In this ‘Day in the Life of a Commercial Real Estate Professional’ post, we hear from Will Thompson, a Vice President and Principal working at a small real estate private equity firm in Champaign, IL, where he has been located for the past three years. Will has been kind enough to share his typical daily routine, and discuss what it takes to land a similar position in CRE.
Note: This Day in the Life profile was made possible thanks to the help of Emily White, a Class of 2022 MBA Candidate at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Prior to pursuing her MBA, Emily was a Development Manager for the Alpha Gamma Delta Fraternity Housing Corporation. Emily holds a BA in History from the University of South Carolina. A huge thank you to Emily for her contribution!
Day in the Life of a Vice President
Will is Vice President and a Principal of Fairlawn Capital, Inc. which provides formal investment and asset management services to internal and external investor groups. Today, Fairlawn Capital has acquired and developed over 28 multifamily, retail, office and mixed-use projects with a gross asset value over $160M and over 80 employees.
Early Career Path
Will’s father is a land developer and home builder in Baltimore–meaning real estate is in Will’s blood.
From an early age, he saw tremendous value in providing good quality housing to people and also realized he could have a greater impact in a smaller environment.
Graduating college at the end of the Great Recession, Will thought about pursuing a CPA, but decided instead on a law degree. Upon graduation from law school, he practiced at a Baltimore law firm where he primarily represented lenders and developers in real estate transactions.
During his years as an attorney, Will learned how deals work and, most importantly, how bankers think–which he says helps inform how he approaches deals now. It also allowed him to gain valuable buying and selling experience and even work on sophisticated new markets tax credit deals for affordable housing. After moving to Champaign, IL, he decided he wanted to shift from law to business and decided to pursue an MBA.
He connected with his business partner while in business school and began to consult for him before joining as Vice President and Principal in 2017.
Will travels frequently to scout properties for acquisition and keep an eye on existing properties.
When he’s not on the road he’s reading market reports, searching for potential new projects by following up with brokers and talking to lenders and investors. In addition, he attends weekly leadership meetings and monthly budget meetings with his operations, property management, and finance teams to review budget reports and identify any issues that may need to be corrected.
As part of his asset management duties, he reviews the performance of different properties and supports his property management colleagues in their shared goal to maximize operations. His typical work hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. unless important issues that pop up outside of that. Will is married with two young children and values the time he gets to spend with them outside of work.
Will admits that real estate is part of his DNA and working in the industry keeps him grounded in his past. He sees value in affordable and workforce housing and enjoys the positive impact it allows him to have on people’s lives. In addition, he feels that he naturally fits into the industry and finds that successful ventures motivate him to pursue even greater successes moving forward.
About the Professional
Name: Will Thompson
Location: Champaign, IL
Years in Real Estate: 6
Years in Current Position: 3
Undergraduate Education: B.S. in Accounting & Finance, Minor in Real Estate, Villanova University
Graduate Education: J.D., University of Maryland; MBA, University of Illinois
Approx. Annual Income: Prefer not to say
How they found this job: Networking during MBA program
About the Position
Job Title: Vice President, Principal
Job Type: Firm Strategy, Project Underwriting, Deal Execution, Asset Management
Company Name: Fairlawn Capital
Company Type: Development Firm, Real Estate Private Equity
Property Type: Multifamily
Min. Education Recommended: Masters Degree
Min. Education Required: Bachelors Degree
Min. Experience Recommended: 1-3
Min. Experience Required: None
Advanced Technical Skills Required: MS Excel, AppFolio
Advice for those interested in this position
When asked to describe three traits of people who are successful in CRE, Will said that individuals who are smart, dedicated, and personable tend to succeed. CRE is a meritocracy and, sooner or later, good people will rise to the top. CRE professionals don’t necessarily need to be superstar math wizards, but they need to know which numbers and assumptions are important and how they all fit together. He also says successful professionals passionately care about what they do and are largely people-oriented.
Will mentioned that a successful real estate professional can quickly identify an important problem and then prove value by using their skills to solve it. An example Will shared from his own life was when he was in business school and met his current business partner. His partner had recently started his own firm but needed help to aggressively underwrite deals, look for new properties, and watch over the performance of the growing portfolio. Will began consulting with him while in school to exercise the knowledge he had been learning, but then later joined the firm full-time after he had an opportunity to show the impact of his efforts across the entire company.