It's no fluke that Jeffrey Ackerman leads the largest commercial real estate firm in Pittsburgh.
Consider, for instance, what he wanted to be when he was growing up.
"A real estate developer," he said. "I wanted to build the tallest office tower in Downtown Pittsburgh. I always liked construction, carpentry and building."
Mr. Ackerman, 60, has parlayed that early fascination with development into a career in the real estate industry, culminating last November when he was named to replace Jack Norris as the head of the CBRE's Pittsburgh office.
He officially took over as managing director and market leader of the 166-person office at the end of March after a period of transition.
"It's an exciting opportunity to be able to lead an office that clearly is the market leader and we have an office that is filled with top professionals who thrive for excellence," he said.
His top priority in his new job is to implement a strategic plan designed "to attract the top talent in the industry, to make sure that we have the best team on the field to carry out a transaction ... to make sure we have the best resources and education for our professionals, and to run a cost-efficient operation so we can make sure we have the opportunity then to reinvest in our people and our company." He also is committed to maintaining the company's leadership position in the market.
Mr. Ackerman got his start in the 1970s working for Rich Mark Enterprises doing multifamily and single family residential development. In 1987, he joined Arnheim and Neely Inc. and started doing commercial real estate. He and Mr. Norris later formed a local real estate services company that ended up being acquired by CBRE.
As executive vice president of the firm's investment properties group, Mr. Ackerman was credited with completing more than $4 billion in investment property sales in Pittsburgh.
While he hasn't built the tallest office tower in Pittsburgh, he's sold some of the more notable ones, including PPG Place, 11 Stanwix Street (the former Westinghouse Building), the Union Trust Building and the Frick Building.
He says a good leader is one who "can recognize the opportunities in the marketplace and be able to take advantage of those opportunities and provide your professionals with the resources and the tools necessary for successful execution." It's also important "to hire exceptional people and be able to get them to work together collaboratively," he said.
If he had one bit of advice for making it to the top, it would be to "commit to integrity and to excellence in everything you do."
While the real estate industry still hasn't recovered fully from the recession, Mr. Ackerman sees signs of improvement.
"I think in 2012 we finished with a very strong fourth quarter. It was a very robust quarter for us. We expect that growth to continue in 2013. There's no question that the economy has had a little bit of a drag with the fiscal uncertainty. But we project that 2013, 2014, 2015, we'll see continued growth."
-- Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262