IRVINE, CA—Even the president and CEO of a major commercial real estate development company has to take a break from work sometimes. But Bill Halford of Bixby Land Co. says the lines between work and leisure often get blurry in his world. GlobeSt.com recently chatted with Halford about what he does after hours, whom he spends time with and what he says young real estate professionals need to do more in order to be successful.

GlobeSt.com: Who were your mentors or influences while you were coming up in the industry?

Halford: Shurl Curci, who died about a year ago, was the chairman and founder of TDC. He was a long-time Los Angeles-based developer who ultimately sold everything to Spieker, who sold everything to EOP. TDC was the first real estate company I worked for, and Shurl was a great dealmaker and hands-on developer. Also, obviously Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., whom I worked with for the majority of my career, was one of my influences. He was always emphasizing quality to the extent that if you deliver quality, you’ll never have a problem keeping buildings leased. So he was a great mentor in that way.

GlobeSt.com: What types of people do you surround yourself with?

Halford: Here’s how I define them: smart, fast-paced, self-motivated, independent thinkers with a sense of humor. You’ve gotta have the sense of humor. You can’t take yourself too seriously.

GlobeSt.com: What advice could you offer to young people starting in the business?

Halford: I always tell them they need to be a student of the industry. I don’t think people read enough or stay current enough. This business is always evolving, and to the extent that you stay informed, you’ll be successful in the workplace. Also, people tend to get pigeonholed into either leasing or finance or construction, but if you’re exposed to all those areas and become a generalist, you’ll be much more valuable. In many companies, you are just exposed to that one area, but you have to make it your business to learn those other areas and work in them to understand them.

GlobeSt.com: Outside of business, what do you do for fun? Are there any parallels between your outside interests and the real estate business?

Halford: The great majority of my friends are involved in the business in some form, so there’s a lot of overlap between my professional life and my personal life, which probably isn’t unique. But when I think about my group of friends, the common denominator is they all have a great sense of humor and they tend to be characters. A great portion of them are real estate people. I do lots of socializing that revolves around golf and conferences, so the lines are pretty blurry for me in terms of social and business, which has helped me in my career. I have lots of deep relationships that are meaningful beyond the transaction. This is a business where you transact with a somewhat common group of people, but to the extent that you’re really friends and you know them, that makes it easier. It makes you more effective as a transaction person to have those kinds of relationships. People tend to do business with people they like in a world where you can do business with anybody. There are a lot of fun people in the business, so it makes that part easy.