By JILL ROSENFELD
Paul Sablock's average day is all about juggling.
Sablock is an industrial broker for the Seeley Co., one of the top five commercial real estate brokerages in Los Angeles. He has worked there for 18 years, and now handles properties in Vernon, City of Commerce, downtown and other locations.
"As a broker, you should have 30 deals going on at different stages, and you never make a deal where there's not five different problems," he said.
"When I first started in the business, a manager said to me, 'Every deal dies three deaths before you close it.' And it seems to me like it dies several more deaths than that."
On a recent day, Sablock began his juggling act on the way to work. After a quick pitstop at a cafe near his Seal Beach home, he starts making phone calls in the car, while drinking coffee and "trying not to spill it all over myself."
By 8 a.m. he is in his office, which is decorated with a 165-pound blue marlin and a 35-pound dorado he hooked on vacation in Cabo San Lucas. He accessorizes the stuffed fish with hats, ties and other accoutrements, depending on his mood.
After settling in, Sablock switches on his computer and checks his list of 40 or so "hot clients" with active deals. Then he gets on the phone for an hour.
"In the morning, I may have a four-person conference call over a contract, and then someone walks in the office to tell me about a deal falling apart. Meanwhile, the phone's ringing and the guy next to me has a situation where his escrow is contingent on another building that I've got, where another broker is bringing in a buyer, and I'm in the middle of both deals, and I have to coordinate all these timing issues to hopefully make a deal by the end of August. You have to put out your 'Do Not Disturb' sign to get anything done."
At 9:30, Sablock drives to the Citadel building in Commerce for his weekly meeting with Xebec LLC, a developer headquartered there.
The meeting is regarding a parcel of land in Vernon. Aluminum Co. of America (Alcoa) shut half of its 50-acre facility, and is selling 23 acres of land to Xebec. Xebec is buying, subdividing, and developing the property.
Sablock represents seller Alcoa. But Alcoa's sale of the land is contingent on Xebec closing five deals for the subdivided parcels.
So Sablock has a vested interest in Xebec's dealmaking. "We're representing the developer in finding deals, because if he can't find deals, he can't buy the land, and we don't achieve our deal for Alcoa, the seller," he explained.
While Sablock is working with a large corporation this time, big business represents only a tiny percentage of his trade.
"In the last few years there's been a definite shift in the ethnic makeup of our clients," Sablock said. "All our guys have had to make a shift too, to understand the cultures and negotiating styles of these cultures. Koreans are known to be the toughest negotiators, as far as holding firm to their price. Persians love to take this bazaar approach, where they come in very low and work up from there."
After a "tense, hour-and-a-half meeting" with Xebec, Sablock drives to Vernon, to go over a low-ball offer with a seller, and get the listing renewed. But one of the decision-makers didn't show up, leaving Sablock in the dark as to whether he would continue to represent the seller.
Sablock then heads back to his office, where he had ordered sandwiches turkey, tuna, roast beef for a meeting with another developer. This one is flying in from Chicago, to wrap up a deal on six acres of land in Vernon.
The developer is planning to build a glass recycling facility on three of the six acres, and is undecided as to what to do with the rest of the site. So Sablock has a friend show up to make a proposal to jointly develop the surplus land.
"I was giving the (Chicago) developer another option," Sablock explained. "He could sell the land, build the building himself, or team up with this guy. Or, I said to him, 'If you don't like this particular guy, I could get you many others that do the same thing.' "
The developer's architect, civil engineer, and environmental specialist were on hand as well, and after lunch everyone drove over to the site, which was by now roasting under the midday sun.
They arrived to find a giant pile of crushed aggregate from demolition work that was recently completed. All well and good, except that the pile was in the wrong place: sitting precisely where the glass recycling facility was to be built.
"So we go, 'Hmm. Didn't we agree to put the pile in the northwest corner? Yeah, it's supposed to be over there. Those damn demolition guys, they don't listen.' "
The Chicago buyer goes off to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where he is staying, and Sablock drives to the grocery store, where he buys Coca-Cola, ice and snacks.
A building inspection by city officials in Vernon.
"It was a hot day," Sablock explained. "Inspectors like to have cold drinks while they're looking at buildings. We see these guys 50 times a year. We try to make it an enjoyable experience."
Before a tenant moves into an existing industrial building, city inspectors and the tenant do a walk-through to ensure there are no code violations.
"I try to figure out who needs to do what, in order to get this guy to move into the building," Sablock said. "Maybe the city's plumbing guy says, 'You need vacuum breakers.' Maybe the sidewalks are cracked and need repair, maybe there's loose wiring that needs to be capped."
Sablock then makes a quick stop at the office, checking his voicemail en route.
At the office he returns as many phone calls as possible, before heading over at 6:45 p.m. to Commerce City Hall to get a project approved by the City Council.
Sablock is home by 7:30 p.m., a fairly long day for him. "You have a lot of long days," he said. "But the majority of us aren't workaholics. The beauty of job is, there's flexibility. There are days I blow out of here at two o'clock. Yesterday I watched my daughter run around at some sports camp for a few hours."
In Sablock's view, success in the industrial market is tied more to skills and knowledge than it is to putting in long hours.
"You have to be focused, smart, knowledgeable," he said. Even then, "It takes five years before you figure if you're even going to make it."
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