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SIOR Spotlight: Baktash Kasraei, SIOR

In this candid interview with SIOR Canada, Baktash Kasraei, SIOR, from SIOR Canada West Chapter (Vancouver) shares his unexpected journey into the world of commercial real estate and the unique path that led him there. With a diverse background ranging from telecommunications to train conducting, Kasraei offers a deep dive into the complexities and nuances of the industrial sector. He discusses his first real estate deal, the intricacies of navigating industrial sector transactions, and his active role in the broader community, providing a comprehensive look at his professional life and personal motivations.

What inspired you to pursue a career in commercial real estate?

Baktash: Real estate entered my life unexpectedly. Unlike many who entered the industry straight out of school, I took a more unconventional route. My background was quite diverse; I worked in telecommunications, customer service, and even as a train conductor, servicing industries I now encounter in my real estate profession. I also managed a nutraceutical manufacturing company before real estate captured my interest at the age of 35.

This varied experience provided me with invaluable insights into how different industries operate. Many people start their careers in their early 20s, but my business background and industry knowledge allowed me to hit the ground running and significantly contributed to my growth in this field.[1]  Now, 12 years later, I lead a twelve-person brokerage team at JLL specializing in industrial real estate.

Let’s talk about your first deal. What was it like?

Baktash: My first transaction was a small lease, just around 1,100 square feet. The commission was about $500, but after all the site tours, I probably spent half of it on gas. It was an excellent learning experience, showing me that sometimes smaller deals can be more work-intensive than larger ones.

What drew you to the industrial sector specifically?

Baktash: From the start, I knew industrial was for me. It’s dynamic; you engage with various businesses and sectors. Nothing else excited me quite as much. Having previously worked in the industrial sector, I had a distinct advantage over those without industry experience.

Whether your strength lies in analytics, sales, or relationships, hone it. Be the best at it, and always keep focused.

What about the most challenging deal you’ve worked on?

Baktash: One of the most complex projects was the sale of a major manufacturing facility, which included all its liabilities. Every deal is complex. It’s always about understanding the asset and the market and anticipating potential challenges. Red flags arise when you sell a manufacturing facility with heavy equipment, and you're essentially selling the building as is, with the buyer needing to dispose of all that equipment. From that, I gained a solid understanding of trailing liabilities, environmental liabilities, and equipment disposal.

Baktash: Different types of buyers and learning to anticipate client and buyer expectations has been crucial, as well as preparing for all the variables that come into play, whether technical, legal, or emotional, especially when managing multiple bids on a property.

The transactional approach might work in some sectors but not in our industry; where relationships are built over long periods.

With that said, what are common misconceptions about your asset class or industry?

Baktash: There are misconceptions that our industry is transactional. Some people operate that way, but we are not looking to play the commodity game. The type of business we conduct requires intellectual curiosity. Our clients make decisions that will require significant capital investment, sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars. They rely on us as an advisor who understands their business needs and guides them through the site selection process or development of a disposition strategy. The transactional approach might work in some sectors but not in our industry; where relationships are built over long periods.

What do you see as the biggest trend or change currently happening, and how are you adapting?

Baktash: While trends come and go, we focus on our client’s needs and incorporate new tech in our suite of services where appropriate. Of course, AI is the hot trend now and will become another tool we will all use daily.

The underlying theme for the foreseeable future will likely be the continued shift in global supply chains. Trade diversification and supply chain resilience, especially concerning critical components such as advanced chip manufacturing, is creating longer and more complicated supply chains. These changes will significantly impact the electric grid, water resources, labour markets, and transportation networks. I don’t think we are currently prepared as a nation to handle these demands on our systems.

Understanding limiting factors and available resources is critical in advising clients who are looking to enter the market and existing businesses that may face a changing labour, transportation, or supplier landscape.

How do you handle a client who thinks they know what they need or might be chasing a trend? How do you manage their expectations?

Baktash: The first step is to listen and try to understand the underlying issue that the client is looking to solve. We are not afraid to ask probing questions and challenge the client if we think their requirement parameters or the chosen path will lead to a negative outcome.

We manage expectations by providing relevant data and case studies to back our recommendations. Where appropriate, we employ in-house and third-party tools that provide insights into various scenarios and potential outcomes.

Why did you join SIOR?

Baktash: SIOR offers an incredible network across North America. I joined to gain exposure to different people outside our local network and to learn from the diverse perspectives and thought leadership within SIOR. Sometimes, seeking out contrarian opinions is vital, especially when surrounded by an echo chamber of similar thoughts.

Do you attend SIOR events? What do you like about them?

Baktash: Attending SIOR events has been a great addition to my professional growth. At my first SIOR meeting, many people introduced themselves, recognizing I was a new member from my name tag. This openness to include new members and make them feel part of the group was quite unique and gratifying.

Who have been your greatest inspirations and supporters throughout your career?

Baktash: I've been fortunate to receive support from many quarters – friends, family, and particularly my team of 12 at JLL. We support each other’s growth and success continuously. On a personal level, my eight-year-old daughter Olivia inspires me to set a good example and work hard.

With your rich experience, what advice would you give to young professionals entering the industry?

Baktash: Focus. When I first attempted to enter the industry, an experienced broker advised me to focus. At the time, I didn’t fully understand what that meant. Over the years, I’ve realized it’s about channelling your efforts and maintaining clarity amid the noise. Whether your strength lies in analytics, sales, or relationships, hone it. Be the best at it, and always keep focused.

Which causes are you passionate about?

Baktash: I’m involved in habitat conservation and support The Breakfast Club of Canada, ensuring children have access to meals in schools across the country. It’s crucial for children's development to receive not just food but comprehensive support. Our office and team are committed to these causes, hoping to empower the younger generation to make a positive impact in their communities.

From humble beginnings with a modest lease to tackling complex, high-stakes transactions, Baktash Kasraei's career reflects a deep commitment to understanding and mastering the field. As he continues to shape his legacy and contribute to the industry, Kasraei's insights remind us of the importance of adaptability, thorough knowledge, and genuine engagement in building a successful career.



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