CRE Midwest

Deena Zimmerman gives advice to women entering the industry and explains the importance of taking risks and being fearless

Roughly eight years ago, Deena Zimmerman was working in the real estate industry with a focus in advertising. At that time, she attended the Forecast Conference for the first time and witnessed firsthand the buzz surrounding the event.

Deena hiking Joshua Tree.
Deena hiking Joshua Tree.
Roughly eight years ago, Deena Zimmerman was working in the real estate industry with a focus in advertising. At that time, she attended the Forecast Conference for the first time and witnessed firsthand the buzz surrounding the event. Captivated and enthralled by what the experts had to say about the markets and the industry, she quickly realized the direction she wanted to go in her career. She was determined to stay in real estate. Just no longer in advertising--instead, she wanted to become a broker.

Now a Vice President with SVN, Zimmerman will serve as the Emcee of next week’s 14th Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference at the Hyatt Regency.

She will be keeping the program going—from the introduction of the One—2—One conversation between Governor Bruce Rauner and Colliers’ David Kahnweiler-- through the end of the event. With the buzz that typically permeates the event as CRE pros gather to network and gain valuable insights, that is no small task. But Deena and her commanding, outgoing personality should be ready for the challenge!

Just ahead of the January 20 event, we interviewed Deena to find out what advice she has for women entering the business, what her goals are for the new year, and even let us in on one of the scariest things she has ever done.

Illinois Real Estate Journal: What does your work consist of at SVN?

Zimmerman: Serving as a vice president in the SVN (We just recently rebranded to just the initials!) Chicago office, my focus is in tenant representation, specializing in finding high quality sites throughout Chicagoland and surrounding areas for national operators, franchisees, and first-time entrepreneurs. It’s an exciting mix of established firms and start-ups … retailers with an appetite for expansion and others with a concept they feel passionate enough about to launch a business!

IREJ: What were some of the firm's 2015 highlights?

Zimmerman: The highlights for SVN include:  SVN became the 8th largest brokerage company in America, we are the 6th most recognized brand of commercial real estate in the world (according to a Lipsey survey), we established offices in Canada, Russia and Mexico, and the company closed largest single commission in its history.

IREJ: What are your goals for the year?

Zimmerman: For the firm, the goals for 2016 inbclude continued international growth and organic growth within the platform. For me, it’s to continue to help build the retail practice here at the firm, and to improve on the services and results I was able to provide and achieve in 2015!

IREJ: What is it about CRE that keeps you motivated?

Zimmerman: I love being a part of the site selection process and seeing all of these amazing new retailers come into the market. And, with some regularity, I get to work with office space users.

IREJ: What advice do you have for women trying to break in to the industry?

Zimmerman: Find a mentor and a senior broker who is willing to take your hand and lead you through the process.  NEVER be afraid to ask questions.  I also highly recommend attending at least one networking event per week.  You will not only make great connections to help advance your career, but you will hopefully gain some valuable insight into the latest topics and trends in commercial real estate.  I start each day reading relevant articles on expanding retailers, economic trends, and other topics related to commercial and residential real estate in order to be timely and educated for my clients.

IREJ: What do you like to do on your time off from work?

Zimmerman: I enjoy hiking with my husband and two dogs. I frequently participate in 5 and 10k races to raise money for cancer and animal welfare charities, two causes that are important to me. And of course, without hesitation, ANY chance I can get to jump on a plane to travel I will take!

IREJ: What were your New Year’s resolutions for 2016?

Zimmerman: I am going to try to get out of my comfort zone and try one new fitness activity each month. Tops on the list are karate, ballet and boxing. I also am half way through with the pursuit of the CCIM designation. My goal is to wrap that up in 2016, too.

IREJ: Have you ever conquered a fear?

Zimmerman: I am terrified of dancing and I participated in a charity dance competition—a take-off on Dancing With the Stars—last year. My participation required me to train intensely for three months and to learn the American Tango.  I think it’s important to say yes to things that I make you fearful in order to really stretch out the old comfort zones. This DEFINITELY qualified for that! But I am really glad I did it.