David Hunt knew he wanted to work in sales and own a business when he graduated from college in 1973. But at age 21, he said, "I had no capital, and I didn't have much of an idea."
He narrowed his choice to the information technology or commercial real estate sectors, and took a chance on the latter after seeing a job ad in Newsday. He worked for a small brokerage for a few years, then struck out on his own and started Hunt Corporate Services Inc. in 1981.
Hunt, 62, has seen the Long Island commercial real estate industry change dramatically over the last four decades. His company represents tenants looking for space and landlords trying to sell or lease space on an exclusive basis, and also has a construction business to supplement the real estate work.
What does it take to work in commercial real estate?
Commercial real estate requires a very specific skill set. The number-one quality would be persistence, the ability to keep going after disappointment. People skills and analytical skills are a must.
How has the commercial real estate business changed?
Listings have become a commodity. When I started in the business in 1973, listings were very proprietary. Today, you can just go and buy the service. That's really leveled the playing field for smaller companies like mine. We have the same data research as the larger companies, multinational companies.
Is it difficult doing business on Long Island with so many larger national brokerages in the market?
There's enough business on Long Island that we get to share. Nowadays, Fortune 500 businesses are all represented by these larger firms. So that makes it very difficult for a smaller company like mine to have any kind of traction with a larger client. Every once in a while we will work with a larger company just looking for representation in a local area.
How is the commercial real estate market faring?
The market has really roared back significantly. One of the barometers I like to use is how often other brokers are showing space I represent, because it's a true reflection of the market. If I was representing an industrial space three years ago, I might be lucky to have a showing once every other month, now I could be having showings once a week.
How is doing commercial real estate different on Long Island compared with other places?
One of the things we take for granted on Long Island is that there's so much business here. We have more business than some states, just for the sheer number of companies that are here. Think about what kind of market we have here -- it's a very concentrated area.
What was the reasoning behind starting a construction business?
In commercial real estate you're working with clients who are acquiring or disposing of real estate. In almost every situation there's work to be done. I could service my same client list with construction . . . What I've found is one business really supports the other. I'm developing construction leads from my brokerage company, and my construction company is actually generating leads for the brokerage business.
NAME: David Hunt, president and founder, Hunt Corporate Services in Plainview
WHAT IT DOES: Tenant and landlord representation in commercial real estate transactions
REVENUE: $1.2 million