Executive Spotlight: Jim Postell, Transwestern

Jim Postell built two regional commercial real estate offices from the ground up in his home state of New Jersey, the first for Trammell Crow Co. and the second for Transwestern. That office was recently recognized as New Jersey’s “Best Place to Work” by NJBIZ.
Jim Postell

Jim Postell brings an unusual background to the commercial real estate industry. With a passion for acting and communications, he thought he might work as a journalist or producer. But when he graduated from Florida State University with a degree in communications/directing, he couldn’t find a job in his field. So he made a decision that would change the direction of his career.

His father was working in commercial real estate for the New Jersey company Cross & Brown. “He was a huge influence and encouraged me to make the shift to the industry, which he saw as a more stable and practical field.”

More than 20 years later, Postell has built two regional commercial real estate offices from the ground up in his home state of New Jersey. The first was for Trammell Crow; the second was Transwestern’s New Jersey branch, an operation he built from “me, on a laptop in my kitchen,” to a thriving office with 30 employees.

Throughout his career, Postell has persevered through hardships — both professional and personal, such as raising his two young daughters after losing his wife to cancer. A turning point in his career, one that has stayed with him to this day, was his direct involvement in quickly finding new office space for 2,000 American Express employees in a span of just 10 days, immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Under Postell’s leadership, Transwestern was recently recognized as New Jersey’s “Best Place to Work” by NJBIZ, an honor that Postell considers his greatest career achievement to date.

CPE: After making such a major industry shift, have you found happiness in real estate?

Postell: I enjoy it a tremendous amount and think it was a natural fit for me. Communications absolutely plays an important role in my job today. You have to communicate with employees, do a lot of public speaking and be in a position to clearly and concisely communicate through numerous divisions. It’s worked out very well.

CPE:  What do you think contributed to Transwestern being named New Jersey’s No. 1 place to work?

Postell: I think that was probably one of the highlights in my career. It was not an award that was given to me, it was an award given to the New Jersey team members and the company. The qualification and selection criteria set by NJBIZ were quite strict, but Transwestern’s commitment to its employees made it a strong candidate. Winning the No. 1 position was a great accomplishment. We have an exceptional corporate culture here, and we’re continuing to grow.

CPE: How would you describe your corporate culture?

Postell: We really care for and respect one another. Transwestern is a large company, but not in the way that many large real estate companies might function. We are a national firm with a small-firm mindset, where employees truly feel cared about and connected to all other team members. Our culture is to hire the best and the brightest in each field, and that’s what I have tried to do: Hire someone in each discipline and make sure that each division – project management, property management, the Asia desk, the retail division, industrial and office leasing – is populated by the best and remains nimble, able to take advantage of where the market is today. I tried my best to model it on our corporate culture from our headquarters in Houston.

CPE:  What makes Transwestern stand out?

Postell: We put the client first and will do anything and everything to make sure that the client is happy. In all situations, our clients are always our first priority. If we’re trying to get a tenant rep assignment, we incorporate a project manager role or a property manager. We look at each assignment as a team effort, as opposed to silos of individuals. One of the great things about what we’ve built here is that everyone takes part in the decisions. You make better decisions when you have a group of diverse and talented individuals around you.

CPE: What industries make up the bulk of your client base?

Postell: Our clients tend to be insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as other New Jersey-based businesses. New Jersey’s market drivers used to be focused in the telecom, financial and pharmaceutical industries, but the state has expanded to include other industries in recent years. On a global basis, we still represent large pharmaceutical companies.

CPE: What challenges have you faced?

Postell: I lost my wife roughly 10 years ago to cancer. I had to maintain my professional career while raising our two little girls, who were three and five at that time. That was a very big challenge.  At that time, I was growing the New Jersey office for Trammell Crow. That was the biggest thing that happened in my life, for sure. I try to be the best dad I can, and I’m fortunate to spend a tremendous amount of time with my daughters.

CPE: Can you describe yourself in five words?

Postell: Inspirational, loyal, leads by example.

CPE: Your assistance of American Express after 9/11 was a true crisis relocation – 2,000 employees needed a new place to work within 10 days. How did you pull that off?

Postell: We were fortunate enough to have a couple building owners who were responsive to the situation, and we were able to get them into 550,000 square feet in 10 days. It was a big feat, and it took everyone involved to come together as a team in a desperate situation.

I was fortunate that I only knew a few people who perished in the attacks. Some knew hundreds. I still remember coming home after working for 24 hours straight on that relocation and encountering funerals in the suburban New Jersey streets. It changed our lives, and if you were here in New Jersey or New York, you realized it a little bit more than in other parts of the country.

CPE: What advice would you give your younger self?

Postell: In my younger years, I would respond to things very quickly, as opposed to really thinking them through and giving people the benefit of the doubt. I think that comes as you have more patience in life. At the tender age of 50, I think that having a lot of patience and understanding of other people’s perspectives gets you a long way.

CPE: What would you be doing if you weren’t in real estate?

Postell: I’d probably be in the arts. That was a passion that if I had continued with it, I would have enjoyed a lot. I would probably be in television or film – I’d almost guarantee it.