Women in CRE: Barbi Reuter
The CEO of Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR advocates stepping up and asking for what you deserve.
Barbi Reuter, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield| PICO Commercial Real Estate Services, believes in taking calculated risks to get ahead.
Those calculated risks, she said, along with “good judgment, hard work, alignment with entrepreneurial people with like values,” have helped her establish a successful career in commercial real estate.
Reuter’s affiliation with Tucson-based Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR began with the firm’s opening in 1985, and she became a founding principal in 1992. After three years as COO, she was named president in 2017, then CEO, chair of the board & designated broker in 2020. Reuter leads the employee-owned commercial real estate firm’s activity in southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. She previously founded the firm’s Property Management Division, taking it to the lead in market share, and directed the division until 2007 managing office, medical, industrial and retail space.
She was a founding member of CREW’s Tucson organization in 2003 and has been an active member ever since, most recently serving as the 2022 CREW Network president. “CREW Network has been an invaluable resource of expertise, collaboration, leadership development and two-referrals,” Reuter noted.
Reuter got her career boost when she was still a student at the University of Arizona typing leases on weekends for an industrial broker.
“He was opening mail and held up a commission check that was easily two to three times my single mother’s annual salary and said, ‘this is what you can do in this business,’” she recalled.
The broker hired her to job-share the admin role as a working student when he started his boutique brokerage six months later, agreed to support her licensing and provided her with an internship when she took a gap semester to work full time. “A developer client needed a property manager and that was the start of a 20-year career before I moved into company leadership,” Reuter recounted.
But, she notes, the challenge of trying to do all things well, led to two inflection points in her career.
“First, late in the GFC, I downshifted my career for family balance working less than full time,” she explained. “It took eight years to reestablish my earnings to the level before I stepped back. We can do better as employers than to penalize working parents, and I encourage family friendly policies in our workplace.
“Second, many years ago I created a crisis of confidence with my partners when I failed to articulate the value I was bringing. It was a painful time I got through with introspection, coaching and a resolve to fix things or move on. I remain here today.”
Reuter advises aspiring executives, particularly women, to step up and ask for what they want, including assignments, key clients, opportunities and fair compensation. In 2021, CREW Network launched a CRE Pledge for Action that includes a number of these initiatives from sponsorship/mentorship to intentional recruiting and pay equity studies.
“It’s also not enough to hire more diverse people,” she commented. “Creating a culture of belonging is needed to retain them. Workplaces and businesses outcomes are richer for different perspectives.”
“Early in my career, I wondered whether the work I was doing in property management (protecting and growing asset value) was fundamentally satisfying and noble. I’ve come to appreciate the deep connection between commercial real estate and thriving communities.”
Read the March 2023 issue of CPE.
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