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VOL. 7 | NO. 35 | Saturday, August 23, 2014

Steffner Adds SIOR Role to Real Estate Resume

By Amos Maki

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Since Joe Steffner opened his own commercial real estate firm 10 years ago, the industry veteran has had a front row seat to some wild changes in the industry.


He experienced everything from the boom days of the early- and mid-2000s to the depths of the recession and its crushing aftermath as the decade ended.

“We’ve been around 10 years now, which is pretty amazing,” said Steffner, partner and managing director of Newmark Grubb Memphis. “It’s been a pretty topsy-turvy 10 years. We started out with a boom and then we started the slide, as all real estate companies seemed to, and now we’re shaking that off. We look forward to going up from here.”

Steffner, 55, was recently elected to a two-year term as Southeast regional director for the Society of Office and Industrial Realtors, the highly respected real estate organization that has more than 3,000 members in 630 cities in 34 countries.

“I’ve been involved in SIOR for 16 years and have enjoyed meeting the people across the country and working with them, working with different brokers across the country and referring deals back and forth,” Steffner said. “I realized I’m most happy in the program when I’m doing something.”

As regional director for the Southeast, Steffner will be a member of SIOR’s national board of directors with responsibility for the states of Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina and those states’ SIOR chapters.

“I am excited about this role,” Steffner said. “The SIOR chapters in the Southeast are some of the strongest in the country and are made up of the most successful commercial real estate brokers in Atlanta, Charlotte, Columbia, Nashville and Memphis.”

Like many local commercial real estate professionals, Steffner got his start in the business in 1985 with Trammell Crow Co., first in Nashville before relocating to Memphis in 1988. Steffner then took on roles at CB Richard Ellis Memphis and Colliers International Memphis.

In 2004, Steffner decided to step out on his own and formed Steffner Commercial Real Estate LLC. While he handled his own, Steffner said he sometimes found it difficult to recruit brokers and clients to a firm that did not have ties to a large national organization.

“When I started this company, it was meant to be a one-man-shop that did management and leasing,” Steffner said. “I quickly realized that in order to play in the league I had been playing in I needed a national brand to recruit brokers and to be able to win property management business.

“Brokers like to know they’re with a national brand and landlords like to have the security of a national brand representing their properties. That’s not always true but most often that’s the case.”

So, in December 2006 Steffner partnered with Scott Pahlow to open a Grubb & Ellis Co. office in Memphis. In March 2013, Steffner affiliated with Newmark Grubb Knight Frank – which is part of BGC Partners, a financial services firm formed in 2004 as a spinoff of Wall Street powerhouse Cantor Fitzgerald – as Newmark Grubb Memphis.

“The company has almost unlimited money to do what they need to do to grow the business,” Steffner said.

Today, the Memphis team includes Steffner, Pahlow, Todd Blanton, Chris Cook, Kenneth Cox, Greg deWitt, Will Klinke, Greg McGaw, James Rainer, Jim Rainer, Jack Steffner and Ben Ward.

Steffner said he realizes he is taking on more established local commercial real estate firms, such as CBRE Memphis, Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors and Colliers, but he’s confident in his team’s ability to compete.

“Being 10 years old versus our competitors, who have been around a lot longer – two or three times longer or more, in some cases – there’s a stability that comes with age in this business,” Steffner said. “Success rarely comes overnight in this business and we understand that. The strategy is to continually grow. Do I feel like an underdog? Yes. Do I worry about it? No, because I feel like we’re on the right track.”

In fact, Steffner’s team was involved in one of the biggest office transactions of the year, Green Mountain Consulting’s $4 million acquisition of the 55,250-square-foot building at 5860 Ridgeway Loop Blvd.

“The great thing about Memphis is there’s competition daily,” Steffner said.

Steffner is seeking to expand the company’s footprint in the state and is preparing to open a new sister office in booming Nashville.

“There’s a tremendous amount of activity in Nashville now,” Steffner said. “We’re trying to jump in and be a part of that and close a gap.”

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