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Jana Turner of RETS Associates: “Quantify your difference; For all professionals, but especially women in corporate America, it’s important to keep a record of your success”

Quantify your difference. For all professionals, butespecially women in corporate America, it’s important to keep a record of your success. In my career, this has enabled me to demonstrate my value and quantify my difference when asking for leadership opportunities. Essentially, the numbers don’t lie. I had the pleasure to interview Jana Turner Jana is a […]



Quantify your difference. For all professionals, butespecially women in corporate America, it’s important to keep a record of your success. In my career, this has enabled me to demonstrate my value and quantify my difference when asking for leadership opportunities. Essentially, the numbers don’t lie.


I had the pleasure to interview Jana Turner Jana is a principal at RETS Associates, a national real estate recruiting firm, and a commercial real estate (CRE) veteran with over 35 years of industry experience. Turner utilizes her network, determination and understanding of the CRE industry to advise public and private institutions on how to build and retain the proper team to drive business growth. Under her leadership, RETS Associates has grown from a team of three with two offices in California to 15 full-time recruiters with seven offices across the U.S. As a successful woman in this field, she is also passionate about guiding and promoting women in CRE and has become a highly sought-after mentor and public speaker in the industry, covering personal branding, leadership and gender diversity in the workplace.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Jana! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Prior to being a principal at RETS Associates, a national real estate recruiting firm, I was fortunate to have had a successful executive management career in commercial real estate (CRE) serving as western regional president at Koll Management Services and senior vice president of leasing at IDM Corporation. I also spent 10 years as president of asset services at CBRE, the largest real estate and investment firm in the world. While leading a team of nearly 300 employees, I saw first-hand how company success rises and falls on the shoulders of your talent. It was then that I realized I could bring a critical service to the industry through professional recruitment, placement and advising.

After leaving CBRE in 2007, I reconnected with former colleague and founder of RETS, Kent Elliott, and together we decided to join forces and grow the recruitment and staffing firm to its full potential. My extensive connections with both clients and candidates in CRE and our shared vision and values made the partnership a natural fit. Now, my influence is no longer limited to any one company; rather, I can utilize my network and understanding of CRE to advise public and private institutions on how to build and retain the proper team to drive business growth.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

While at CBRE, I worked closely with Brett White, a CRE veteran and former CEO and board member of the firm who helped guide and support me throughout my career. In 2015, Brett left CBRE to serve as the executive chairman and CEO of Cushman and Wakefield, a global real estate services firm. When seeking support to grow his senior team, Brett called and asked me to help fulfill Cushman’s talent acquisition needs. This was a full circle moment for both of us and I was honored to support Brett, as he has been an integral part of my career journey.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early on in my career, I was the general manager of approximately one million square feet of luxury office space which included two 20-story high-rise buildings in Century City. During my first year, I received notice from the FBI and LA special police force that a protest between Armenians and Turks was going to occur outside one of these buildings. I informed law enforcement that The Turkish Consulate was a previous tenant but had moved to a new location four months prior. This was then communicated to potential protestors and I assumed the problem was resolved.

Only to my surprise, more than 10,000 protesters showed up the next day to loudly share their disdain with the Armenian genocide. The protest was broadcasted on local and national news stations and became a rather large event. The owners of the buildings, who were in New York, eventually found out about the incident and since I was no longer anticipating a protest in this location, I had not advised them or my management firm of the situation.

This was a big mistake. Looking back, it’s funny that I thought by solely informing the police and potential protestors of the move would resolve the problem. I did learn however that experience is the greatest teacher and to not assume anything. The devil is in the detail and it was my duty to collect more information, plan accordingly and mostly importantly to communicate with all parties involved.

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

At RETS, we have one of the broadest and deepest databases of clients and candidates in the CRE space. Since inception, we have served more than 220 CRE firms across the nation and have developed a roster of tier-one real estate clients including Cushman and Wakefield, The Sobrato Organization, FivePoint and Sares Regis, to name a few. We’re also known for our “stickiness” factor, with a 99% success rate in candidate placements.

The RETS team also brings an unconventional and strategic understanding of the real estate industry to clients’ recruitment needs. We go beyond assessing candidates’ professional skills and capabilities and work to secure talent that truly aligns with clients’ corporate culture, values and business goals. Our clients also receive principal involvement and we take great care in connecting top talent with the right companies. At RETS, we believe that our clients’ success is our success.

This approach is what has positioned RETS as one of the most active search firms in Orange County by the Orange County Business Journal and #10 on Denver Business Journal’s list of “Top 25 Permanent Placement Staffing Agencies.” However, our greatest accomplishment is building a network of trusted and lasting partnerships that have resulted in referrals and repeat business for the firm.

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

We’re always working on new and exciting projects from expanding to new markets, conducting industry surveys and growing our recruitment team. In 2018 alone, RETS expanded its footprint to Chicago, Illinois; Charlotte, North Carolina and opened a new office in downtown Denver to deepen our presence in the Colorado market and support the growing demand for revenue-generating talent across the Mountain Region.

But above all, I am most proud of our firm for being actively involved in the support of women in CRE. Last year, we deployed the industry’s largest national “Women in CRE Survey” to better understand and educate the industry about the most pervasive challenges facing women today. The online survey garnered more than 600 responses from women holding entry- to senior-level positions across the nation and revealed that the biggest challenge is equal pay, followed by a lack of promotion opportunities and feeling that female opinions aren’t as valued or respected as their male counterparts.

To amplify the results, we launched a robust media relations campaign that garnered national media attention in Entrepreneur and Politico and dramatically increased RETS sphere of influence. The survey also led to an invitation to speak with the head of HR for a major CRE company to discuss best practices for leading and encouraging gender equality in the workplace.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team thrive?

  • Ask don’t tell. Be confident and go after what you believe you deserve. But when discussing the opportunity for a raise, promotion or growth plan make sure you ask, don’t tell. Show and explain how you will bring value to a company, but refrain from being overly assertive.
  • Hire the right people. Your talent is your most important asset and the foundation for company’s growth and success. Beyond securing top talent with the right skills and capabilities, make sure that the people working for you also share common goals, values and work ethic.
  • Document your success. Remember, you will always be your biggest advocate, so keep track of your accomplishments. Maintaining a record of your success and key milestones reached will create a ready portfolio that showcases and proves your value.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

  • Engage your team. The key to leading a large team is ensuring that your employees are engaged, inspired and feel valued. This affects and drives employee productivity, satisfaction, retention and business performance. Make sure to ask for employee input, show that you value their opinion and reward creativity.
  • Be flexible. As today’s workforce continues to evolve and create a mix of generations in the workplace, it’s important to be flexible and accommodate the needs and workstyle preferences of your employees. This is key in ensuring they feel welcome and have the tools and support to be productive.
  • Leverage technology. To successfully manage a large team, consider integrating technology into your communication and management process. This will enable you to quickly and effectively collaborate and integrate change and creates ease in accessing your team members.

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

There are two people I am particularly grateful for, as they have chosen to support a strong female professional when it wasn’t common. Bill Rothe, one of my former supervisors, always shared his time and business expertise to help guide me. This included regular Saturday morning chats and drives around the block. He believed in me, encouraged me and stood by my side when my drive for change in the workplace was not favored by all.

Brett White, former CEO at CBRE, also was a big champion of mine and helped me successfully navigate the challenges that come with leading a robust team at a very large public company. He also supported the initiatives I created at CBRE in both technology and business service areas.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Throughout my career, I have been very passionate about promoting and creating meaningful change for women in CRE by providing successful tactics and strategies to help female professionals leverage their talent for career advancement. I have also shared my industry expertise and experience as a woman in the field as a public speaker for several industry organizations, including the Building Owners and Managers Association, Urban Land Institute, NAIOP and various CBRE Women Network chapters.

Our company success also has enabled RETS to support myriad nonprofit organizations. I am currently on the advisory board for the Building Block Foundation, an organization that brings together real estate professionals to support impoverished youth. In 2018, RETS was a key sponsor for the foundation’s “White Party,” its signature CRE charity event which helped raised over $195K to support local programs impacting the lives of Orange County youth.

I am also the board chair and member of the executive committee for Uplift Family Services, one of California’s largest nonprofit agencies serving children and family members recovering from trauma. In this position, I’ve helped chair the organization’s annual events and support the nonprofit’s growth and expansion. I also volunteer my time as a strategic advisor for Working Wardrobes, a nonprofit that helps individuals confidently enter the workforce. RETS supports the organization’s annual fundraising event and regularly provides real estate and recruitment consulting services.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Ask for what you want. In life and in your career, you won’t get what you don’t ask for. Be confident and don’t be afraid to raise your voice and ask for what you deserve. Throughout my career, every raise, promotion and opportunity I gained, I asked for.
  2. Be patient. While it’s important to go after what you want, remember that all good things take time. From my executive days at CBRE to my leadership role at RETS, I’ve learned that nothing of value comes easily. Whether your developing a new skill or building a relationship, try to balance persistence with patience.
  3. Be a good listener. Despite your title or position, active listening is something everyone should practice. There’s always something to learn if you listen closely. Listening fosters opportunity for growth and enables you to ask meaningful questions that fuel creativity and promote insight and discovery.
  4. Hire the “A” team. In my 40 years ofbusiness, I’ve learned that one of the key elements to success is having the right team by your side. Gaining the trust, loyalty and support of top talent who shares your vision and drive not only helps you succeed but gives your organization a competitive edge.
  5. Quantify your difference. For all professionals, butespecially women in corporate America, it’s important to keep a record of your success. In my career, this has enabled me to demonstrate my value and quantify my difference when asking for leadership opportunities. Essentially, the numbers don’t lie.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would like to inspire a movement for gender equality in and outside of the workplace. I’d also like to see progress in the inclusivity of women allowing their voices to be heard from senior-level and executive management positions to the boardroom. I also hope to see more companies demonstrating a commitment to equal pay.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Go Big or Go Home” and “Inch by Inch, anything is a Synch.” I approach everything in business and in my personal life with the intention to “go all in,” and when in doubt, I give myself a pep talk using these mantras.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

If I could have lunch with anyone in the world, it would be Marc Benioff, entrepreneur and CEO of Salesforce. He has built an incredibly successful tech and software firm and despite being a multi-billionaire he’s also a philanthropist and engaged business leader who strongly believes in diversity and inclusion in the workplace. He puts his money where his mouth is and leads by example. Last year, when he learned that Salesforce wasn’t practicing equal pay, he corrected it and now encourages others to do the same.

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