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SANTA ANA, CA-Grubb & Ellis Co. has cut 100 of its brokers, effective immediately, in what brokerage operations chief Jack Van Berkel tells GlobeSt.com is part of a strategy designed to replace lower-producing brokers with higher producers. Van Berkel, who is executive vice president, chief operating officer and president of transaction services, tells GlobeSt.com that letting the 100 brokers go is “definitely not a cost-cutting exercise” but is part of a long-term plan to create a more productive brokerage force at the firm.

Grubb & Ellis, which has approximately 800 brokers companywide following the cuts, has “a pipeline of 50 to 100 top-level brokers that we would like to bring into the organization over the next six months or so,” Van Berkel says. Eliminating the lower-producing brokers will free space to bring in more top-level brokers, according to Van Berkel, who says that now is an opportune time, from a recruiting standpoint, to overhaul the company’s brokerage operations. “The recruiting market is better right now than it has ever been that I can remember,” he says. “We need to take advantage of it.”

As Van Berkel explains it, the plan to improve the Grubb & Ellis brokerage operation has already involved the hiring of “more top brokers over the last 90 days than at any other point in our history.” For a long period of time, “the Grubb organization wasn’t focused on broker productivity, it was focused on adding as many brokers as possible,” Van Berkel says. Now, however, “We want better brokers overall, and better brokers will get you better clients and bigger deals,” the Grubb & Ellis exec says. “Grubb has been promising this forever, but it has never really happened before.”

As GlobeSt.com previously reported, other brokerage firms are making cuts as well. Cushman & Wakefield Inc. and CBRE both confirmed job reductions, however they did not detail specific numbers of people or affected markets or regions. Also, in September, Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle decided to lay off between 60 to 80 employees in England.

Just today, Grubb & Ellis revealed that 25-year industry veteran Ian Brown has rejoined its Newport Beach, CA office as a senior vice president with the Retail Group. Brown, who returns to Grubb & Ellis following a two-year stint as executive vice president and partner with Orange County-based DBN Development, is one of a host of new brokers that Grubb & Ellis has hired in recent months, including individuals and teams throughout every major market in the US.

Van Berkel declined to list specific productivity requirements that determined which brokers were cut, but he said, “the individuals we are taking out have been on a watch list for a period of time and have had the opportunity to improve their numbers.” The brokers who were let go were based in offices throughout the company and in all property types.

The winnowing out of lower-producing brokers and the hiring of better producers will be an ongoing process until, “at some point we will have the best-performing brokerage operation we can have,” Van Berkel explains. He says that the number of brokers will remain at roughly 800.

Since its merger with NNN Realty Advisors last year, Grubb & Ellis has been focusing on broker productivity and improving the overall quality of its sales organization as two of its critical goals, according to Van Berkel. “We want the overall experience that our customers have to be a better one. We want them to be dealing with a higher-level producer than they have in the past,” he says. For Grubb & Ellis, that will mean more revenue, Van Berkel says.

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