CHICAGO-Formerly a CB Richard Ellis broker, Rhea Campbell has started her own tenant representation firm, Bella Terra Partners LLC. Campbell says she started the firm in response to large mergers the real estate world has seen in the past couple years, including that of CB Richard Ellis and Trammell Crow, and of Jones Lang LaSalle and Staubach. Campbell says her time working as a tenant rep at a large firm led her to believe that the traditional brokerage model does not work.

“When you look at the traditional tenant rep model, you have different tenant reps all going after the same pieces of business, and I looked at that model and thought there had to be a better way to do this,” she tells “What happens to tenant rep professionals working at a large brokerage firm is that sometimes they are working with three or four other people and part of their fee goes back to the house, so they have to do a huge amount of transactions to make a living. That does not turn out to be the most efficient way to work with a client.”

Campbell says her firm, which now has a staff of three, will eventually employ a specialized staff that would be colleagues without being competitors. “We’re going to handpick other brokers and professionals to work at the firm that will be going be after separate business that does not overlap,” Campbell says. “We’re looking at geographic territory or vertical markets, and trying to find what is the best situation that creates not a competitive but a symbiotic relationship. The traditional brokerage model, where you’re not inclined to share information with you colleagues and you’re competing with them for business, is inefficient.”

She says the demand for tenant rep services is actually going to go down, but the demand for a more specialized, service-oriented approach is going to go up, and that’s where Bella Terra is really going to hit the sweet spot. “Clients looking for tenant reps are going to demand a savvy approach, and will want more value from their real estate service providers they’re hiring. We’re going to see many of our clients going back to wanting service and value for the partnership, and looking for a long-term relationship, and we’ll provide a level of services that will allow us to continue to service those clients when the economy recovers.”

The company, which just opened for business this month, targets smaller users, ranging in size from 3,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet. “At Bella Terra Partners, we can afford to spend a significant amount of time with smaller firms, which would normally go un-serviced and would not get service at the same level at one of the larger brokerage companies,” she says. “We provide the same sophisticated, strategic approach that larger clients would get to a smaller user, that would never be able to attain that service or approach otherwise.”

Campbell says she believes her companies will have higher client retention than other brokerage firms. “Whether you have a real estate transaction or not, the real estate services are ongoing, like benchmarking square feet per person, and growth and contraction patterns in the business,” she says.

She says while some might be hesitant to start a new business in a faltering economy, now is the perfect time to create a new brokerage firm. “There aren’t a whole lot of costs associated with starting a tenant rep firm, and there is a large pool of talent out there now that has been downsized from financial services market and real estate industry,” Campbell says. “We’re going to see a huge fall out from the industry of people who lose their jobs, and the time is right to get the talent pool, and the mindset and creative talent we’ll need for the recovery. That probably won’t happen until 2011, so we’ll go slow and steady for the next couple of years, being thoughtful and careful about the talent we bring on, client approach and building our reputation.”

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