Hal Kempson | Crain's Charlotte

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Hal Kempson


JLL is a professional services firm specializing in real estate and investment management. With headquarters for the Americas located in Chicago, JLL has more than 70,000 employees in 80 countries tracking local, regional and global real estate challenges. JLL is the brand name of Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc. Hal Kempson is based in Charlotte and focuses on debt and equity across asset classes.

The Mistake:

Thinking you’re stuck in one career if that’s where you begin.

I’m not sure if it was a mistake as much as it was an issue of timing and the state of the industry, but those circumstances prevented me from going into the commercial real estate business when I first wanted.

When I first went to work for First Union in 1989, I wanted to get into commercial real estate and learn it from the lending standpoint. But the Tax Reform Act of 1986 had put the kibosh on all new real estate development. We all went through a nine-month training program, but there were no new commercial real estate loans being made; we were only restructuring.

It was a depressing thought to begin my career. I went to work for a group that did everything but real estate. I ended up going into structured finance – learning how deals are structured, equity, financing.

But it turns out that it was a great learning experience. I learned how to best serve the client, which is to be agnostic on whether they want to sell their property or recapitalize it. The experience also significantly helped me to understand how different asset classes are financed and how the financial markets operate.

Finally, I was able to get into commercial real estate.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find the job you think you want right out of school.

The Lesson:

Don’t get discouraged if what you’re looking for in a long-term career isn’t there when you’re looking for it. Markets change. Economic cycles happen. In 2009 and 2010, I would have rather been anywhere else than in commercial real estate finance. We were just trying to eke out a living and find something that could be done.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find the job you think you want right out of school, or business school. Don’t think you have to do something else for all of your career. It’s not a bad thing to change employers, or even to change careers. It can be invigorating.

Follow JLL on Twitter at: @JLL.

Pictured: Hal Kempson | Photo courtesy of JLL

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