VOL. 128 | NO. 135 | Friday, July 12, 2013
Memphis Standout Profile
Jensen Guided by Service to Neighbors, Community
By Amos Maki
While some companies have mission statements that stretch on for pages, Larry Jensen has boiled his firm’s strategic vision – and much of his outlook on life – down to a simple equation: FC3.
Family, clients, co-workers and community are the focus at Commercial Advisors/Cushman & Wakefield and help guide Jensen through his professional and personal dealings.
“You don’t want to wake up at the end of your life and say, ‘I made a lot of money,’ because I know a lot of unhappy rich people,” Jensen said. “You want to wake up and say, ‘I’m making a difference in the lives of my family, my clients, my co-workers and my community.’”
That philosophy has helped grow Commercial Advisors/Cushman & Wakefield, which began with essentially three partners in 1992 as Commercial Tennessee, into a company with 55 employees providing real estate services to clients locally, regionally and globally.
“It’s gone from a little business to a little bit bigger business,” said Jensen, president and CEO of Commercial Advisors/Cushman & Wakefield. “I don’t look at it as 55 employees. I look at it as around 250 people because they have husbands and wives and children and grandchildren and that’s a responsibility I take deeply.”
Jensen, a former chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber and current member of the Washington-based Committee for Economic Development think tank, said much of his focus these days is on job creation, a passion born partly from his Christian faith.
“I was riding down Union to work every day and I kept asking myself the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” he said.
“Then I realized I had a whole lot of neighbors that I had no idea what their life was like and I didn’t really care about them, I really cared about getting Downtown and making some money and buying a Mercedes or whatever I thought was important. A lot of what I do is out of that desire to make sure my neighbors have an opportunity. I don’t go around telling a lot of people that. I just want to do it.”
What Jensen did earlier in life was train to be a reporter, graduating from the University of Memphis in 1974 with a degree in journalism. Jensen covered local sports for The Commercial Appeal while attending the U of M.
“It looks glamorous, but while everyone is enjoying and having fun, you’re working,” Jensen said. “When the game’s over you have to write a story.”
Jensen said his journalism training helped provide a solid foundation that has supported his business career.
“I use it every day, every day,” he said. “That’s a pretty good analytic system. If you’re trained that way and can use the English language well, you’re at a distinct advantage.”
After college Jensen began a career in residential real estate, eventually winning a broker of the year award before setting his sights on the commercial real estate world.
“I sold houses for three or four years,” Jensen said. “I got to the place where I could not show another master bedroom. I did some commercial stuff and I just really had fun doing it.”
Jensen began working for Cushman & Wakefield in 1982, helping lease what is now One Commerce Square, a building Commercial Advisors/Cushman & Wakefield is currently representing.
“That’s full circle,” said Jensen with a laugh. “That’s what comes around goes around.”
Jensen stresses that one of the guiding principles that has helped the company grow is viewing people as clients instead of customers with deals waiting to be had.
“We’re not about let’s do a deal, we’re about representation of clients,” Jensen said. “Client means you’re in a long-term relationship and I hope I’m the real estate department for them, that they value us enough when they call us whenever they have questions.”
Jensen also stresses harnessing the collective power of teamwork to better serve clients.
“I think two heads are better than one, three heads are better than two,” Jensen said. “We’re very team-focused in the way we handle our clients. I’ll be out of town this afternoon but does that mean my clients’ work stops? No, and that’s why we have a team.”
Jensen is an unabashed supporter of regional economic development, with the Memphis market consisting of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.
“The region really is what we need to think of competitively,” he said. “We need to grow up and get out of this idea – and they do to – that North Mississippi is not a part of this market. It’s a regional market. The people outside looking in view it as a collective market and we should, too.”
As he talked about job creation during a recent interview, Jensen’s excitement level rose visibly as he spoke about increasing tourism opportunities, positioning Memphis to take full advantage of its transportation infrastructure and capitalizing on the city’s blue-collar work ethic.
“My passion is creating jobs,” he said. “People need jobs in order to sustain their families and they need meaningful jobs. Our gift to the community is not our real estate expertise; it’s being engaged in enriching the welfare of our community.”
Jensen also became increasingly animated as he talked about helping under-resourced children, whether through creating jobs for them, increasing education opportunities and developing before- and after-school programs or by simply giving them a great place to play. Jensen, a member of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy board, is exploring options for getting inner-city children out to the park.
“All you have to do is go out there Saturday or Sunday and you see all of Memphis there,” said Jensen. “It looks like Memphis out there and I think that’s wonderful, so how do we get kids out there and let them see and enjoy that?”