CRE Midwest

Steven Podolsky's undeniable passion for industrial real estate

Steven with his family. Podolsky will be the Honoree at a Gala on May 16 that benefits The Jewish Childrens

Steven Podolsky entered the business of industrial real estate through osmosis. About 44 years ago his father, Milton Podolsky, started what is now Podolsky|Circle CORFAC International.

Steven Podolsky entered the business of industrial real estate through osmosis. About 44 years ago his father, Milton Podolsky, started what is now Podolsky|Circle CORFAC International. Before he started his own firm, Podolsky’s father had been a co-owner of another firm. Podolsky had joined him there and continued with his father when he started the new firm, making partner in 1979, and becoming president of the firm in 1981.

“We are principal driven, said Podolsky, principal at Podolsky|Circle CORFAC International. “Everything we do—brokerage, property management, asset management, reo and advisory work—involves at least one of the firm’s principals. And our principals are diverse in their areas of expertise and what they do best. I like the fact that what you see is what you get. In other words, if a principal is involved in a pitch—which they almost always are—you’ll see that person throughout the assignment.”

“I like to think I am always working on something exciting,” Podolsky added. “And while I can’t mention the specifics at this time, I am working on a significant disposition—a regional corporate headquarters—for a client in the southeast. Additionally, four of my five major clients all have something going on. That’s exciting for many reasons, including that I don’t have to make cold calls to drum up business! I never had the patience to be good at cold calling. I learned early on that I wanted to be a relationship broker versus a transaction broker.”

One reason for Podolsky remaining in the industry for more than 30 years is because he loves the people aspect of the business—meeting and interacting with clients and other real estate professionals in brokerage, ownership and development.

Podolsky, formerly a high school teacher on Chicago's West Side, says, "My passion is going into industrial buildings to see and learn how things are made, packaged and shipped. It is fascinating to learn more about American industry and to see how businesses operate. It’s also because of my affiliation with, and participation in, associations like SIOR, FIABCI and CORFAC. That involvement has allowed me to travel the world representing our firm, and our city. Just like going into an industrial building, it is fascinating to go into another city or country, another broker’s market, and learn as much as you can about the traditions, the culture—everything.”

For the first half of 2015 for industrial real estate, Podolsky noted that he expects the market will continue to strengthen. “Cap rates and vacancy rates are down, which means values are up as are rental rates. The market has changed from a tenant’s market to one that favors the landlord.”

Reflecting back on 2014, Podolsky had an old lesson reinforced: Nothing lasts forever. “2009 was perhaps the worst real estate market since the great depression coming off one of the strongest sustained markets of recent times,” he said. “2014 was a rebound year. So we must learn to ride the good markets when we can, and persevere in the bad markets when we have to! Having a strong client base, a good partnership and no debt was a key focus.”

So how does Podolsky find the balance between work and the things that keeps him sane? “In my younger days I was a sports participant, playing softball and bowling. Today I am more of a spectator sport person, going to college and pro basketball, hockey and football games.”

Travel is also an important element to his sanity. “I am lucky to be able to travel extensively and to really spend time living and learning the cultures of the locations we visit.”

Lastly, Podolsky said his granddaughters, ages 8 and 5, keep him sane and honest! “They don’t accept any of my BS. They are delightful, and so much fun. There is so much to see through their eyes! It is important to me to make and take time to be there, at their dance recitals and other activities rather than just hearing about those activities through my wife.”

Podolsky’s greatest accomplishment outside of the industry is yet to come, but is being bestowed upon him on May 16th by the Jewish Council for Youth Services. “I am being awarded their highest honor, as the Honoree at their annual Gala, because of my 40 years of involvement there, first as a board member for 7 years, and for the next 33 years as an active alum.”

His favorite song/movie? “I am an oldies but goodies guy; mostly the 50s and 60s,” he said. “My iPod reflects that. My favorite song is probably She’s Not There by the Zombies. It’s now also one of my eight year old granddaughter’s favorites, as well. It’s a hoot to hear the whole family belt out the words when the song is playing. My favorite movies are The Sound of Music and The Magnificent Seven.”

Podolsky does have one daily habit that he can’t go without doing. “I am a coffee drinker—not excessively, but I do need that first cup in the morning. I actually grew up hating it, but then as part of a diet gave up soda, so I became a coffee drinker.”

Reflecting on what he has learned throughout his career, if Podolsky were in a position to give advice, he’d stress the importance of networking. “It is important to meet people, to put yourself out there. I always recommend that young people get involved in something—professionally, philanthropically or civic activities—which allows them to meet people. Then you have to stay in touch! Another bit of advice is to read everything you can, about the industry and related industries, and the world!”