Get to know our agent Dave Smies, learn about his career in commercial real estate, and hear his thoughts on the future of the commercial real estate industry.
What are some of your hobbies?
They have become working around the house, bike riding with my wife–we go about every day unless there’s ice or snow, and I like to water ski. What I had to do was give up a bunch of hobbies because we have 6 kids.Hobbies mean different things to different people—I had a lot of hobbies but had to give up some because they weren’t involving the family. Now my hobbies are things I can do with my family. I also really like to fix things. I’m always working on a tractor or a quad. My wife will tell you “he’s in his glory if he’s on his tractor.”
What is your family like?
My youngest daughter is thirteen years old. I have four boys who are lined up from eighteen, twenty-three, twenty-five, twenty-eight, and then my oldest daughter, who works for our property management team at NAI, is thirty. My first grandchild was born in December. I’m still figuring out how to be a grandpa, you know there’s no book on how you should do it, but I’m figuring it out.
What lead you to enter the commercial real estate business?
I was working for Holland American Wafer after college. I was flying around the country, and my job was to hire food brokers and build the Dutch Twins name around the country. After about a year of doing that, a guy at the church I was attending kept saying to me, “You’ve got to work for me.” His name was Jerry Baker, and he was the owner of First Companies. I went to work for him, and in this business, the best thing I ever did was he told me to go cold-calling. I thought “how do you do that?” I didn’t know at the time. I didn’t make a penny for eighteen months, it was brutal. Five years after I started with First Companies I quit and decided to start my own firm, Grand Real Estate. I was at Grand Real Estate for seventeen years before we merged with Doug Taatjes and formed NAI West Michigan, and then five years later we merged with Stan Wisinski to form NAI Wisinski of West Michigan. The point of this is I got into the industry because a guy believed in me and trained me. He said “I think you can sell, and if you go out and go after it, it will work out well” and it has.
What has changed in the industry during your time?
I was one of the first realtors who bought a computer. Starting with computers, I would go out and make forty calls a day, and then at night I would come back and log them in the computer. I had a computer programmer write software for me so that it would automatically remind me when to call people back. For years, I was on the cutting edge of technology, and I got burned—the stuff wouldn’t work, but what I’ve learned about our industry is many customers want to know that their broker is with the times. I see technology as a game changer because of that. The change is all positive I think, but if you don’t embrace the change, you can get hurt.
What changes or trends do you anticipate for commercial real estate in the coming years?
I think the desire for ownership will increase. With technology, people from out of town are buying in West Michigan, and that makes the market more competitive. Because of technology, no matter where you are, you can feel like you are in a certain location. A bit of a shift in our industry is knowing where to get information is easier for everybody today.
What are your hopes for the city of Grand Rapids and the West Michigan area?
I hope that the growth we are seeing is sustainable. If you’re sustainable people make money, owners make money, and you stay around. We are going the right direction as a city because of many economic blessings. The future looks good if people keep working, but we need sustainability. Certain industries can only sustain so much growth, and with rapid growth comes some failure, too.
Is there a piece of advice or a lesson you’ve learned from your years of working experience that has shaped how you do business?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is we all have some problems. One piece of advice might be, get to know the situation from all sides before you make a decision. You need to try and understand the bigger picture before an issue arises. Ultimately, business is good, NAI is good, I make a good living from my work, but I’m always trying to say “what else?” I try to come to a meeting to add value. I try to give you more than just answering your questions. I’m all about connecting with people.
Dave Smies is a partner and associate broker at NAI Wisinski of West Michigan. He is also one of only 5% of commercial realtors to earn the CCIM designation, and one of only 3% of commercial realtors to be a member of the SIOR designation. If you are interested in contacting Dave, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org