CRE Midwest

Profile: Susan Bergdoll on mentoring and why she's a believer of helping others

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Even back when Susan Bergdoll worked in the political arena, Duke Realty seemed to be in the back of her mind. While working for the mayor of Indianapolis, the CEO at the time approached Bergdoll, encouraging her to contact him when she was ready to leave politics. That was 18 years ago. Now, vice president of leasing and development at Duke Realty, Bergdoll recalls the moment she took him up on the offer and landed her first position with the firm.

Even when Susan Bergdoll worked in the political arena in the 90s, Duke Realty was in the back of her mind. Once while working for the mayor of Indianapolis, the CEO of Duke at the time had approached Bergdoll, encouraging her to contact him when she was ready to leave politics. That was 18 years ago. Now, vice president of leasing and development at Duke Realty, Bergdoll recalls the moment she took him up on the offer and landed her first position with the firm.

She got her start working in Duke Realty’s headquarters in the marketing department, and then joined the industrial leasing team in Indianapolis. After eight years, she was asked to transfer to Chicago to help expand the company’s presence in the market.

After joining the industry and even to this day, Bergdoll has been very active in real estate. In 2004, she was one of the founding members of the Indianapolis Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), and has been a member of CREW Chicago since 2007. Additionally, she’s on the advisory board for iWire, another organization for women in industrial real estate.

Just recently, Bergdoll was one of four panelists breaking down the anatomy of an industrial deal at a CREW Luncheon.

Leading the CREW Luncheon discussion was Lynn Reich, executive vice president at Colliers Chicago with Kimberly Adams, managing director at J.P. Morgan; and Maria Alexakis, managing director at The Private Bank, who were also on the panel.

In the informational presentation, these experts covered a number of topics including types of users looking for space, building sizes and locations in demand, desired features and some of today’s underwriting criteria and financing sources. On the agenda, there was also discussion on how Chicago compares to other industrial markets around the country and Bergdoll even highlighted a trending service.

“E-commerce companies are currently driving demand, looking for both large distribution centers in major markets to serve regions with high populations and smaller facilities in urban locations to be able to accelerate delivery to city dwellers,” she said.

An additional topic that came up was that on suburban developments, notably Bridge’s project in Northlake and Duke Realty’s spec building in Romeoville. Finally, the audience got answers to some of their additional concerns regarding the market.

“The audience peppered us with questions about trends, LEED certifications, Class B building values and other topics,” Bergdoll said, “It was a fun 45 minutes that flew by.”

One thing is for certain—Bergdoll likes to be involved and explained that industry relationships are key.

“Real estate is a relationship business, much more so than just bricks and mortar,” she said.“CREW, AIRE, SIOR, iWire and other similar organizations all provide great opportunities to communicate with my peers in the industry. Whether it’s sharing comps, market information or even lamenting the IDOT process, networking allows us to learn from others and share experiences.”

Bergdoll also knows what it’s like learning the way through the industry and this makes her a strong believer of helping others.

Currently, she mentors an assistant project manager for Duke Realty’s Chicago construction team, Ayesha Johns, through the company’s mentorship program. Bergdoll said Johns had expressed interest in learning more about the sales and development side of the business, so she is spending some time with her this year attending showings, putting together proposals, attending city council meetings and other exciting activities.

“There have been many people who have put time and effort into helping me succeed, so I am more than happy to give back to others,” Bergdoll said.

Even her most memorable experiences in real estate weren’t exactly the transactions or buildings, but instead, the relationships with whom she’s done business with. These people, she explained, are a cast of characters who have all contributed to her growth in the industry.

“One of the funniest experiences was showing NASCAR driver Tony Stewart a small warehouse space for his merchandising and promotional materials,” she said. “He was still relatively new at the time and his mom was with him, she was his manager for this part of his business. As he climbed out of the car, he looked over and said ‘Hey Babe’ ... and then I showed him how to work a leveler. I think it was kind of humbling for him.”

As for her personal life, some could say she keeps busy—Her family moved four times in four months last summer, and this summer, she admits, has flown by for her family. Bergdoll said they’ve been busy with several weddings, graduations and short trips.

“I’m hoping for a little down time next month,” she added.