October 2017

Meet David Petersen of NAI Hiffman in Oakbrook Terrace

Originally featured in Voyage Chicago



Today we’d like to introduce you to David Petersen.

David, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

As a 22-year-old fresh-out-of-the-military kid, I started my own remodeling and construction company, which led to renovating large turn-of-the-century homes into updated and newly decorated single-family homes. My wife and I completed 22 of those homes physically living in the homes during the process, which proved to not be the perfect strategy for a new marriage and a new daughter. The time came to shift direction to commercial buildouts; I started doing quite a lot of work for a developer/owner who was in banking, insurance, industrial and management of those facilities. I basically morphed my construction skills into serving this single ownership on all things real estate. After several years of this dynamic I had the desire to go back on my own, I bought some office buildings, renovated where needed and went into the restaurant and bar business. Soon after that adventure completed I found myself cash poor and out of business. While a bit of a cliché, that brought me to Chicago with about $300 to my name trying to sell my services as a Property Manager in 1986. I have either worked for or had equity ownership in Podolsky (who gave me my chance to shine) Vantage Companies, a merchant developer that I and another employee bought forming Midstates Bradford, which we then sold to Koll Companies. I then ran the management company for FC&C, which we sold to Insignia, and later joined the Trammell Crow Company leaving before they sold to CBRE. These experiences brought me to NAI Hiffman Commercial Real Estate as a Shareholder in 2006. I came to build up the Property Management company; we have had some success and I have been CEO for a number of years. I was an overnight success that took only 31 years to make happen!

Has it been a smooth road?

As I look back on a 35-year commercial real estate career, the struggles are not unlike everyone’s journey in a career and in the building of a family. WORK: It is trying to figure out the profession not as defined in a job description but as it really is: attempt to honestly identify your own strengths/weaknesses; be willing to take some decision-making risks, which seem above your pay grade: recognize that working with good and honest people is a must for success and be willing to take on work, responsibility and invest inordinate amounts of time/energy/effort that may not have any payoff initially. It is that extra effort that builds your experiences, gets you noticed as unique and builds your professional resume for the thing that does payoff — if by chance you have bet on the wrong team, leader, or company. FAMILY: Balancing work and home is always a challenge. Having balance of who does what in the home and in revenue generation is critical. By the way, you don’t set those boundaries once and live that out. That’s just another life negotiation ongoing for your whole career. The challenge of finding time with your significant other and children, which is on their terms vs your own is a huge roadblock often fraught with errors in judgement on my part. I have realized in my situation there are very few examples of those who have become masters of their craft that have not invested time, money and taken risks in decision making by grabbing responsibility that no one else will take. You must be willing to make decisions with 75% of the data needed based on instinct and experience knowing that most decisions can be modified as more data becomes clear. If you can’t do that, the competition will come and do it for you. Finally, I have become comfortable with the failures I have had and those that are no doubt coming. They have been the greatest source of learning and growth I could have ever hoped for. Since I am not sending people to the moon, I have a greater tolerance for error in the commercial real estate business decision making without taking any lives in the process.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with NAI Hiffman – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.

I am the CEO of NAI Hiffman, a leading commercial real estate company, which includes leasing, property management, investment sales, construction management, tenant representation, accounting and marketing for investors, owners, and occupiers of real estate. We primarily serve these clients in office, industrial and retail sectors. We cover northern Indiana, all of Chicagoland and southern Wisconsin. We are part of an international network known as NAI Global but are independently owned, managed and operated. We are known for the quality and the integrity of our people from receptionist to Executive Vice President or Building Engineer. We are known for “doing what we say we will do” and always, always placing the client first to reach their goals and objectives via our talent, information and platform. We are set separated from our competition because while we have an international reach we focus, live in and conduct the bulk of our services in this marketplace. We are an independent firm who can mix and adjust our services and our talent pool as it best fits each client whether our largest or our owner of one building in the market.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?

Chicagoland market is a 1st tier International city. We are not dependent on a single industry or employer, ever. The suburban schools for K-12 are excellent in the suburbs and we have great options for colleges that rival east and west coast education.

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