Jeff appears in the Top 100
People in Real Estate Magazine
A former U.S. Army officer with over two decades of experience in real estate and nearly 30 years in sales and marketing, Jeff Johnson is the co-founder of Pinnacle Real Estate Advisors, the largest privately owned, full-service commercial real estate firm in Colorado. Based in Denver, with a team of 50 brokers and staff, the firm specializes in the sale and leasing of retail, office, and industrial properties, as well as the sale of multifamily investment properties.
Throughout his illustrious career Jeff has closed over 500 investment transactions as a broker. In 2006, Jeff took his passion for commercial real estate and co-founded an award-winning company that is outperforming some of the national real estate firms and is responsible for 50% of all apartment sales in Denver Metro Area since 2007 in the 5-200 unit range. Recipients of the CoStar Power Broker Award almost every year since its inception and ranked many times as a top brokerage firm by the Denver Business Journal—currently ranked # 5, the highest ranking for any privately owned commercial real estate company in Colorado—Pinnacle Real Estate Advisors has completed over 2,540 transactions totaling more than $3.95B in sales volume.
While Jeff takes pride in the success of his firm, it is not the figures and stats that he finds most rewarding, but the industry’s recognition of Pinnacle’s commitment to its employees in naming the firm as a Top Workplace by The Denver Post for 2015, 2019, and 2020. The company has also been recognized multiple times by the Denver Business Journal as one of the Top Denver Area Veteran Owned Companies (all industries), currently ranked # 12 in this category. We sat down with Jeff to find out more about Pinnacle Real Estate Advisors and his role as the leader of a thriving firm.
First, tell us a bit more about Pinnacle Real Estate Advisors and your role as a principal.
Our focus is private capital investors, non-institutional, such as local or national investors or syndicators, that own properties in the $1 to $25 million range. That’s really what I love, because I’m working with the owners directly and I’m helping them reach their financial or investment goals. Our objective is to help individuals build generational wealth using commercial real estate investments as the avenue to do that.
With respect to my role, I have two primary responsibilities. First, I share responsibilities as CEO/COO with my business partner, Matt Ritter. Second, I am the lead broker for a large commercial brokerage team here at Pinnacle, which handles multifamily, retail, office, and industrial investment sales.
What was your inspiration for starting the firm?
Matt and I started out as commercial brokers at a large national firm, and we learned the good and bad that comes in that environment. Then we both transitioned to a small boutique firm, and we learned what we liked, and didn’t like, there. Our objective was to build a firm that embodied all the good qualities of each, but we also wanted the culture and fun of a small firm. So, we have all the capabilities of a national firm, but a small-firm culture. We try to under-promise and over-perform for our clients. We put their needs first, always, and because of this, they trust us, and they stay with us long term. Many of my clients from back in the nineties are still working with me.
What led you from a career in sales and marketing to real estate?
After I graduated from West Point in 1984, I served as a U.S. Army infantry officer with both Airborne and Ranger designations. My first job after I got out of the army was as a medical sales rep, so I learned a lot about sales, and then I was director of sales and marketing for a medical software company. What I learned from those two experiences was that I didn’t like someone else setting my income ceiling, telling me what I had to focus on. I realized that I was really an entrepreneur and I wanted to be in charge my own destiny, without limitations. I found that being a commercial real estate broker gave me that freedom and unlimited income potential, so I took that path, and I really fell in love with commercial real estate as an industry.
How does your experience in sales and marketing help your clients?
Working in sales and marketing for years gave me a profound appreciation for the critical importance of understanding a person’s goals. We put together a process called “The Pinnacle Experience”, a seven-step process that we train our brokers on about how they can be successful and truly add value and help their clients. One of the most important aspects of this is Step One, which we call the Insight Appointment, where we ask opened-ended questions about personal and professional goals. We need to understand what is important to them and how we can help them before we go out and look at properties that will be a good fit.
In addition to your myriad industry accolades, you’ve won multiple workplace awards. What is it that you do to foster a good workplace culture?
We do a great job of hiring good people, people that you want to hang out with. After all, we spend more time at the office than we do at home. We train them in our system so that they have everything they need to succeed, and then we get out of the way and let them do their thing, rather than micromanage, because people thrive in that environment. Generally, the people who are with us have been with us for years. I really enjoy developing, mentoring, and training new brokers, and as a military veteran, I try to recruit other veterans to Pinnacle and the commercial real estate industry in general. Teaching new brokers what I know, and then watching them go out and do great things is incredibly fulfilling. In fact, many of the top-producing brokers in Denver in our niche started out on our team and were trained by me and Matt.
To what do you attribute your own success in real estate and your success as the leader of a thriving firm?
Far and away the reason that I’m successful and that Pinnacle is successful is that our number one value is integrity, and I take that very, very seriously, given my background in the military. I will do my best to ensure a great outcome for my clients, even if I don’t get a commission on the deal. My relationships with them become long term because they’re based on trust. I work really hard. I stay focused, and I try to do my best every day. I don’t skip days; I don’t take off a month. All of it has to do with caring about my clients, and then being able to put in the hard work.
Co-Founder/Principal — Pinnacle Real Estate Advisors