CRE Midwest

Joe Smazal on time management, moderating the forecast conference, and the athlete he would like to hang out with

[ Joe with wife Katie at a wedding at the planetarium summer 2015.

The 14th Annual Forecast Conference is just around the corner and Illinois Real Estate Journal can’t wait to hear from the outstanding lineup of speakers on January 20. While many may know some of the speakers professionally, aren’t we all just a little bit curious of what they do in their spare time?

The 14th Annual Forecast Conference is just around the corner and Illinois Real Estate Journal can’t wait to hear from the outstanding lineup of speakers on January 20.

While many may know some of the speakers professionally, aren’t we all just a little bit curious of what they do in their spare time?

IREJ is, and for that reason, we caught up with a few to get a glimpse of what they like to do for fun.

Like Joe Smazal. At work, he’s managing partner at Interra Realty, generating business as an investment sales broker. But on his time off, he starts his day at the gym and ends it relaxing with his wife and his friends.

Smazal, moderator of the multifamily break-out panel, gives us an inside look at what guests can expect to hear at the conference. In this Q&A, he also talks advice, golf, that time he met “The Gronk,” and what's on his bucket list.

Illinois Real Estate Journal: Can you tell us what your role consists of as managing partner at Interra Realty?

Joe Smazal: My primary responsibility is generating business as an investment sales broker.  I also mentor newer agents to help them build a pipeline and learn the ropes, and assist in training seminars and workshops.  One of the reasons that I really enjoy working for a boutique firm is that I have the opportunity to have direct input in adopting best practices, branding / marketing, and growth planning.

IREJ: What are some of the areas that you will be covering at Illinois Real Estate Journal’s Forecast Conference?

Smazal: I am going to be moderating the multifamily break-out panel.  I think there is a lot to be excited about as we discuss a 2016 forecast of the multifamily market, and I’m also interested in hearing the factors that the panelists believe could further enhance that outlook or eventually temper some of that excitement.  If you are going to the conference, and would like a certain multifamily topic covered, give me a call beforehand!

IREJ: How did you get involved with real estate?

Smazal: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and knew that I wanted to build my own business as soon as possible.  Prior to starting in real estate, I was selling medical equipment on a national basis.  It was a good job, but I could tell it wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term.  I have some extended family in real estate in other markets so I used them as a sounding board, and started connecting with anyone that I could locally.  I started in 2011, which I think was pretty good timing for ramping up, and I haven’t looked back.

IREJ: What is the most distinguished memory you have of your time in the business?  

Smazal: One deal that sticks out earlier in my career was a portfolio of buildings I sold on the Northwest side of the city.  The product was really in my strikezone; vintage, courtyard and walk-up buildings with an add-value play.  It wasn’t my first deal, but it had so many obstacles and nuances, and it really helped cut my teeth in the business.  We signed the listing agreements sitting on paint buckets in the boiler room, and the sales contract on the dashboard of my car…far cry from the real estate shows on TV.

IREJ: What is it about the business that keeps you motivated and excited?

Smazal: A lot of the deals that we do are with private investors, where decisions aren’t made by a board in a conference room.  I have the opportunity to meet so many different people, and it’s really rewarding when you can add-value to the purchase or sale of a very meaningful asset in their life.  I also love the connection working in real estate gives you to the city and its different neighborhoods.

IREJ: What life lessons have you learned from working in CRE?

Smazal: That’s a long list, but the first thing that comes to mind is the importance of time management.  There are a million ways to stay busy without generating any new business, so it’s always of utmost importance to feed new business in the front of the pipeline.  As a broker, it’s easy to fall off peoples’ radar screens if you aren’t constantly active and efficient with your time.

IREJ: Best advice you’ve ever received?

Smazal: I’m really proud of the discipline and work ethic that my dad instilled in me growing up.  When I think of receiving advice, I think of him leading by example in the way he runs his small business in my hometown in Iowa.  When you are young, you don’t really understand the long hours and stress that’s involved, but looking back I realize how much I learned from him about business.

IREJ: Now on to the personal questions. What does your day consist of when you’re not at work?

Smazal: I love starting my day with a workout, and I also like to eat a lot and have a beer or glass of wine with my wife and friends…life is about balance, right?

IREJ: Growing up, what was your career aspiration? Anything glamorous?

Smazal: I’ve wanted to be a businessman for a long time, so I think my younger self would be happy with what I am doing today.  I have always been pretty pragmatic, and I was never good enough at sports or science to have a more glamorous aspiration like playing for the Cubs or being a brain surgeon.

IREJ: One thing people not many people know about you?

Smazal: My first real job (aside from the monopoly I had on mowing lawns in my neighborhood) was in the Chinese restaurant portion of a grocery store in Iowa.  My main responsibilities were cutting vegetables, frying egg rolls, cleaning, and serving customers.  I think I was pretty good at it, but it didn’t really translate into helping me get dates.

IREJ: Let’s talk places. Best city you’ve ever visited?

Smazal: My dad and I play in a golf tournament every year in Bellevue, Iowa.  It’s a simple course surrounded by cornfields near the Mississippi River, and they cut an 8 inch cup in absurd places on the greens.  I’ve had some great vacations in pretty cool places with family and friends, but Bellevue is always very grounding and the tradition comes with some nostalgia of past years.

IREJ: Ever been starstrucked or met someone famous?

Smazal: Last year I met The Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) during the season.  He was a cool guy, but seemed pretty tame and focused.  After seeing how much fun he had celebrating the Super Bowl win, I wish I could go back and hang out with him for part of his victory tour.

IREJ: Ultimate bucket list goal?

Smazal: I think this is where I am supposed to say sky dive or bungee jump, but I am scared of heights.  I don’t even like climbing on roofs during property inspections.  This is probably an equally unoriginal answer, but I’d like to travel more internationally.  Career wise, I’d like to do more of what I am doing!