Working for an Institutional Versus Entrepreneurial Real Estate Shop

Apr 27, 2014 | Career

In my conversations with undergrads and business school students interested in real estate, the conversation always tends to cover whether to take the institutional route by working for a large organization or the entrepreneurial route by working with a small shop. While my general advice to undergrads is to not worry about where you start, just start, many business school students have their pick of the litter.

While there’s no blanket answer, I generally advise that if you can land a role at the institutional firm, take it. At a big institution you learn from the best in the business, while taking a professional approach to complex transactions. You can then take those skills and apply them to the highly fragmented entrepreneurial space. I find that the people who take that route tend to be most successful as entrepreneurs later on.

However, what many people tend to ignore, is that you can play an entrepreneurial role within a large organization and take an institutional approach at an entrepreneurial firm.

I had lunch the other day with a fellow Tufts grad who works in the private equity group of a big investment bank. His group of 5 guys is tasked with launching their real estate business that will invest HNW client’s money directly into deals. In his role, he’s responsible for driving the direction of the group, vetting potential partnerships, and analyzing investment opportunities. Although he works for a large bureaucratic firm, his day-to-day role is extremely entrepreneurial.

At Atlas, our team and many of our partners worked for various institutions before splitting off on their own. Our motto has become; Entrepreneurial Approach, Institutional Execution. We make it a point to execute as if we were working for a large real estate private equity firm. From underwriting new deals and creating investment memos, to investor reporting and asset management, we want our investors to know their money is being managed by a group of professionals.

While there’s no linear career path in real estate, the institutionalization of the business has increased the importance of learning the intricacies of what is becoming a very complex business.