in Corpus yeah that meant a lot in the real estate world they’re meant nothing so for me to be published as a heavy hitter in the Dallas Business Journal kind of struck me as you know what my dad and I are always super close and we always wanted to work together and I said you know what? this is the moment so I grabbed a copy of that load up my U-Haul drove down to Corpus Christi walked into my dad grandfather’s office walk to my dad’s office flop the Dallas Business Journal his desk and said all right I’m back and not getting your damn coffee,we’re even!  And and so I know I went up here I made my name over here so I’m not your boy so he loved it they loved it and we’re super excited to have the opportunity to work together and idea was I could go up there because back in the seventies my grandfather had the largest real estate firm in Corpus Christi probably South Texas he had the biggest commercial farm and residential firm over the last number of decades to where they are now and so that was a great legacy and so I wanted to kind of build back on that and and it was a great opportunity for us to be together and we had a great time.


 Matt Teifke

Full circle, I love it!


Host (Andrew Roberts):  

Yeah! Okay so when did you meet your wife?


Tray Bates

Okay, so you got some time? (laughter)  I moved back in 2002 it was May so that was when I made the move and I have that conversation with my dad single then came back home didn’t know what the world was going to have in front of me and I just kind of is ready to take the challenge and about few months before that in January my wife’s dad who was from Austin okay and sitting just outside of Corpus Christi he would go back and forth his parents were down in this area and so he could fly back and forth he became of pilot I’m a pilot too so we had that in common but he was flying back and forth in one of his favorite things to do as a pilot for fun and to give back was Miracle flights and so he would go pick up a child anywhere in Texas in this case it was in Lufkin that needed treatment and took a flew him to Dallas for the day while they did their treatment and then would flying back home he was returning home from that flight and fog rolled in on satin and he had a plane crash and perished in that crash so my wife was here in Austin she was working for Austin music Network she had a great she has great story too and maybe that’s a good time for another time then she should be in the film business she was in went to Pepperdine in the West Coast I was in the movies and music there did Duran Duran Michael Jackson stuff she would work for a london-based firm had a great experience want to be back in Texas she was a text in that kind of the roots kind of pulled back at her water back on in Austin that happened with her dad she dropped everything she said guys I’m out, I don’t know I might be home in six months I’m just going to be with my family so she went Home to around that January time frame I just moved in the area in May and I was just having a good time going to hang out with family and a friend of ours said there’s this girl it’s here and you might want to meet her, I was like thank you but I’m good,.. seriously after 2 months of badgering seriously it was irritating how bad it was alright enough’s enough I’m going to call the girl don’t ever do this again and I’m good so I called I called Jessica and we had a great conversation and I looked at my watch and was like over the hour mark LOL and I’m going okay dating 101 don’t act like you’re interested because they always kind of give you the hand, Ya gotta play little hard to get an hour on the phone what are we going to talk about it dinner right so I was like I got to cut this off set it off she said I was a little abrupt and grab dinner Thursday night we’re going to we’re going to have our own Vehicles we can escape if we have to set up so that was kind of the deal so we went to the great place and right on the water and I showed up early and I go all right so we talked earlier about go calling people and you always have to go to the gatekeeper right and you call the reception so you call the assistant or whatever and it’s hard to get through them but you always try to kind of play it up and build a relationship and there’s always this beautiful voice that I hear on the other end of the line and and I kind of was always used to being disappointed and so I was going to be disappointed in this scenario right I was prepared and so I showed up early I grabbed a scotch I go this could be a long night so I’m just going to hang out and so she walks in the door and I was like crap beautiful lady we had a great conversation I was going to owe my goodness this is too good to be true and I was and so we had a great dinner it just was so much fun to be with her and talk to her about stuff and that night as we kind of separated she gave me a peck on the cheek and I was in heaven and and so it was a couple months of your meeting her up and doing a few things and then after that it was so easy, so natural, we never had to have that conversation are we dating because it would it just it was and we were both in our early mid-30s weird experience life doing all kinds of things single and so it was just perfect timing for both of us.

Host (Andrew Roberts): Before we close out in a through your years of experience and we might have hit on this already,.. but what is the one thing that you would credit your success to order the one thing that you would I guess give advice to a young entrepreneur of the young commercial broker the key thing for successful career?

 Tray Bates:

We hit on it a little bit is integrity honesty and building and having a very positive attitude it’s a tough business having a positive attitude throughout all the difficulties is something you need to maintain and and really just building those relationships and not looking at it with what’s in it for me today.  So many people focus on the deal right now in front of them you need to look at this is a relationship beyond our building right now that in five years from now who knows where that’s going to lead us and that’s what I need to be focused on now not the deal I’m working on what you decide so that’s if the deal didn’t happen I don’t care in the thing is is I am more happy to walk away from a deal then press a relationship so remember that part.


Matt Teifke

I find it so weird when people don’t look at it like that like I’ve got on the phone with like maybe a wholesaler right and then like I’m like 100% willing to just talk to hear what they’re doing and they’re like all this isn’t a deal to hang up on my pant they totally just missed what like really this could have what we could have got out of this conversation and in the long-term I have one more question I’m fascinated by the political side of what you got going on any big goals with that like thinking about like the senate it or anything like that?


Tray Bates

No, as I said earlier my dad was always behind the scene and a fun place to be also because I’ve learned a lot in politics were once you get out there and put your name out there as a politician run for office or whatever but half the people hate you in my business I’ve always maintained that behind the scenes here and everybody can like me.


Matt Teifke

I talked to the guy who has lived in DC for four years and the the picture he painted it was I thought I wanted to be in politics and I still think I kind of do but of DC and he said it’s a very litigious lawyer like you never know what you’re saying or who you talking to her who’s listening I like how that sounds horrible 


Tray Bates

and you have to pay attention everything you’re doing and saying you always have to think about what would your mom and your dad safe so just be careful what you say and in the public Arena but really the idea is politics is great it serves a great purpose we have to be plugged in as much as most people when you ask him to hate politics but you really have to be plugged in whether or not you hate it or love it because it’s so important what we do it impacts all of us so I really encourage people to stay involved while I may not want to be necessarily a candidate I love being involved in the process.


Host (Andrew Roberts): 

Well this has been great, thank you soo much we really enjoyed this


Thank you thank you I appreciate it and this podcast is provided by Texas Best Credit Repair.com Trey thank you so much thank you