Well, Arthur J. Mirante was never a fishing-pole kinda guy. Needless to say, his two-decade run as CEO of New York City-based Cushman & Wakefield Inc. was stellar by any measure. In that time, company revenues swelled from $100 million to $1 billion and the global platform was firmly defined. But stepping aside did not mean stepping down, and since relinquishing the reins to hand-picked successor Bruce E. Mosler late in 2004, Mirante has led a jet-setting life as president of global client development. Meetings; dealmaking (remember the bell-ringing $1.7-billion sale of the MetLife Building?); and a hefty share of nonprofit work fill his typical 12-hour-plus days. So Mirante is very much still in the saddle and clearly enjoying the view of someone else driving the team. In a rare interview, he sat down with GlobeSt.com to discuss change–change at the firm he helped define as well as within the industry as a whole.

GlobeSt.com: You’ve been described as a rainmaker in your new role. What exactly does that mean?

Mirante: In the broadest sense, it’s expanding our business with our existing clients and to new clients, building new relationships for the firm, promoting the firm. Last week I was invited to speak before the annual convention of Certified Financial Analysts. That’s significant, by the way. It shows that even at the street level, the people managing middle-net worth clients’ money are now focused on real estate as a part of their client’s portfolio. In a way, what I’m doing isn’t much different than before. When I was CEO I tried to carve out a significant portion of my time to be with clients and stay in touch. If you become just a manager you’re really in trouble. About 75% to 85% of my time now is with clients.

GlobeSt.com: Is there a level of client on which you focus?

Mirante: No. Think of the good will of the firm. There was 200 Park, but I’m also dealing with Covenant House here in Manhattan. I can pick and choose, although I’m asked to work on some situations by my boss.

GlobeSt.com: Personally, was it difficult for you to let go?

Mirante: I’ll tell you, I never look back. Your question was the first time I reflected on leaving. This was a four-to-five-year plan. I selected my successor two, two-and-a-half years into that and in anticipation I began delegating many of the decisions and responsibilities. Once I committed to the idea, that was it, and I began working on the transition. I weaned myself out and that was a big benefit. I see things happen I might not have done the same way. But I made mistakes. I see more things being done right than being done wrong, so I let go. Didn’t bother me a damn.

GlobeSt.com: More companies are offering–or claiming, at least–a global platform. How do each of the truly global firms differentiate themselves on that level?

Mirante: It’s good question, and we ask ourselves that all the time. But remember 20 or 25 years ago. We created a tagline–the full-service real estate company. That was ours, and I watched as other people who only had a brokerage company called themselves full-service. Things repeat themselves on different scales. The globalization of business is inexorable, but only three or four companies have gotten there and can control what happens, providing quality and consistency. But they do look the same.

So how do we distinguish ourselves? You have about an hour in those presentations. Are you going to talk about the same stuff or are you trying to differentiate? You talk about performance and producing results clients want, and you try to find the weaknesses in your competition. Nothing bothers me more than hearing after a presentation that clients can’t tell the difference. A lot of times when I hear that I go back and say that talk is cheap. We have to get beyond the sales presentation where we all look the same and say the same damn thing. Results are number one. The caliber of people is key also.

GlobeSt.com: And the competition would say exactly the same thing.

Mirante: Correct. Then it becomes a show-me. The people are different and the styles are different. It becomes about trust. And I don’t know that all of our competitors talk about trust.

GlobeSt.com: What worries you about this industry?

Mirante: You’re going to hate this answer, but Iraq worries me, and Iran and poverty. I worry about the impact that another 9/11 will have on our society, and people getting shot in Mexico. We lost two of our employees in Mexico in the past 10 years. In fact, those events kept us out of Moscow for a long time because I always believed Moscow to be equally dangerous, and I didn’t want to go to any more funerals. But our industry is honest, better educated and more professional than ever. Nothing worries me about our industry.

GlobeSt.com: How has client thinking evolved over the years? Do they get the importance of their real estate holdings?

Mirante: It’s been one of the more enjoyable and rewarding things to watch, but clearly there’s been a much greater appreciation with respect to the impact real estate can have on their business. I think it began 20 years ago, and gradually we saw real estate moving higher–reporting to the CFO and CEO. We’ve gone up the food chain. We used to send people to the Xerox Sales Training school in Leesburg, VA, and they taught sales tricks–how to get by a receptionist. Nowadays we teach financial structuring and 1031 exchanges. Everything has changed. But, as a result, we’ve had to upgrade the caliber of our people and we had to stop relying on low-hanging fruit.

That being said, many clients consider transaction manangement a commodity, and that perception is wrong. They say every firm has good brokers. That’s a fallacy. There’s millions at stake in these transactions and hiring a person who has the client’s interest first and is committed to making an under-market transaction is a valuable asset. Today, clients aren’t going to make a decision based on brokerage talent; they’re going to make their decision based on your infrastructure, your strategy, your process component.

GlobeSt.com: Let’s get back to this whole retirement issue. Have you been able to carve out any personal time? Isn’t that part of the point of stepping aside?

Mirante: When I was CEO I committed a good deal of my time to nonprofits and I’m still doing that. Whatever time I gained by delegating my former responsibilities–budgets, HR stuff, things I hated about my job–I shifted over to clients. I work the same hours because I like to I get in at seven, and I’m entertaining, doing nonprofit stuff and networking three nights a weeks. Bruce has the worst job in the world.

GlobeSt.com: Is that how you looked at the chair when you occupied it?

Mirante: No. I loved it when I was doing it. [Laughing:] You can convince yourself of anything.

GlobeSt.com: So does Bruce come in and ask you what the hell you did to him?

Mirante: He comes in and says that very thing, but he doesn’t mean it.

GlobeSt.com: Ever think of retiring?

Mirante: Retirement would be a really tough issue. I’m having fun. If you can find friends within your client base, build relationships and integrate the two, you can be pretty happy working 14, 16 hours a day.

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