Joel Stephen

Larry Perrish “Power of We” Award Winner

Joel Stephen did his first real estate deal when he was eight. His family had recently moved to a small city in the north of England, Lytham St. Annes, where his father would practice as a doctor. The family was in a temporary apartment while they looked for a new home, so young Stephen wandered to the streets noting down details from agency boards on desirable streets. He found a house that would work for his family and ran home to tell them. Sure enough, they moved in a bought what would be the family home.

It was the start of a career that would take him across three continents, leading teams, building relationships, and delivering excellent outcomes for some of the world’s most high-profile retailers. Throughout his career, he has worked on over 350 transactions in over 15 countries and built collaborative and competitive teams who achieved market leading positions along while enjoying individual success. He has consistently been willing to leave his comfort zone and prove himself in new markets, taking calculated risks but accelerated opportunities to learn and he enjoys the adventure.

For these reasons, Stephen has been named the 2022 Larry Perrish “Power of We” Award winner. The award is the highest honor bestowed within CBRE’s Retail line of business. It commemorates Larry Perrish, a 41-year employee of CBRE, and highlights the professional who demonstrates Mr. Perrish’s attributes of dedication, expertise, and cooperation.

Stephen got his start in London, working for a commercial asset management firm. He heard that CBRE was purchasing Dalgleish, the leading boutique retail brokerage in the United Kingdom. He had a few contacts within Dalgleish and inquired about a potential role. It was enough to get him a meeting with Ciaran Bird, divisional president, A&T for CBRE in the UK and Ireland. 

“I was very impressed with Joel on our first meeting,” said Bird. “I could tell that he had a bright future, and I had no doubt that he could be successful. It’s been a pleasure to watch his career unfold and to see all of the places it has taken him.”

Stephen would learn the business working for both tenants and landlords in London and communities in the south of England.  

A few years later, CBRE’s Peter Gold gave a presentation to the UK team about what was happening across Europe. Stephen was intrigued.

“I had not traveled much at that stage of my life beyond France and Spain and a sole trip to the US, and I was very interested in what was happening in other countries and excited about the prospect of learning how to do business within different cultures. After Peter’s presentation, I knew that I wanted to work for him, expand my geographic scope and explore the world.”

And that is where Stephen’s travels began. Through his work helping retailers expand across Europe team, he became more involved in global initiatives and global real conferences and started to build his network within CBRE’s US and Asia Pacific businesses. With his connections at CBRE he was offered a role in Shanghai in 2009. He wasn’t sure it was what he wanted to do, but he thought he would check out the market. At the least, it was a chance to see a new place.

“Shanghai blew my mind. At the time, it was the most active market and probably the coolest city in the world, completely different to anywhere I had seen in my life or career. There was such an energy and cranes were everywhere. It was the kind of place that changed my mindset. I was hooked.”

Thus, he moved halfway around the world, where he began building CBRE’s tenant rep practice group in China. He remained in the booming Chinese market for almost five years helping 35 international brands successfully expand into the country. Next, he transitioned into a management role in Hong Kong, where he ran the Asian Retail Occupier business, eventually becoming the leader of Retail Asia. He put the right team in place and helped the retail practice group to the top spot in the Asian market between 2014-2017.

“We had a fantastic and collaborative team. There were never any disputes, and we were able to build up a great practice and represent incredible brands across Asia and the world with a long list of successes that we were all very proud of.”

In this role, he would often help Asian brands expand into the US, with New York usually the focus. Like most people, New York put a hold on Stephen and he started to think about his next venture.

“I have always been obsessed with New York and every time I visited the city, I liked it more. I was perfectly happy in Asia and we had great momentum. In the end, I think I wanted to take on the challenge that is New York.”

He pitched a role idea to Matt Van Buren, Kyle Schoppmann, Brandon Famous and Anthony Buono, who were all, he says, willing to “take a gamble on him.”
He then left management behind to take on a commission role in the Big Apple, where he has been since 2017.

In the U.S., and, everywhere really, he has built his practice on collaboration and partnership.

“My model is not based on working alone. I want to work with people across our platform to differentiate ourselves from the competition. We have all of these incredible people and services we can assemble.”

His advice to young brokers is to be long-term focused and put strategy first, transactions second.

“That can be difficult in our business with the compensation structure, but it’s the right way to approach it. Put the retailer’s business first. The transactions will come.”

When he’s not working, he still likes to travel. Albeit he likes to go to places that offer a rush of adventure, such as Ethiopia, Cambodia and Lebanon. His travels even took him to North Korea, where he ran the Pyongyang marathon.

Not surprisingly, his travels have made him quite the polyglot. He speaks Mandarin, some German, French, and Spanish. He is currently learning Italian so he can converse better with clients (one of his main clients is Eataly).

“Joel is one of our company’s top professionals in the retail business and his acumen as a leader and professional have transcended cultures and geographies” said Manish Kashyap, Global President, Advisory & Transaction Services for CBRE. “He is a valuable asset to his clients and CBRE”.