Joe Almeida, SIOR, is a renowned figure in the world of commercial real estate. With over three decades of experience, he has established himself as a pre-eminent real estate broker and an expert in his field. Currently serving as a Managing Director at Avison Young, one of the world's fastest-growing commercial real estate services firms, Joe is responsible for overseeing the company's operations and driving its growth in the Canadian market. Continue reading to learn more about how Joe got started in real estate, his commitment to hard-work, as well as his advice to newcomers to the industry.
How did you get started in the CRE industry?
I’ve been with Avison Young for 30 years. I have a teaching degree from Quebec, and there weren't a lot of English-speaking roles available in education, so I did what a lot of Quebeckers did and hit the 401 and moved to Toronto. Through an acquaintance, I learned about the industry and started out as an agent with a small brokerage. I decided that I liked the business but I wanted to move to downtown Toronto, where the headquarters of most brokerages reside. I made that move and started with Avison with 20 people in one office. I’ve watched them grow from that to where we are now with 6,000 professionals and 120 offices in 20 countries.
Is the notion of committing to a specific brokerage for a long period of time a generational phenomenon or specific to the commercial real estate (CRE) sector?
I think it’s a combination of both. In my generation, it wasn’t usual to use every opportunity as a stepping stone as you see in today’s generation, which isn’t a knock against young people, it’s just a different time.
Our industry does a lot to build a culture. It’s a difficult job with ups and downs, so you start to make some really strong connections with the people you work with. I can look around the office and say that I’ve been invited to many weddings, and these relationships are built up over many years. In today’s world, there isn’t as much of that, but that isn’t to say that won’t be the case in the future.
The business can become a part of you. Commercial real estate is not a 9-5 business. You're looking for opportunities and solutions to your client's problems 24/7, and it's hard to switch off.
At what point did you realize that commercial real estate (CRE) was the career path you wanted to pursue, given your background in teaching?
Although I enjoyed teaching, I didn't appreciate the education system's mindset, where people felt content with doing the bare minimum. This mentality didn't align with my work ethic, which centers around being compensated for my achievements instead of simply logging in hours. Determining my workload and earning potential based on my own efforts and outcomes drew me to a career outside of education.
In commercial real estate, I liked that I had the flexibility of coming and going as I wished, and that the industry was always in your brain. I also liked the idea that every day was a new day with lots of opportunities to make as much money as you could based on your efforts. All of that was far more interesting than a salaried position. This industry offers the entrepreneurial opportunity to build a business, and you find a way.
Do you remember your first transaction?
I’d be surprised if anyone were to forget their first transaction. You work so hard for it, and the excitement that comes along with it is something that you’ll always compare other deals to.
I had no idea what I was doing. I made a few phone calls and found an investment company that owned a farm North of Toronto. One of my colleagues had a client that was looking for land to redevelop, and she encouraged me to call landowners, a bunch of farms, to see if they would be interested in selling. I got through to a farm whose owner had a company in downtown Toronto, and with the good help of my colleague, we put the transaction together. It was quite a sizeable deal for someone just starting.
What sacrifices are required to maintain a successful career?
It’s hard work. You can’t fool your way into that. You have to roll up your sleeves and make time for this business, especially in the early part of your career. You’re not going to be golfing on Friday afternoon with your buddies. You’re going to be finding your next deals and working on the deals that you have. On Sunday nights, it’s about planning the week out.
On Sunday nights, it's about planning the week ahead. There's a lot of time required in this business, much more than others. When there's a role like this with unlimited earning potential, it gives you the ability to turn that time investment into rewards. Sometimes that time is personal time, and sometimes it's family time.
I wanted to learn about what was going on in other markets, and SIOR really provided that opportunity to see what others were doing in Dallas, New York, Chicago, and London.
The business can become a part of you. Commercial real estate is not a 9-5 business. You're looking for opportunities and solutions to your client's problems 24/7, and it's hard to switch off. To some, the time away from family is certainly a sacrifice, but the level of engagement that you get with this business, to me, is not a sacrifice.
What are some advantages and perks that you have experienced by holding the SIOR designation?
I like what SIOR stands for. When I decided to become heavily involved at the local and global level, I found that it had quality people who had demonstrated their success and adhere to an ethic and a level of professional standard that is uncompromising. That's a benefit that you can't replicate, and I was very attracted to that. I also like the educational component, both for new people coming into the business as well as programs for more seasoned professionals.
SIOR provides learning opportunities as you progress through your career, as well as networking opportunities – the ability to see beyond my own market has been beneficial. When I was in the mid-stages of my career, I wanted to learn about what was going on in other markets, and SIOR really provided that opportunity to see what others were doing in Dallas, New York, Chicago, and London. It helped me look at the bigger picture.
Who are your biggest inspirations and helpers in your career?
Ted Avison was a big help. He was one of the original founders of the company. Robin White and Mark Fieder, also founders, were people I always looked up to. They were instrumental in helping me learn the business, and I still look up to them. Ted has since retired, but Mark and Robin still work with us.
What advice would you give to newcomers to the industry?
Take the time to understand the industry before you get in. It's the type of business that can be extremely rewarding, but it's not for everyone. It's a difficult road for most people during the first three to five years.
There's also no substitute for hard work as much as this business has changed. At the end of the day, it's still a people business, and it's about making connections and relationships, and you can't substitute that side of it.
Joe's journey in the commercial real estate industry is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and passion required to succeed in this highly competitive field. His insights into the industry, along with his commitment to working hard are truly inspiring. We hope that Joe's story has provided valuable insights for those considering a career in commercial real estate, and we wish him continued success in all his future endeavours.