I’m a journalist and my wife is a social work-er. When our two boys went off to college,
we said they could major in anything they
wanted except journalism and social work.
It’s not that we didn’t enjoy our respective
careers, but we thought in the modern
world they should work in positions with
better compensation. I have to say it was
the only time in their first 21 years they
actually listened to their parents. My older
boy works on Wall Street, while my younger boy is a surgeon.
The same paradigm for commercial real
estate professionals doesn’t hold. There
is something strangely alluring about
selling or leasing big buildings, working
with CEOs, or helping a community attract
business that inspires the children of many
SIOR professionals to end up in the same
industry as their fathers. Or, maybe in the
next generation, their mothers.
SIOR Report looked at a number of family
networks consisting of SIOR professionals
and found a few married couples in the business, and many father-son, father-sons,
father-daughter, or in the case John Barker
Sr., SIOR, CRE, president of John Barker
Realty in Shelby, N.C., father-children. His
son, John Barker Jr., SIOR, and daughter,
Leah Barker Bailey, SIOR, are both in the
business, but neither working at the same
firm as the father.
“Really, my dad is the reason for me doing
what I’m doing,” Leah explains. “As children,
we were able to see what he was doing
from where we were sitting and I knew he
was helping out our community and state.
I always wanted to do what he was doing.”
“As children, we were able to see what he was
doing from where we were sitting and I knew he
was helping out our community and state. I always
wanted to do what he was doing.”
And how did John Barker Sr., get into the
business? He went to work for his father-
in-law, who was a developer. After eight
years with him, John Barker Sr. formed
his own company. So for Leah Bailey, a
senior leasing agent at Trinity Partners,
Charlotte, and John Barker Jr., president of
Red Rock Developments, Charlotte, it’s now
three generations of Barkers in the real
This is not an unusual story. Family ties
hark back a couple of generations.
Stanley Wisinski, SIOR, CCIM, a principal in
Grand Rapids-based NAI Wisinski of West
Michigan was in college when his uncle,
who was in the real estate business, hired
him part-time. Soon, he had his residential real estate license and worked in that
arena before switching to commercial. He
started his own company in 1986.
Stanley’s daughter, Mary Anne Wisinski-Rosely, graduated college with a degree in
marketing and finance and the joined the
Grand Rapids Press in advertising sales.
After management changes, Mary Anne’s
fiancée suggested she go to work for her
dad. That was in 1995.
Today, Mary Anne, SIOR, CCIM, is now a
partner at NAI Wisinski.
“I wasn’t really surprised she came to work
for me,” says Stanley. “When she was grow-
ing up, she would come to the office with
me on weekends or evenings. I would have
her with me while I was doing some work.”
To which, Mary Anne added, “I had my own
little office as a kid. I used to draw on the
old real estate forms or pretend to fill them
out – like I was doing my dad’s job.”
For William P. O’Brien, SIOR, and Michael
C. O’Brien III, principals of M.C. O’Brien Inc.,
the oldest commercial real estate firm
operating in Brooklyn, they are working in
a company founded by their grandfather,
who passed the business to their father
and now they both work in the company.
“I have had an opportunity to work on
properties that my grandfather and father
touched,” says William O’Brien. “I’ve dealt
with people who knew both of them and in
every instance I heard wonderful stories.
They set the bar high for us.”
Neither William nor Michael set out to join
the family business. Michael, for example,
has a degree in geology and was a wildcat driller in Wyoming. When the crunch
in the oil fields left thousands of workers
unemployed (some things never change!)
including Michael, he came home and
decided to try out the family business.
William majored in psychology but toward
the end of his college years, his father
Michael C. O’Brien II, an original SIR, didn’t
recommend “plastics” or mention “Mrs.
Robinson” instead said something to the
effect, “why don’t you look at the real estate
business?” Michael did and over 30 years
later is still there.
Again, these kinds of stories are not unusual. Talk to a second or third generation
SIOR member and they often say they tried
other jobs in other industries before coming
around to their father’s profession. Some
would even say, they, in a sense, ran completely in other directions, very far away
from real estate, before seeing the light.
Kristin Geenty went to George Washington
University, graduating with a degree in economics and international affairs, thinking
she would push on and become a lawyer.
Instead, she worked at a number of starter
slots before deciding it was time to settle