Industrial Midwest

The best advice your father gave you? Industry pros tell-all

Dave Erickson, left, during a round of golf with his father.

It’s a legacy; something a father (or mother) passes along to a son or daughter. It can be more impactful than a financial inheritance; more powerful than the best education a parents’ money can buy.

It’s a legacy; something a father (or mother) passes along to a son or daughter. It can be more impactful than a financial inheritance; more powerful than the best education a parents’ money can buy.

Because in the end, the advice, counsel, guidance and direction from a father, or a father-like mentor (and mother, and mother-like figures) is something that came from you. It isn’t something they earned; it’s something they learned and in turn have taught you.

REjournals celebrates Father’s Day, and tips its hat to mothers, too. And in the spirit of that celebration, we randomly asked people in the industry for the advice they were given by their fathers, or father-like figures. We also asked fathers what advice they might be passing on to their children, whether they are your or grown, in the business or in an industry of their own choosing.

And in the spirit of remembering the influence of moms, too, we gladly encouraged and accepted words of wisdom from mothers as well.

Danny Nikitas, managing director of Avison Young's Chicago region, learned the importance of hard work, discipline and fair play from his father, Jim, and in subsequent years, through a career mentor, Tony Loukas.

“I certainly got my love of basketball and team sports from my dad and also the love of my Greek heritage. He was a man of tremendous energy and many ideas.”

Those value are central to his approach to parenting-- and working in the commercial real estate market, a business he entered with the encouragement of Loukas.

“One of the biggest things my kids have learned from me is the importance of hard work and staying true to your word,” Danny says. “It is never worth it to compromise integrity for any reason.”

Through a multi-generational focus on basketball and other sports, Nikitas has passed along valuable lessons on team work and being able to work through life’s disappointments.

“While our kids might not be particularly tough kids, we have raised them to be nice, generous kids," he said.  "Not to say they would back down from any challenge – they too play and have a love of team sports and have developed from that a sense of discipline, hard work and fair play. All things that will serve them well moving forward in life.”

As for other advice Chicago CRE pros got from their fathers?


"My dad died at 93 one year ago. We lost him last June 22, 2015, the day after Father's Day, so this is the first one without him around.  He and I were very close. Robert Kling, my father and friend, provided tremendous positive influence on me in many ways. Two basic things he said that have always stuck with me are:  If you don't believe in yourself no one will; and Don’t focus on money, it is transparent and unbecoming. Work hard and focus on adding value to those you are working for and money will never be a problem. Some things I am trying to pass onto my children:

  • If today is just another day so too will be tomorrow. I don’t know where this quote came from but I try to remember it as often as possible.  If we keep going through each day without much change we will never substantially improve.  This can go on for some (most) people indefinitely.
  • Drastic changes take drastic measures. People as populations (demographically) change slowly.  Acorns don’t fall far.  If you want to improve your lives substantially then you will need to make drastic changes in the way you go about life.  This can apply to anything.    This leads right into the next point.
  • Results don’t come easy: One of the most productive person I ever met claimed to only work half days…12 hours that is.
  • Being busy doesn’t mean you are productive. Don’t be fooled by being busy.   Be productive!  Remember, doing the right things is not enough.  You must do the right things right to be successful.
  • Be happy! No. 1 most important thing for me as a parent is for my children to be happy."
--Steve Kling, a principal with Colliers International

"Dad made it a priority to be present and involved in our activities. Dad had a strong work ethic, yet also taught us the importance of encouraging others, laughing and communicating that we care for each other.  Oh yeah, and the value of golf! Now that I have three kids, I plan to carry these forward to my family in training and instruction. The advice would I impart on my kids to help them in their careers: Manage yourself first so you can serve work, family and others; Keep beliefs and values at the foundation of work life and decisions; Find someone to keep you accountable in professional and personal life."

--David Erickson, director of development at Ryan Companies

"My grandfather was a successful entrepreneur despite his eighth grade education and extremely poor upbringing. Both his Lithuanian immigrant parents had passed away by the time he was 13 and he raised his younger brother and sister. Gramps’ call to action which he had engraved on a tie clip he wore everyday was 'YCBDSOYA' which stood for 'You Can’t Do Business Sitting On Your A—!'Building on my grandfather’s legacy, I would advise my sons to identify an unmet need, make a plan, and then have the confidence to take action. Taking my own advice, my life goal is to build a real estate portfolio and share this successful entrepreneurial legacy with my family."

--Al Zulanas, principal and founder of Indevor Investments

"My dad Mike was always a supportive father; whether it be my career, sports I played, schools I attended, or girls I chased, he was always one to encourage and give advice.  The best advice he ever gave me was to follow my passions and find something that I love.  The truth is that so few people actually do these two things that you will really stand out from a crowd more than you think.  He also said that by doing these that success will follow because if you love something and you are passionate about it, you won’t fail. If I was a father, which I am not yet, I would encourage my son or daughter to understand that everyone makes mistakes; it is learning from the mistakes and not repeating them that matters.  Also, that if you are going to do something, do it right the first time. It is a waste of time to do something half-assed then have to do it all over again when you could just do it right from the start."

--Paul Tesdal, senior vice president of brokerage at Podolsky|Circle

"My father was my biggest role model and mentor. What sticks out the most to me is he would encourage me to be better not just by the typical: 'Here is how I did it, so here is how you should do it.'  He would say: 'Here is how I did it, I missed the mark on this, so you learn from that and do it better!'  It takes someone who is really thinking about you first before themselves to say that. Advice I would impart would be to be in the present.  Life is moving so quick, we are all guilty of texting/emailing, etc. while talking to someone else.  Slow down, live in the moment.  If you concentrate on the person you are talking with, everything else will follow.”

--Robin Stolberg, senior vice president at JLL

"As a father of two teenage boys, I strive to reinforce the importance of accountability- do what you say, treat others with fairness and kindness, and NEVER say anything about someone you wouldn't say in that person's presence...figured that helps in Real Estate or any occupation."

--John Gledhill, senior vice president at Transwestern

"My father, who has been gone for 24 years just a couple of weeks after Father's Day, used to cite: 'To thine own self be true," from Shakespeare. I'd amend that somewhat, and add the qualifier, "as long as being true to yourself doesn't harm someone else.' Because while we need to be true to ourselves, it mustn't be at the expense of others. Good advice, I'd say, to give to my 11 and 16 year old daughters. Further advice, from my Mom, 'As long as you know you have done the very best you can, that’s all that matters.'" 

--Michael Millar, a principal at Open Slate Communications

"The advice my father gave me is there are many seasons in life. Make sure you pay attention, enjoy and slow down the good seasons and keep fighting through the tough ones, as you will eventually catch a break. The advice I would give my four kids is use your God given abilities and understand what your gifts are -- it doesn't matter what you do as long as you enjoy it everyday. Life is more than a paycheck and even one person can make positive change in this world."

--Dan Brown, president of Brown Commercial Group