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Mike Tingus of Lee & Associates: “You need to have the best staff to produce the best results”

The hardest part of our business might be for younger brokers getting into the business after college. The difficulty is the startup costs. I’m hoping that either she or he is living at home with their parents. That’s a good start. Leaving college, getting up and running on your own is not easy to do. As […]

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The hardest part of our business might be for younger brokers getting into the business after college. The difficulty is the startup costs. I’m hoping that either she or he is living at home with their parents. That’s a good start. Leaving college, getting up and running on your own is not easy to do.


As a part of my series about the ‘Five Things, You Need To Know To Succeed In The Real Estate Industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Tingus.

Mike Tingus is President of Lee & Associates-LA North/Ventura and has been ranked as one of the region’s highest producing brokers. He specializes in the sale and leasing of industrial, office, and retail properties. He has transacted more than 1,100 acres of development land sales and has sold or leased properties valued at over 3 billion dollars over his career.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

If I wasn’t in real estate, I would have loved to be a professional golfer. When I was in college I played golf at USC. A lot of our alumni and people that were boosters of our golf team were involved in real estate. I got curious about the industry and ultimately ventured into real estate with Sealy and Company through a booster. There was a huge surge of young professionals, men, and women, that were getting involved in real estate at that time. That made me curious. I also studied public administration, I began my career in real estate in the entitlement side in the city of Calabasas, California.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away what you took out of that story?

One of the best lessons that I learned was pretty early on in my career. I was 10 years into the industry and working with a large development where I represented the property owner. One of my competitors represented the tenant and asked me if we could get a better price on two buildings instead of one. I made the unfortunate mistake to say that it would not be a problem — only to learn that it would be a major problem. My client told me they did not want to lower their price and I was fired for 30 days. I realized very quickly that while I represent property owners, I am not the ultimate decision-maker. You need to make sure you have the client on board before any decision-making.

Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?

The byproduct of a good relationship is financial success. There is a fine line between clients and competitors. I’ve had this mindset since the 80s and through recessions, I focused on meeting people and worked weekends to build relationships and become a trusted advisor. Some of my best friends, including the best man at my wedding, were clients who have become part of my inner circle and we enjoy each other’s successes. If you’re not one of the chosen few, you’re working for a small business or a mom and pop, they are the drivers of our economy. In my career, I’ve found enjoyment in seeing something small that turns into something bigger. For example, I’ve seen companies like Cheesecake Factory and Tom’s when they were just starting up and now, they’re publicly traded companies making an impact on our economy.

When you have good relationships and are a trusted advisor, it’s not always about trying to make a sale or trying to make a lease — because that will come.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I have been working with a company that was originally called Imperfect Produce, a company started to help eliminate food waste. They buy imperfect produce from producers that would otherwise be thrown away and not make it to the markets. They are now located throughout the country, from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. It is a fascinating business. What is now Imperfect Foods, has been a really fun and exciting project. I’ve been coordinating with all my colleagues at different offices throughout the country and in some cases with other colleagues that aren’t with Lee & Associates LA North/Ventura.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

LA North/ Ventura is a large market made up of a great community. I took over the Lee & Associates Sherman Oaks office and had only about eight brokers at the time. I let go of four of them, but I had relationships with several different brokers. In the first year, we recruited 26 new brokers. This allowed me the opportunity to grow the company quickly and successfully. I chose to recruit good people with similar philosophies and respect for the business. I’ve also been a huge promoter of having more women in the industry. The industry has changed, and women have excelled in the workforce and I’m proud to have women as partners at Lee.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have an older brother named Steven and he was born with a form of muscular dystrophy. He was told that he would not live past seven years. He didn’t move out of my parent’s house until he was 37. Eventually, he went on to work for former President Bush’s administration and had oversight on budgets for returning wounded soldiers. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts and thought leaders for public and private disability, aging, veterans, health care and educational programs, and diversity and inclusion. My brother is my biggest inspiration from the standpoint of not physically looking like everybody else but has an incredible gift to move forward and inspire. I realized that if you are going to complain then you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Additionally, some of my mentors in the industry are my colleagues. I’ve learned something from all the brokers I’ve recruited. Scott Caswell, one of my brokers, has become a great partner. Other brokers have taught me that the better the group, the greater you become.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry? If you can please share a story or example.

What excites me about the Real Estate industry is for a trusted advisor, who knows the market extremely well, to be able to produce great solutions to problems. That is what excites me. It is the bad markets that have breaks and fractures, that is where a true professional can go, help out and add value. From an excitement standpoint, my services are going to be significant. I am excited about looking at different properties and looking at the many possibilities that can be done. For example, a fitness center goes out of business, how do you repurpose that property? There is going to have to be some creativity.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you could implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples if possible.

Some of my main concerns are taxes and government regulation. California has some of the highest tax rates and yet some of the highest homeless and poverty rates. It’s a tough situation when you look at how much we pay in taxes- then see where the money goes, and where it doesn’t go. We need to get money into the right hands to help people who need mental health care and housing. Taxes impact responsible growth but there is a need for affordable housing, workforce housing, and mental health care. We can’t just keep kicking the can down the road.

What we can do to reform the industry is regulating taxing in cities like LA, Burbank, and Calabasas, where doing business and retaining employees is not easy due to the high cost of living. We need to financially figure out how to keep the youth in California, we’re seeing so much talent leave our state and many need access to resources. In regard to housing, there is so much property in Southern California — from hotels to apartments and unused land, we need to look at opportunities for more housing. We need to get the private sector involved and find solutions to address our lack of mental health institutions that have been shut down.

What advice would you give to other real estate leaders to help their teams to thrive and to create a really fantastic work culture?

You need to have the best staff to produce the best results. Most of us are on the phone and we need a great backroom to support us. We have a fantastic office manager with Nanette Yoshimi, and she helps us create a good foundation. At Lee, people can become partners. When we hire an associate, a new broker gets an extended hand instead of a foot in the face. We try to help encourage and bring up brokers so they can become successful, there is so much business out there to work with. The worst thing that could happen is someone coming into my office and saying that a broker keeps calling on someone else’s client. I have never had that happen. We really try to help younger brokers, not younger but in the business, to help them succeed. Transparency is important because if I cut a deal with you and I want to bring you in as a partner, I’m going to waive any costs that would affect someone’s special deal being cut. At the end of the day, we share everybody’s successes and I think that’s what’s nice.

It is not all about business. A lot of it has to do with how they handle themselves. What are they involved in? I want people to be involved and be good people; I don’t want big egos. I believe that everybody should be a civil servant. One of the things that I require is to be involved in the community whether it be a charity, church, synagogue, etc. That’s important. That is what we do. We have done so much charity work for the last 30 years. We’ll pick three charities, and we rotate them every year. Just being involved with the community is important. This year we’re helping Casa Pacifica, an organization that is helping women and children out of abusive situations.

Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 nonintuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

The hardest part of our business might be for younger brokers getting into the business after college. The difficulty is the startup costs. I’m hoping that either she or he is living at home with their parents. That’s a good start. Leaving college, getting up and running on your own is not easy to do. This great gal named Andrea graduated from Pepperdine University, wants to get involved in real estate. I told her to figure out where she wants to live and if she plans on having a family because this business does not transfer very well. If you’re a broker and your business is based in Southern California in the West Los Angeles market, it’s not easy to move from West Los Angeles to San Francisco. That’s difficult to tell somebody at 24-years-old.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would like to see more people get involved in commercial real estate, specifically women and minorities. One of my colleagues and friends, Will Poole is an incredible professional on the team. He grew up in the Bronx and went on to play college football in Boston. He then went over to play football for USC and won the national championship in 2003. Soon after he played for the Miami Dolphins. He is a black man in real estate in Southern California and we have a diversity group to which he has been appointed too. Because we don’t have enough minorities or we don’t have enough women, don’t just create a spot, create an opportunity.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can find me on LinkedIn under Mike Tingus and can follow Lee & Associates-LA North/Ventura on:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/1517473/admin/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeeAssociatesLANorth/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leelanorthventurabrokers/

Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.

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