Harvey Green, Marcus & Millichap's new president and CEO, boosts the firm with new technologies and support systems.
A change in leadership can sometimes mean a 180-degree turn in an organization. New CEOs can often chart business plans that stray far from their company's founding vision, leaving workers scratching their heads at the road before them.
Other times, though, new leaders take the reins by fully embracing and dedicating themselves to the original guiding principles of their companies. Such is the case with Harvey E. Green, who last spring became the new president and CEO of Encino, Calif.-based Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co., replacing William A. Millichap.
Since its founding in 1971 in Palo Alto, Calif., the brokerage firm has focused exclusively on investment sales, not dabbling at all in leasing. And so it will be under Green, who served as executive vice president and COO of the company from 1996 until this year.
However, that is not to say that Green lacks ambitious and aggressive new ideas for his firm. Far from it. The 31-year industry veteran has either implemented or is seeking to start a range of programs aimed at creating top-notch brokers who in turn produce loyal and satisfied clients. "It's all about how to create value for the owner/investor," he says. "We want all of these things to come together to provide that."
Green, a native of Southern California, joined Marcus & Millichap in 1981 as regional manager of the Encino office. Today he says his broker background shapes his outlook as president and CEO. "First of all, I'm a broker," he says. "Second of all, I'm a CEO. What I'm trying to do right now is give our agents more time in front of their clients, which allows their clients to articulate and transmit to the agents their desired business strategy.
"There is a constant focus on providing our agents and our clients with the latest tools, the latest information and ensuring that we are without question constantly evolving as a market leader in the product types and in the specialty investment arena," adds Green.
Vital statistics In 1999, Marcus & Millichap, which currently employs more than 570 brokers in 34 U.S. markets, closed 2,047 investment transactions for a sales volume of $5.2 billion, a company record. Included in the deals were shopping centers; office and industrial buildings; apartment properties; single-tenant, net-lease facilities; hotels and motels; seniors housing properties; manufactured housing communities; self-storage properties; and land. Approximately 85% of the firm's clients are private investors, and about 15% are institutional investors.
The firm initially carved out a reputation for primarily brokering deals involving small- to mid-sized apartment facilities. In 1999, just less than half of the company's transactions involved apartments, while 20% involved retail.
In recent years, the company has become more and more of a national player, as expansion has taken it far from its Northern California roots. In the years 1995 to 1997, Marcus & Millichap opened offices in the markets of Atlanta; Miami/Fort Lauderdale; Washington, D.C.; Fort Lee, N.J.; Portland, Ore.; and Detroit. In 1998, the firm launched offices in Tampa, Fla., and Philadelphia. Last year witnessed the opening of offices in Orlando, Fla.; Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati; New Haven, Conn.; and New York City. Company officials say the firm is continuing to look at expansion.
When George M. Marcus and William Millichap, who now serve as co-chairmen of the firm, created the company, they decided that their brokers would be required to immediately share listing information with the firm's other agents in order to ensure that a property is exposed to as many potential buyers as possible.
Since the early 1990s, the firm has used MNet, a computerized internal property-marketing system that combines a centralized for-sale property inventory with a comprehensive database of income property investors. The system connects all Marcus & Millichap offices nationwide and gives agents information on a real-time basis.
Marcus & Millichap is also known for aggressively pursuing new technologies. Its promotional materials tout it as the first brokerage company to launch a Web site, which it did in 1995.
As the company has grown over the years, it has in some ways changed the structure of the organization and added services. For example, Marcus & Millichap began in the early 1990s to create property specialty groups to better serve the needs of its investors.
Also, the firm has created a research department that produces information and studies that are respected industry-wide. The company typically spends between $12 to $15 million annually on technology and research.
Marcus & Millichap officials say that the sharing of information, the specialty groups and the commitment to technology mix with other factors to create their firm's success. Those other components include the exclusive representation of a client's property, the fact that the firm's managers have been investment brokers themselves and the company's long-standing relationships with clients.
"The fundamental character of the company assures that a listing is exposed to the largest pool of qualified buyers and that somebody who's really a professional is presenting the property to qualified buyers with influence," says Gary R. Lucas, a managing director of the company.
A well-supported agent Green has made it clear that improving agent support is absolutely critical. "Harvey wants every agent to have every possible tool so that there's never a reason an agent shouldn't win the business or be able to provide superior service to the client," says Mitchell R. LaBar, a managing director of the company in charge of overseeing expansion in the New York/New Jersey region.
Toward that end, Green has been active in both the personnel and the technological arenas. First of all, he has instituted a "sales intern" program, under which college-educated assistants are matched with select agents to help that agent with such tasks as information management, underwriting and analysis. The end result is that while the assistant is handling such duties, the agent has more time to meet face-to-face with clients.
Since the program began in April, Marcus & Millichap has hired 68 such assistants, says Green. In addition to a college degree, applicants should have a college grade-point average of 3.0, and they have to pass a series of tests administered by Marcus & Millichap. But Green notes that some applicants with a grade-point average lower than the requested minimum have been accepted into the program, based on unique life experiences or the demonstration of strong character.
Under Green, the company has also expanded a group called Major Account Services, a team of research professionals, analysts and graphic production experts that augment the underwriting process for certain deals of institutional investors and larger private investors. The support unit also produces marketing materials for major accounts.
In terms of technology, Marcus & Millichap has unveiled several new initiatives under Green. The company is now using MapNet, a research program developed for the company by Orange, Calif.-based SRC. As the name suggests, users can point and click on a certain section of a map and integrate such market data as demographics; new construction; and vacancy, sales and cap-rate trends. The data can cover a very specific area, such as a city block, or a broader market analysis.
Marcus & Millichap has also added several enhancements to MNet. The upshot of the improvements is that the processes by which agents produce proposals and marketing packages has been automated, which eliminates a lot of data entry and produces presentation-quality material and electronic files for distribution to clients.
Marcus & Millichap is currently working with technology and software firms to develop a program that will allow the company's agents to create their own Web sites. The company has also created "Benchmarks," an online business guide for its agents in which the agents record their various activities, such as appointments, number of listings, etc. The guide then allows the agents to measure their performance against a set of pre-determined goals.
A specialist's time It is Green's and Marcus & Millichap's belief that the various personnel and technological improvements will serve in part to improve the performance of the company's specialty groups, which began forming in 1993. Today, the groups cover such property types as multifamily, retail, office and industrial, seniors housing, manufactured homes and self-storage.
Each group is run by a national director and an executive committee. Agents in the groups receive specialized training for their respective property type, and management and the agents work together to oversee multiple-market transactions.
"The specialty groups provide a platform that serves the agents as well as our clients by tailoring the tools, training and services to the nuances of each property type," says John J. Kerin, a managing director of Marcus & Millichap who's responsible for overseeing several offices including those in San Diego and Miami/Fort Lauderdale. "It also assures that clients are working with agents who have the appropriate skill and experience level. The groups provide an effective forum for marketing properties nationally and to exchange market information."
Just the facts As part of its aggressive approach to providing value-added services, Marcus & Millichap devotes considerable resources to its research department, which publishes about 150 reports per year nationwide. Market research helps clients not only during a transaction, but also when they are in a holding period, says Hessam Nadji, the company's chief marketing officer.
"We are focused on analyzing the trends of the market for impact on values and being able to advise our clients on what's happening with economics, demographics, the legislature, anything that would impact value of property," he adds. The research can be as broad as a market or as narrow as a neighborhood. Each Marcus & Milli chap office has its own research department.
Green contends that Marcus & Millichap differs from other brokerage firms that provide research services because it does not simply deluge a client with information, but organizes it in a way that relates to a client's business strategy. "That difference is huge," he says.
The future As for future initiatives, Green plans to roll out a group called Investment Advisory Services. The goal of the unit is to help owners maximize their investment yield and their property's performance through various research and educational services, which would include such programs as estate planning, tax planning and maximizing an exit strategy. Marcus & Millichap is experimenting with the advisory service in a couple of markets.
Look for Green to continue to be aggressive in seeking ways to improve those client services. "Harvey is dedicated to looking at the total company as far as our services and support levels and making sure that they are the best in the industry," says Stu Kaiser, chief financial officer of the company, who recently joined Marcus & Millichap.
Green says he will constantly be on his toes, looking for ways to improve Marcus & Millichap. "Every six months we need to refocus on what it is that keeps us on the cutting edge of our industry and what we are trying to accomplish," he says. "I'm excited about where it's all going to go and what contributions I can make, which will pale by comparison to what Bill [Millichap] and George [Marcus] have done, but I hope to make contributions to us being recognized as the most professional brokerage operation."