Peter Billmeyer, SIOR, is a Co-founder and Managing Principal at Bespoke Commercial Real Estate, a company that finds, negotiates, finalizes, and extends custom real estate solutions for privately-held businesses and nonprofit organizations.
In his role, Peter prides himself on business development and creative problem solving to drive value for clients continually. He has a business degree from Oregon State University and was an Academic All-American, a four-year starter, and three-year captain of the soccer team — and eventually played professionally.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Peter Billmeyer talks about why Bespoke Commercial Real Estate was formed and what they do
- Deciding to niche
- Lessons Peter learned from his entrepreneurial parents
- Why Peter chose entrepreneurship over professional sports
- Getting through tough times in business partnerships
- How to grow a team and sustain company culture
- What Peter has learned from years of turning workspaces around
- The accurate picture of commercial real estate despite COVID-19
- Some great companies Peter has worked with to deliver real estate solutions
- Peter’s most memorable games as a soccer player — and what sports taught him about life
In this episode…
Your company culture is everything, and you should protect it at all costs. What most people don’t realize is that your work environment has a lot to do with that. Beyond the pandemic and the need for many people to work remotely, how productive is your company’s work environment? Do your employees come in to work earlier? Are they hesitant to leave by the end of the day because they love it there?
Contrary to what many people think, many employees want to return to the office. But most companies do not have the physical environment their teams love. And the more employees work remotely, the less connected they are, putting your company’s culture at risk. Find out how Peter Billmeyer is helping entrepreneurs rethink their workspaces and culture.
Listen to this episode of the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz, featuring Co-founder and Managing Principal at Bespoke Commercial Real Estate, Peter Billmeyer. They discuss Peter’s entrepreneurial journey, the nature of commercial real estate right now, and the struggles and opportunities of building business partnerships, culture, and workspaces.
Resources mentioned in this episode
- Bespoke Commercial Real Estate
- Peter Billmeyer on LinkedIn
- Victor Sanmiguel on LinkedIn
- Tom Gimbel on Ken Griffin
- Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson
- “Hacks for Virtual Event Mastery with Andrea Heuston of Artitudes Design Inc.”
- “EO Chicago | Bringing Consumers Together With Becky Galvez”
- “The Pixar Story: The Letter of a lifetime That Started Everything With Alvy Ray Smith, Co-Founder of Pixar”
Sponsor for this episode…
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The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.
Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.
Rise25 Co-founders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Welcome to the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast where we feature top founders and entrepreneurs and their journey. Now, let’s get started with the show.
Jeremy Weisz 0:12
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, Founder of IspiredInsider.com, where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders and today is no different. We’re here with Peter Billmeyer of Bespoke Commercial Real Estate. I’m gonna formally introduce Peter in a second. But Peter, I always like to point out other episodes, people should check out on the podcast and this is going to go on the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast as well as Inspired Insider Podcast and I have to highlight a few other amazing EO members that I’ve had on the podcast. Andrea Houston lead like a woman, Becky Galvez, who is also in Chicago Candor Threads. And there’s other episodes that are fun, like I had the founder, a co founder of Pixar on he talked about, talked about Steve Jobs, stories and in so check everything out on inspired insider.com or rising entrepreneurs. This episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and how do we do that we help you run your podcast right for me. You know, Peter, and I know this is the same case for you. The number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships, I found no better way to do that over the past decade to profile the people in companies I admire on my podcast and shout from the rooftops of what they’re working on and what they’re doing. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, go to rice 20 five.com. Email us happy to answer anything that you throw at us. And I’m excited today, we have Peter Billmeyer, he’s Co-founder of Bespoke Commercial Real Estate and founder of Bespoke Limited Ventures. And what they do is they focus exclusively on working with other entrepreneurs, helping to facilitate all of their real estate needs pertaining to office or industrial, you could talk you know, you name it, right? They find it, they negotiate it, they finalize it, they extend custom Real Estate Solutions, whatever you need, you can contact them through their years of ownership, they bring that level of knowledge that a typical broker just cannot match because of their experience, it said bespokeCRE.com. And in addition, he got a business degree from Oregon State University. And he was an academic all American, and a four year starter three year captain of the soccer team, and play professionally. Peter, thanks for joining me.
Peter Billmeyer 2:33
Wonderful to be here.
Jeremy Weisz 2:34
So just start off in, you know, I summarize a little bit but give us a little more color about your company and what you do.
Peter Billmeyer 2:42
So we founded bespoke almost exactly eight years ago, recognizing that our industry has gone through a pretty consolidated journey, where a lot of the kind of boutique and more specific shops have been have been purchased by the large, huge international publicly traded firms. And through that, we felt that there created a pretty significant void for entrepreneurs, you very well know, business owners, we just don’t have enough resources to be great at everything. So by not having that extremely deep bench, you’ve got to trust on strategic partners and vendors and those relationships. And so we recognize that sometimes that trust has been misplaced, to be very candid. You know, when you have a firm that works on both sides of a transaction, you know, if you’re a 10,000 foot user, and it’s a half a million square foot building, you have to ask sometimes who’s the real client, by never working with landlords, we remove that conflict right off the bat, but also by not doing the publicly traded and, you know, things that we weren’t a passionate about, and B wasn’t really our niche and our fit, we get to zero and it’d be laser focused and be to specialists versus you know, a jack of all trades, master of nothing.
Jeremy Weisz 3:59
I want to dig deeper on the niching. Because you say it so clearly. And it’s not always easy to make that decision, because there’s probably lots of different clients coming to you. Right. And so you have to, at some point, I think it takes a lot of discipline to draw a line in the sand to decide that, do it. Was there a point that you decide, okay, we’re only focusing on this? Or was that a decision from the beginning?
Peter Billmeyer 4:25
It was honestly from the beginning. I’m the son of an entrepreneur. And so as my business partner, we really zeroed in on kind of this niche, we do do, maybe about 5% of our p&l is nonprofit, and that’s kind of more just labors of love. You know, it’s not it’s the compensation and then the expectations and effort that goes into those relationships are definitely inverted, but the quality of work the importance of what they contribute to society, it’s just it’s something you have to do. But yeah, I mean, I I just am so in love with With with business and entrepreneurship, and helping, you know, anyone that has the audacity to risk everything and build something that have my highest respect, and I will go to the very ends of our capabilities to help them, because they deserve it. And that’s the backbone of our country, you know, from wealth generation to hiring and employing people. It’s, it’s, it’s incredible. There’s, there’s a phenomenal post that I would want everybody to look at today on a wonderful entrepreneur named Tom Gimble, he posted on LinkedIn, talking about Citadel, and you know, Ken Griffin gets a lot of crap. He gets a lot of negative publicity, he never seems to get recognized for the wonderful companies that he has built and the, you know, immense wealth that he has generated, not only for himself, which clearly he’s done very well, but for how about the city of Chicago, about the city of New York? How about all of those employees that worked for him. And, you know, Tom compared him to another company, which we don’t really need to name, that’s a startup, they’re definitely further down the path than just being a startup, but their quote unquote, unicorn, where they just announced they’re going to lay off I believe, 20% of their workforce, great company, great people, nothing negative to say about them, but yet, they’re the darling of the media. And, you know, to me, it’s, I don’t want to go so far as to say it’s a hypocrisy. But, you know, look, both entrepreneurs, both leaders deserve a heck of a lot of respect, you know, they build something they’re trying to add value. And, for me, that’s just something that I don’t think gets talked about and revered as much as it should.
Jeremy Weisz 6:42
Yeah, yeah, I love hearing you talk about these topics, because I just get that feeling of passion that exudes when you talk about entrepreneurs. And you said, You’re the son of an entrepreneur, talk about some of the lessons learned there.
Peter Billmeyer 6:57
Alright, fine. How about we start with learning how to do laundry and stuff, great. So my mom, she built an unbelievable educational consulting business, she not too dissimilar to you, but a PhD in education, she was the literacy specialist. So she was a full time published author, she would travel around the world presenting to educators, for staff development days, essentially, teaching teachers how to be better. And so, you know, she had her staff underneath her that would handle some of her consulting, but five days a week, she was on the road, I saw how hard she worked. I saw how it took a toll on her body physically, and certainly mentally, to travel, the stress. And you know, the part that resonates the most with me, and this is the journey that I’m on being the son of the father of three little boys. I think, you know, when I talked about entrepreneurship, that I have two really key points that I always talk about with someone that’s thinking about getting into it, or when I’m mentoring someone. And number one, being an entrepreneur is exactly like having a child, you can read all the books, you can talk about it nonstop, you can seek all this advice. But until that child comes into this world, you have no clue what the heck is really going to happen and what’s really going on. And being an entrepreneur is the exact same thing. You You know, you learn business class, you can get your MBA, but until you walk through that door, and the first couple of months, you’re so high on adrenaline and scared out of your minds, and you go through your journey of the imposter syndrome and all those pieces, but the stress, the exhilaration, the responsibility that they all get kind of thrown in this blender into this magical elixir. And you have great days and bad days. And you know, I learned a lot of those formative lessons from from watching my mom. And I’m just forever thankful because you know as a true you know, entrepreneur growing a business, it’s really first gear and fifth gear. There’s there’s no you know, in between you are either sleeping or you are grinding. And you know, the the second part that I learned from her, which is by far the most excruciating, you kind of get to spin three plates in this world. You, you spin your business, you spin your family, if you’re blessed enough to have one. And then if you have a partner, and I’ll be damned if I can get all three plates spinning to a healthy RPM for more than two days. I’m living pretty well, because there’s some instant thumb thing that’s going to happen and is going to disrupt and you know, then you’ve got to really zero on your focus. And sometimes it’s your kid, you know, misbehaving and getting in trouble at school or sometimes it’s a client causing you problems or sometimes it’s your wife being upset with you. I mean, not that that ever happens to husbands, you know, never, never happens. And so I really watched I think at the time, obviously, I was too young to really grasp what was going on. And so I don’t want to say it was osmosis, but over a decent amount of wine. My mom and I have been able to sit down and really unpack what a lot of that was. And unequivocally I am not where I am today from a business success standpoint without that, that mentorship and modeling. So it’s just, it’s a gift that I’m I’m so insanely thankful for.
Jeremy Weisz 10:30
Here when you’re younger, did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Was it professional athlete and entrepreneur? What were you thinking when you were younger? Peter, what was what he wanted to?
Peter Billmeyer 10:42
This is probably why I had such limited success as a pro athlete. I love the sport, I was I was definitely committed to trying to play professionally. It wasn’t the end all be all for me. And I recognize that, you know, I was raised where education was extremely important. I took took it serious in college and studied and I loved business. But really what I learned and this was very fortuitous, because it was completely by instinct and natural. And now this is my number one thing that I try to explain to the younger men and women that I that I mentor and try to help foster their careers. I just knew what my non negotiables were, I’m super lucky to have an older brother that’s, you know, arguably seven and a half years older than me extremely successful as a surgeon, and I always looked up to him and his friends. And I just knew that I wanted to keep up, I wanted to earn my ability to be in that room with his friends, you know, I never wanted to have to say no. And so what it really comes down to was autonomy. And nothing means more to me than autonomy. I never wanted to have to say no to going on a vacation, and never wanted to have to miss, you know, my son or daughter was sick at school, being able to go pick them up or watch their games or coach her, you know. And so while that’s obviously the cornerstone of kind of my career, it is also in pretty big conflict with building a business. And so that reconciliation is where I struggle. But I just, I liked leadership growing up. And I didn’t know what business I really wanted to be in. And I honestly serendipitously fell into this world, and then the role that I’ve been able to create for myself, which I think if there’s a cooler job out there, than what I get to do, I want to, I want to hear about it. Because I get to spend all of my time being around other entrepreneurs, and what an unbelievable wealth of knowledge, a vast amount of resources. You know, you get to do fun and cool and entertaining, you know, things is every day is different. And you know, it’s just, it’s just great. I mean, again, back to the respect I have for so many entrepreneurs and you get to meet tons of them. And that information, that knowledge, that experience that I get to learn and lean on, I get to then be a direct conduit to a lot of our clients, where if we do a great job in the real estate, that’s wonderful. And that’s our job and our expectation. But if we can then come back around and do a great job helping them build their businesses, further their interests, all those different pieces. That’s really live in our code and kind of our core values. And that’s the stuff that gets me super excited.
Jeremy Weisz 13:37
Peter, there are other other non negotiables that you thought about in your journey. You mentioned autonomy. Are there any others?
Peter Billmeyer 13:45
Yeah, it’s cliche. And it’s kind of I don’t want to say uncouth, because it’s not quite that bad. But I wanted, I wanted to be in a position where I could take the risk, and no one was going to tell me how much money I could make. I had some pretty pretty cool lessons watching what I would consider to really talented salesperson, still to this day, just off the charts. And every year he would finish number one in his company. And I’ll be damned if every year they didn’t take away either his biggest second biggest or third biggest client and redistributed throughout the company to someone else because quote unquote, he was making too much money. To me, I just, you know, control over your own destiny. Yeah, that was a big piece. And you know, the great tail end of that story is it burned him out and he got so frustrated, he left and went and worked for one of his very good friends, where he still is the number one salesperson in that company doing the exact same thing making for x more having 18x More fun, and it’s just another amazing Chicago success story. And so, you know, for me, I’m okay taking risks. And that’s a big part of it. I think anybody that really wants to get ahead financially, it It always comes down to risk. Always.
Jeremy Weisz 15:02
Peter, you mentioned, you know, business partnerships are like marriages, right? And your I think your brother’s journey led you to meet your business partner.
Peter Billmeyer 15:12
That’s exactly right. So, Victor, Victor started hazing me in about seventh grade. And they were, they were fraternity brothers at Iowa. And I got to know him. And I think you’re exactly right. It is like a marriage, I think, regardless of, of, you know, you know, having a male and having a husband or hetero or whatever, the dynamic, you never want to marry yourself. And it’s 100% true with Mike my relationship with my wife, where Audra she is she is not me, she, she keeps me grounded, she, she beats me, you know, he beats me into place when I need to be. And Victor is very similar. He’s, he’s a unbelievably calculated, even keel, just tremendous deal, person. And it’s not a stretch to say that I was never very good at being a broker. It’s just, it’s not my strength. And so it’s created a wonderful symbiotic partnership, where we complement each other. And, you know, I definitely believe that a business partnership can be one of the hardest things to pull off. But if you do it successfully, there’s no doubt that it’s not one plus one equals two, it’s one plus one equals four. And it’s, it’s really been fun to be in the trenches together, trying to build this business and grind out together, because no one someone has your back is it makes it a little bit less lonely at the top.
Jeremy Weisz 16:46
Are there certain things you do, you know, for people who are in a business partnership, to help navigate challenges or navigate where they’re the partners are not in complete agreement,
Peter Billmeyer 16:59
bottle of booze and a whiteboard? Not joking. That’s what I call it. And I will, I will try sometimes to mediate, where you give them a little bit of homework prior to and you say, I want you to list out all of the responsibilities that you feel, and at your office personally. And when you get them in a room together, then you start listing these things out. It’s, it’s fascinating. I mean, it can go spectacularly wrong, don’t get me wrong. But most of the time, when you’ll see two partners put up the exact same responsibility. And it’s like, well, we’ll wait. And then all sudden, you get to start bringing clarity. And from that, and what we try to do is we tried to build a roadmap, and you tried to divide up those responsibilities. And usually you have a pretty darn positive impact on their company. And, you know, you check back in a year, and how are things going and it’s, you know, obviously, you’re always available, if they want to call it reach out, but it’s just, it’s communication and clarity can really help clean up a lot of issues in a partnership.
Jeremy Weisz 18:04
So let’s say it’s somewhat of a division of labor, like one person is going to be in charge of it. And if there was overlap, that’s where the conflict tends to,
Peter Billmeyer 18:12
to occur. Yeah, and it’s incredibly inefficient, you know, the duplication of efforts. Now, there are huge decision sometimes that you have to be 100% committed on you know, and even after this long with, with running this business, and, you know, there’s moments when vix like Hey, I just handled I trust you. And I’m like, no, no, this is one of those where you’re gonna, you’re gonna, you’re gonna focus on these documents, we’re going to talk through the pros and cons, because I want full buy in based on whether it’s the dollar amount, whether it’s the time commitment, whether it’s, you know, and I think, you know, the other part about that is you got to be able to call each other on on your BS, and you got to humbly take it. You know, we, we just ironically, this morning, we had a bit of a back and forth between us that we cleared up some stuff and and, you know, I think we’re better for it. It’s not personal, you can’t make it personal. It’s, you know, because it’s really not about Victor and I, and in the instance of our business, we have all these different people that rely on us. You know, one of our brokers has got his second kid coming in two weeks, and that weighs on you. So it’s much bigger than just us and you know, our egos and all those things. So if you keep it in perspective, it always makes it easier to receive process and adapt from critical feedback, if you will.
Jeremy Weisz 19:34
You know, Peter, I want to talk about the evolution of the team. I know for you culture is really important. I even know the clients that you work with. You help them with culture. I mean, through their space, I heard one person say, you know, the way that you help them, develop their space actually has improved their company culture. So I’d love to hear about just from the standpoint of the company, what is the evolution Shouldn’t the team look like as you’ve grown?
Peter Billmeyer 20:02
What a great question. Wow. So culture is everything to us. Our tagline or trademark tagline is real estates or downpayment on culture. And we strive every day to get our clients to understand that, instead of looking at your either debt payment, or your rent payment, as an expense on your p&l, it needs to be an asset. And if leverage correctly, the impact it can have on your company is off the charts. You know, prior to us kind of starting this, you and I were talking about a deal that we just recently completed, which is for signing on, and they’re one of the largest, probably held, if not the, in North America for student housing, and Rob Braun seen is absolutely brilliant. He’s he’s got a great business, financial and real estate mind. And, you know, I’ve watched the evolution of his company, where the deal we just finished was what I’m still kind of shocked. But it was a rehab of an even better space than its current, which to me is still one of the coolest spaces in all of Chicago. And what that really distills down to is, you know, the brass tacks about what it really means to a business owner to a client. There’s a lot of brokers that like to throw around a bunch of stuff about recruitment, and retainment. And that’s all I’m sorry, that’s all a bunch of garbage, it does matter what it’s about when you’re the owner, when you’re the one that’s making payroll and doing all the things, it’s about productivity. It’s very, very, very unproductive, to have a terrible culture, to lose employees and have a revolving door to have people come in, but grudgingly at 830 and run out the door at five, you know, all those things incessantly build on each other and pollute and contaminate. So if you can create a physical environment, where your team wants to be there and talk about timing, I mean, you know, this is Welcome back Chicago week, you know, living is still fortuitous that we’re having this conversation today, you know, we’re hopefully coming out of this pandemic. And if you can create these physical environments, it is the most special thing, because you’re gonna build a culture, where, Hey, Jeremy, How’s your dad, I heard you have, you know, it’s those magical moments, it’s the silence between notes and music. When you’re in the kitchen, grabbing a snack or doing something, it’s not about the snack. No, that’s not all this crap gets put in the paper. It’s about human interaction, and we need it, we need it now more than ever, we are so in a mental health crisis, from this pandemic, from being isolated from being under duress and stress, you know, suicide rates, mental I’ve been hospital, you know, visits, it’s all just skyrocketing. And, you know, if you look at it, you create an environment where people want to come, they do their work, they get the verbal, and even more importantly, sometimes, the visual affirmation of a job well done, that does not exist in zoom, they will never come through with the same type of emotion that it does in person to person interaction. And so when we really look at a client face, we want to be as efficient as possible, we want to try to get the best deal possible. But we want to create an environment where the team is going to come, they’re going to do their work, and they like to stick around. And it’s such an amazing exercise when I will sit with a client in their space where they have never thought of this concept. And they think we’re so lucky in Chicago, they think that we’re just trying to get them to spend more money. And in Chicago, it’s one of the few markets in the country. Our commissions have absolutely nothing to do with what you’re paying in rent on the office side. And so if you’re paying $75 a foot or you’re paying 30, it’s the exact same feat, but we’ll do a stopwatch and what’s okay, what time are people usually allowed to leave? Or what time do people usually leave? Okay, let’s say it’s 530. So we’re sitting there, maybe having a cup of coffee, having a beer or something like that. And you watch people running out that door, and then you take them the next week to a client that trusted you that followed you. That did it right. And it’s 530. And you see someone get up and they’re like, oh, here it comes down. And they go into the kitchen, and they pour themselves a drink, or they pour themselves a cup of coffee, or they grab, you know, a soda or whatever. And then they go back to their desk. And they’re not always doing work. But that’s okay. Sometimes they’re just, you know, be messing with each other and catching up or chatting or, you know, the more that you can have your team interact with each other in an environment that’s positive and safe. You just get such a much higher level of productivity. And that distills itself down to recruiting, retaining, and all those different things. So that’s, that’s really the part that we try so hard to educate and instill in our clients, because we know in the end, that’s going to have the greatest impact on their business with regard to real estate, you walk
Jeremy Weisz 25:02
in, and you’ll see a space differently, obviously, from your clients, because you’ve seen so many spaces, you have a vision of what it could be, what it could be for them. What are some cool things that you’ve done with spaces that maybe the client had no idea was even in the realm of possibility, or they don’t even think about, when you look back at some of the projects you’ve done.
Peter Billmeyer 25:23
I mean, first and foremost, it’s, it’s the common areas. So the kitchen, if you will, quote, unquote, we call it the heartbeat of the space, heartbeat of the of the office, and what that’s meant to really mean, it’s not somewhere you go, heat up, your, whatever lunch you brought, and you go sit back at your cubicle, or you don’t sit back at your desk and eat your food. It’s the accoutrements, you know, in our office, we have a keg, a kegerator, where we have the most unbelievable nitro coffee. And then we also have, under normal circumstances, you know, a second tap, which is, which is, you know, a keg of beer, if you will, we have pretty much, you know, tend to have a younger staff. But but the kitchen is where we really want to start it. And then from there, we kind of grow out where we look at the common areas with regard to shared offices, the lactation room, the fact that people have not been doing that, for 50 years. To me, it’s just asinine. You know, I mean, as a young mother, you deserve to be comfortable in every way, shape, and form. If you are coming back post, you know, maternity leave, and those kinds of things. We, we try to make sure that we focus on the location, the placement of certain rooms. So to give you a perfect example, a conference room, most people would think I always want my conference room to be very nice, upfront, and near my receptionist, sometimes they say, You know what it needs to be here in the kitchen. Because if we’re going to be serving freshman’s, whatever, okay, that’s, that’s fine. But just because it’s been done that way forever, doesn’t mean that it’s right. There are certain clients, where they have this energy, and this buzz, and this just amazing environment, atmosphere. When you walk in, you’re like, Whoa, what is going on in here? Sometimes, you put that conference room, on the other side of that, further back in the office, because when you’re bringing people in, that’s infectious, you feel that. So if you’re bringing in a prospect, you know, it’s the little details that really matter to us. And always trying to make sure that we think through as many scenarios as possible with regard to our clients. I think
Jeremy Weisz 27:39
if you’re you probably know better than me, but I think in the Walter Isaacson’s book, about Steve Jobs, he paid very particular attention to the layout in the space in the communal area.
Peter Billmeyer 27:52
maniacal, he was maniacal about it to the point where he drove people nuts. I mean, he, he looked at architecture and space design with the same conviction as product design. I mean, his book is fascinating about that, I totally agree with you, you know, and you just mail it in, or leave it in the hands of, you know, a building architect, that you just say, Okay, I need seven offices, I need two conference rooms. And here you go. Those days are kind of gone, and they shouldn’t be gone. And, you know, the, as leaders, we really screwed up. To be very candid. Prior to the pandemic, we got greedy. We stopped investing in the right things with our, our teams in the physical space. And it’s like, well, wait a minute. No, no, no, we, you know, the kitchens were cool. Peter, like they had snacks and all this other stuff. That’s true. bench seating 110 square feet per employee. I mean, I don’t want to smell what you ate last night for dinner. Because I’m sitting so close to. And by the way, now post pandemic, it’s so obvious, but Jesus, how gross is that? You know, I don’t want you’re sitting there blowing your nose, coughing and you know, I mean, you got to treat your employees as human beings. Now, I’m happy and proud to say that we never follow that, you know, everybody that works for us. They have their own beautiful six by six, you know, area, we’ve always allowed them to spread out. We’ve always treated them the way they should be. But that’s kind of a cool revolution that we’re undergoing right now. Leaders are being forced to reevaluate and to reinvest in their spaces, to coax and use that, you know, the people back into the office. And it’s been a there’s so much fun playing a role in helping to guide that. Yeah,
Jeremy Weisz 29:31
I want to talk about the landscape of commercial real estate. Have you seen a new normal NOW or going back to what was before?
Peter Billmeyer 29:38
It is absolutely not going back to the way it was before for maybe ever, maybe ever, you can’t account for the technological shift. That, you know, the pandemic really serves as a catalyst for perfect kind of low hanging fruit example. Take grandma, grandma’s grocery shop her entire life. Right. That’s all the dead Renu They are definitely a tech laggard, you know, they’re not some early adopter, well, pandemic, hence, they’re forced to figure out what, you know, Instacart, Amazon, whatever, no, got it, there are things that you want to do that maybe you enjoy. But if you’re one of those that hates going to the grocery store, and you’ve now figured out, oh, my gosh, the produce is fine. The food gets here, when they say, they’re not going back, those efficiencies, those quality of life decisions are not going back. And I look at the office environment and the Office experience the exact same way. If I had $1, for every time I’ve heard, you must be freaking out, you must be so worried about your career and your company, you guys are gonna go out of business. I said, I’ve never been worried about it one day, in my life, because we’re human beings. That being said, we forecasts probably 20 to 30%, will not come back to the office, and probably shouldn’t end up very, very simple example of that is I have what I consider to be one of the most phenomenal bookkeepers I’ve ever come across in business. I love her. I mean, I would sit there and go to dinner with her any night of the week she wanted to, I will sit and talk with her. I haven’t seen her in three years, my books get done. Perfect. There are times when you know, he’ll jump on my computer screen and we go through QuickBooks, and we’re looking at some things and making sure we’re on the same page. And that’s totally understandable. And that’s okay. But what if you are a younger, aspiring leader, someone that’s in creative, someone that’s in sales, something that needs collaboration? What are you gonna get on my my calendar for 15 minutes on Zoom? No, we’re going to lose a decade of leaders of future leaders if we don’t get people back in the office. Because coming back to that, the magics, the silence between the notes, when I walk out my office to go grab or fill up my water or do something and I hear one of my young members, you know, she says something dumb, or he says something dumb or it’s misguided, I hear that instantly. And I correct it instantly. And we move on, you cannot manufacture and recreate that via zoom via phone call. And so leaders are having to really think through how they’re designing their spaces, what they’re putting in their spaces. What are they offering to get their tunes back? Where are they going to be located. And I think we’re going to be so much better for it. When you forecast out three, four years from now. And a lot of these positive changes come, especially in the Chicagoland area, so long as we get the violence under control, because that is a very significant headwind that needs to be taken extremely seriously from not only the business community, which I think is, but but from a complete and total civic leadership standpoint. Because that is the number one issue that we’re hearing about bringing people back to the office is the fear of the community.
Jeremy Weisz 32:47
You mentioned people saying, you know, you must you must be worried. You do have you didn’t mention before we hit record there. You see some scary stuff looming.
Peter Billmeyer 32:58
I get scared for the landlords, especially in particular to the office market. We have a considerable I don’t want to call it a perfect storm. But there are some very large headwinds coming for a significant portion of the office landlord community in the Chicago area. You’ve got the combination of amazing new product coming on the market. You still have Lincoln yards hanging out there Project 78, you have the Bank of America building that just came on, you’ve got Salesforce tower, you have BMO Harris. You know, you look at what transpired at the post office, we’re becoming a very bifurcated market of haves and have nots, trophy towers, really great locations, high end amenities, those have been healthy and are continuing to kind of be stable. The buildings that are a bit more antiquated, that we’re not, you know, fully invested in, when you look at companies, whether it’s they’re downsizing, they’re not renewing, I don’t see a huge threat only from downsizing because a lot of companies to my earlier point are actually spreading back out. But when you have a supply demand imbalance rates are going to drop, and why I call it you know, a wonderful bonanza for someone like myself, because I’m only on the tenant side. And we get to be heroes by having a lower cost of occupancy that we get to deliver on behalf of our clients. From a landlord standpoint, that’s really scary. And then now really dig deeper and look at what’s going on. I mean, the Fed just raised rates, another 50 bits yesterday, there’s talk that might even be 75. Come come June. So if the lending markets become less favorable, which is unequivocally happening, you’ll get the CMBS markets tightening when your mortgage come through, and your 30% vacancy. Refinancing isn’t what it used to be. And some of these landlords are going to write checks to get their debt, you know, debt to equity ratio back and balance and some are gonna throw back the keys and you do that. That is a very, very pain have a process for a building. And for that lender when you do either a deed in lieu of foreclosure, or it goes into receivership because someone is myself, we stopped showing those buildings, there’s too much uncertainty that you lose that velocity, someone is myself, we start calling those tenants in those buildings, because sometimes it services go down, and you relocate them. So there will be, you know, a lot of relocations coming where as the cost of accuracy comes down to you know, companies that were in lower, and a tear buildings are going to be able to move up, you know, and still pay the same. So I’m going to be able to just save a ton of money. So we are very bullish, very excited, and super pumped for our model. But there, there’s definitely some problems coming for, for the kind of the more macro real estate environment, if you will, lots of choices for tenants
Jeremy Weisz 35:51
there. I want to talk about who are what are the ideal characteristics of a client for you?
Peter Billmeyer 35:59
Who’s what does that look like? It’s a it’s a, it’s a tough question. We are predominantly industry agnostic. So we don’t do anything in retail, thank God, we are not good at that. But so long as it’s an office or industrial user, whether they want to buy a building, they want to lease, it doesn’t really matter. But privately held, typical revenues are, you know, between a smaller client, you know, if they take 2 million a year in revenue up to our largest client, their holding company does about 7 billion. And, you know, it’s, it’s not a lack of resources. With with regard to our abilities, it’s, it’s much more of the empathetic understanding, as someone that has built the business that signs the rent check every month, you know, those nuances of how you really drive not only the best deal from an economic but just an overall value standpoint. And so if you’re a privately held, and you have any of those kinds of questions, or desires or needs with regard to your, your environment, that’s that’s who we get really excited to talk to.
Jeremy Weisz 37:09
What did you do Peter with with New Hope Academy,
Peter Billmeyer 37:13
the New Hope Academy is one of those I truly greatest deals feelings ever. So to Dave and brandy Lawrence, they are a therapy school. So you have a significantly larger than any of us with like, part of the population where certain parents for certain reasons, whether it be special needs, whether it be mental, whether it be you know, they don’t fit in some of these schools, right. And the schools, they don’t have the resources, like a normal public school to be able to service, this subset of children. And so we found Dave and Brandi in an old, just terrible kind of warehouse type building, it was a complete square peg, round hole, they were going to put a gun range in across the street and down a block. And you know, so those deals are extremely hard to pull off. You have busing, you’ve got to do helical counts, you’re gonna have to get a zoning variance. And then how are you going to find a landlord that wants that use, knowing it’s going to be a bit harder on your building, than say, you know, postgrad professionals, then you got to find a landlord that’s going to actually want to pay for the construction. So we moved them, the space turned out so phenomenal. And their landlord, he deserves a ton of credit, he believed that, um, and they needed each other. It worked out so well, that three years after moving them in, they almost doubled in size, again, based on how positive and I’ll be darned if they’re not almost full. And you were talking about the most vulnerable kids in our society that they are the ones being the safety net, and catching and educating and helping and bringing, you know, stability and safety to it. It’s really darn impressive what they do and their commitment to the betterment of society and their businesses, quite frankly.
Jeremy Weisz 39:16
And then what about rock FASCO? And Connolly?
Peter Billmeyer 39:19
What did you do? Um, that’s a that’s a cool one in that they’re an amazing law firm, a general practitioner, they specialize in a lot of different areas, but it’s what I kind of considered, this was really like rock FASCO economy 3.0 You know, Jay Rock, and Matt Connolly, they, they have taken over the firm, it’s their time, they’re growing quickly. They’re investing in their people. They’re investing in their practice, and it was time to invest in their space. And it was a very complex, it was a long process to get the right deal for them. They just moved in on Monday. And it’s gorgeous. The unique location, the finishes the build out the views. Without a doubt, I’m 100% confident it’s going to have a very, very high positive impact on the things we talked about earlier with their ability to poach, and recruiting lawyers, their ability to have them stick around and Bill more hours on a weekly basis and, you know, improve that cultural piece. And so I think there’s a lot of wonderful things ahead for for that firm. And, you know, moving is brutal. Everybody will tell you that’s done it. And I know they’re extremely happy to have it done.
Jeremy Weisz 40:36
You know, Peter, with all you have going on with business and family, you are helping out several organizations as well Spinal Bifida organization, the Daniel Murphy scholarship. Talk about those for a second.
Peter Billmeyer 40:51
Despite the fact I was on that was a while ago. That was my very first what I consider executive board spine Association Illinois. A question and connection was probably will forever be my baby. That was on that board for 10 years I was president for for them it’s it’s just an amazing facility up in unincorporated like forest 16 acres 20 Indoor horse stalls out outside, I believe they now have about eight. It’s hippotherapy. So you’re linking up disabled children and adults physically disabled mentally disabled with horseback riding and the impacts on people it’s the we can’t even go into it is some of the the outcomes that that I’ve personally seen. I’ve been on the board for four years of Daniel Murphy scholarship fund where we help underprivileged middle school children get scholarships to high school. So we’re right around 500 scholars right now. It’s, it’s, it’s a really impressive organization. After four years, I’m actually going to be rolling off of that and going to take a little bit of time for my family. But the other one that’s super near and dear to my heart is Clearbrook. Where they serve 8000 special need families in Illinois, it’s about a $55 million a year operating budget, placing predominantly adults in Sillas. So Scylla is a home where you would live with three other typically if it’s four bedroom, three other special needs adults 24 hour care, and you’re trying to recreate as close to a normal living environment as possible versus one room 50 people feeling more like a retirement home type situation. They also have amazing day programs for children and for adults. They just had their gala last Friday. It’s it’s, you know, it’s it’s a really great place. No different than than misery Korea, if you will. Peter,
Jeremy Weisz 42:55
I one last question are a combination of this a Part A and Part B to this last question. But before we get to it, I just want to thank you. This has been amazing to hear your expertise and the stories and I want to point people to your website, which is B spoke c r e.com. Are there any other places online? We should point people to?
Peter Billmeyer 43:17
I’m laughing sorry. We’re going through our whole website review as we speak. Now, I mean, just we’re regular people, you know, and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in business, it’s, it’s not what you spend on marketing. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what the people you respect. It’s what your clients, right, that’s your reputation is what they say it is. And so I think you have to have nice marketing materials and look professional, but ultimately, we we can’t do our jobs without getting in the room with our, our clients and our prospective clients. Because we need to see it, touch it, feel it. And, you know, we meet with a lot of people. And that’s a wonderful part of our job.
Jeremy Weisz 44:01
So check out be spoke cre.com. So last question. Peter, you know, sports also mimics a lot about life and business. And I think I was I was reading about you online the other day. I think someone from Oregon State or I think tied a record that you sat there of 15 Shout I don’t remember the exact number but you had 15 Plus shout outs and also it was in a row or what it was, but I want to hear the most memorable game that you had on the bad side. And then on the good side because sometimes we learn our biggest lessons from the bad ones and they stick with us so I want to hear the bad game and I want to hear the good game when you look back on on your career as a soccer player.
Peter Billmeyer 44:52
Wow. The bad one is so it doesn’t leave. It doesn’t leave you like I can tell you that it still bothers me after all these years even it’s truly kind of laughable. I mean, there’s 2002 in the NCAA Tournament, he’s peers who is the left back for Portland, just more or less was was clearing the ball is right before halftime, and then hindsight, it was probably a little laissez faire. And, you know, my defender had told me, you know, it was away, and I’ll be doing but this thing just dropped out of the sky, into the upper 90, almost like on a vertical. And it was a goal. And it was, by far the worst time the worst goal of my career to have given up. And I think that the big takeaway from it is humility. You know, I was I was a wreck that night, and you feel like you let your entire team down and all those countless hours of work and preparation and, and just, you know, the the true investment. I think I’m better for it. But But I would be lying if I said that, that’s a lesson I really would prefer to have not learned. And certainly not that way. And then, you know, from a positive experience, there’s there’s a lot there. I mean, we we had a special team, we had, we really got to go in my my senior year where we ended up finishing second in the Pac 10, which was an arguably the second best conference in the country. Probably beating Stanford, my senior year in overtime at home, because we beat them on the road and at home with junior and senior year, both times where they absolutely shocked us, my freshman and sophomore year. So anytime you can get one over on redemption. Yeah, they you know, UCLA and Stanford played for the National Championship my, my sophomore year. So it was it was not a lot of fun to lead the PAC 10 and saves all four years. I mean, I I definitely know what it’s like to be shelled to say at
Jeremy Weisz 47:02
least, Peter, first of all, thank you everyone. Check out be spoke cre.com and more episodes of the podcast. Thanks, Peter. Thanks, everyone. Thank you so much.
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