- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2000

Michael Boland resists bureaucracy, automated answering services and employees that compete with each other in the same company.

From that resistance was born his vision Boland Real Estate Services, his small D.C. commercial real estate company.

"I'm not looking for a pat on the back from the boss anymore, rather from the client," Mr. Boland said. "When you're getting checks made out to your firm, there's no greater rush."

For 15 years, Mr. Boland was the top producer at D.C.-based Transwestern Carey Winston, a national commercial real estate firm and one of the largest in the area. "You've got to have credibility," he said about starting a business. "You have to have a track record."

And, he did. Mr. Boland helped negotiate more than 500 leases worth over $1 billion. Now, as an independent broker, Mr. Boland has 12 tenants for whom he finds office space and works to keep space filled on behalf of 19 landlords.

Mr. Boland attributed his move into independence to what he saw as a diminishing level of customer service within Transwestern Carey Winston as the company expanded.

"It's a very disloyal industry," he said. "And, it became a much more impersonal place to work."

So, he took some of his clients with him and started his own business in November 1999.

Mr. Boland intends to grow his business slowly using only five to six agents to keep things manageable and to maintain solid long-term relationships.

"In the real estate field it's very much a personal business," said Jonathan Kempner, president of the National Multi-Housing Council and the National Real Estate Association. "Wherever a person like that goes, the business tends to follow."

Mr. Kempner said Mr. Boland's decision to move away from the national firms is a wise move for someone of Mr. Boland's experience.

Ten years ago, when Mr. Kempner was looking to find offices for the association, Carey Winston suggested Mr. Boland. Mr. Kempner has stuck with him since. "I said, 'Who is the best guy you got?' "

"They introduced me to Michael Boland. I have recommended him to many, many people," Mr. Kempner said. Most commercial brokers either represent tenants or landlords to find tenants, Mr. Kempner said. Mr. Boland can find space for companies, or he will find tenants for empty buildings.

"He's a switch hitter broker, which makes him even more valuable," Mr. Kempner said.

Mr. Boland has found office space for companies like Bally Corp., Smith Barney, Ashcraft & Gerel and Harcourt General. He has found tenants for the landlords of buildings such as Citicorp, Chase Manhattan, Prudential, George Washington University and Washington Group.

"Carey Winston is an excellent firm," Mr. Kempner said. "But a star like that will either flourish in a larger organization or he will flourish on his own."

A prudent entrepreneur, Mr. Boland started the business with $100,000 in savings and expects that to multiply to $600,000 in revenues by the end of the year.

"You do not need a large piece of the pie to be profitable," Mr. Boland said. "You don't need to be the dominant player."

Mr. Boland said his intention is to keep his business small and private and confined to the greater Washington area.

"If that is his goal, I think he'll do fine," said Norma Shelton, director of operations for International Mass Retail Association, currently in a suite in the Rosslyn Metro Center in Arlington.

Ms. Shelton has worked with Mr. Boland since 1994 when he was with Carey Winston, as it was then called. She said she feels comfortable working with him now as an independent businessman. Mr. Boland, as with many of his clients, helps Ms. Shelton's company find office space at a competitive rate. He also renews leases and keeps his clients up to date on real estate market trends.

Ms. Shelton said Mr. Boland was somewhat of an adviser that handles the real estate aspects of her business.

"He is like the spokesperson for us with the owner or management of the building," she said.

"I've had some large firms contact us, but I feel like I get more personal attention in working with someone like Michael Boland," she said.

Mr. Boland not only stays in the District because of his roots in the city, but because he sees promise of growth in the Washington metropolitan area that he doesn't see anywhere else.

"Even in the worst of times, Washington was one of the top markets," Mr. Boland said. "We've gone from being a government town to a high-tech town."

Thus, Mr. Boland expects to gain more clients in the technology field. He also benefits from the large number of associations in the city.

Mr. Boland, 38, is one of eight children. "If you can survive that, commercial real estate is a piece of cake."

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