DJ Sandler joined commercial real estate powerhouse JLL in 2015 after a very successful four-year tenure at Raytheon Company as the Deputy Director of Communications (#117 on the Fortune 500 in 2016). Now, as Vice President of Marketing for the West Coast at JLL, the Seattle native has brought his data-driven, multi-channel marketing approach to another Fortune 500 company (#436 in 2016). Based in Downtown LA, we had the opportunity to catch-up and learn more about him, JLL, and his views on the commercial real estate market and more.
Crexi: In the continually changing brokerage landscape, JLL has stayed relatively consistent and focused on their core business. What do you see changing – if anything – during the next chapter of your renowned company?
DJS: In my opinion, the next chapter at JLL will be defined by the digital and data revolution. Real estate has been slower than most sectors to feel the full transformational effects of digitalization – think of banking, retailing, and travel and how smartphones and online businesses have dramatically altered those industries. You don’t have to look farther than Crexi to see all of the potential. The real digital opportunities for real estate are still to come. JLL is investing significant time and money to become the clear digital leader in real estate services.
Crexi: What role do you see tech playing in the commercial real estate landscape over the next ten years?
DJS: In ten years, I don’t think tech will be playing a role in the CRE landscape; it will BE the landscape. Even in a built environment such as ours, we cannot ignore the trends and changing needs of B2B. After all, B2B is still driven by the people that make up those businesses. As a result, companies will demand the same benefits from technology as the consumer: convenience, accountability, expertise, end-to-end solutions, and transparency – any time of the day, all at their fingertips.
Crexi: You came to JLL following a very successful career at Raytheon. What similarities have you found within the commercial real estate and defense contractor industries? What glaring differences?
DJS: Both industries are driven by a core set of big players, which sometimes means you go up against them head-to-head on a pursuit, and sometimes you might end up partnering on a deal. Reputation and integrity matter because you never know who you might be on the phone with a week from now.
Crexi: You have a data-driven approach to your craft. What piece of data or information about how marketing materials are disseminated and received do you think would surprise most people?
DJS: Data-driven marketing is all about business development and revenue-producing solutions. Many marketing organizations broadly circulate material, cross their fingers and wait to see who comes back – almost like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. That strategy is expensive, unpredictable, and hard to prove value. Through data-driven marketing, I know who my prospects are. This allows my team to develop targeted, relevant, and engaging materials for a core set of decision-makers. When marketing plays a role in converting prospects into customers, it’s incredibly rewarding and allows us to justify our extended value in an organization.
Crexi: Without the blinders of a deep background in Commercial Real Estate, what inefficiencies do you see in the industry that sometimes surprise you?
DJS: Perhaps there’s a trend in my responses here. However, I was surprised at the dependence on traditional quarterly reporting, which is valuable but is also less forward-looking. With the incredible amount of data currently available, I’d like to see a shift towards more real-time reporting. What’s the narrative today? How can we help our customers make good decisions based on the latest market information right now? The speed of the economy is increasing and our customers will eventually demand us to keep pace.
Crexi: Most of our early interviews have been with east-coasters, so your west coast markets have been underrepresented. What is your favorite food city?
DJS: If you’re a foodie, pick a weekend and book a flight to Portland, Oregon. Hit the food carts for lunch, Pearl District for dinner, and the microbreweries in between.
Crexi: What piece of advice do you carry with you (or first that comes to mind)?
DJS: I try to spend the majority of my day looking forward; it’s helped me and my team focus on the art of progress instead of trying to perfect the past.
Crexi: If money was of no concern and you were proficient at any skill you chose, what career would you have chosen if you could start over and do anything?
DJS: I’ve never parted with my childhood rock and mineral collection and often think I could have been a famous geologist if there is such a thing.
Crexi: What trend or fundamental do you think the market-herd is overlooking when analyzing the commercial real estate market?
DJS: In my experience, the ‘herd’ has embraced and successfully leveraged financial and real estate indicators very well. However, we partner with JLL Research very closely to study broader economic and industry sectors to identify up and coming trends in the market, specifically on the west coast. By doing so, we can get out front and meet the needs of both occupiers and investors in a new or developing vertical.