Six high-achieving leaders share their thoughts on leadership, growth strategies, and what’s ahead

D CEO Magazine (April 22, 2021) D CEO will reveal the winners of its ninth annual Commercial Real Estate Awards program. Leading up to the big event, we’re featuring all 83 finalists (51 projects and deals and 32 professionals), one category at a time. Today, we’re sharing excerpts from interviews with the six Executive of the Year honorees.   

Sharon Morrison 

Founder and CEO, ESRP 

WHY REAL ESTATE: “I find myself to be a pretty competitive person, and commercial real estate embodies all of the components of a sports team and a game. We do everything as a team, and each person has their key role in our success. No position is the same, and you cannot have each individual playing quarterback or everyone playing defense. You field the team for the play. We set the team on the real estate side to create wins for us and to best serve the client.  

“I like the player-coach model. I can be team captain but also know how to pass the ball to my teammates when appropriate. We all work together for the win. You have to have grit to succeed in this business. It is not easy and not for everyone. You have to be able to get up when you get knocked down. But if you are resilient, have the spirit, and work hard, you will succeed. 

“And just like the thrill of a game, our industry is fun. Life is too short not to have fun. That is very important to me personally and professionally. The business is lucrative and one of the few careers you can have where there is no cap on your income. You reap what you sow. Like investment banking, it is high risk, but there is also high reward. If you do not like risk, you would not like our business. If you do not like risk, you cannot be entrepreneurial.   

“I have also been blessed being in this field because it is flexible. Although we work often and work hard, the business has always allowed for me to be able to put my family first. My husband Kevin and I have been together for 31 years, and we have three amazing daughters.  I would hate to look back and think I missed out. No regrets—my line of work has made this possible.”  

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT:“Along with everything mentioned above, I have loved creating a company where others can find success and opportunities they may have not had otherwise.  I love our culture and the fact our team created it. We had a good example and mentor in the form of Roger Staubach. It does not come without its challenges. You have to work on it every day. With human beings, there are human issues. It is how you handle them that makes a difference.   

“I also really enjoy being entrepreneurial and being around other entrepreneurs, turning ideas into real things—actions and results.”  

LESSONS LEARNED:“Too many to count. I am truly learning all the time. When you start a company for the first time, there are lots of firsts—they never end. You learn to expect the unexpected. Something will happen, you do not know what it is, but you better be ready to handle it and be prepared.  My favorite saying is “Champions adjust.” You have to adjust, be flexible, go to plan B—every day. That is life. Thoughts are things. So, be positive, and positive results will come out of any challenges.   

“I do not like hanging around negative people. I definitely learned that!” 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS:“In 2020, esrp made key growth decisions and continued to expand our team. While our competitors were having to restructure or lay off people, we were financially stable (thanks to our many producers and an amazing CFO in Karra Guess). We were in a position to strategically take it to the next level. We made sure to continue to meet as a team, call on new companies, and serve as a true advisor to our existing clients who had great needs in unprecedented times. We did not freeze up! Unlike the rest of our industry, we have an employee model and not just a house for a bunch of independent contractors. It has served us well.  

“I am pretty sure we are one of the largest minority-led companies in America. Our leadership team has four women, one Black male, one Puerto Rican male, and a couple of White men. We have worked hard to have diversity from day one since we began in 2013, and not just because everyone expects it or demands it as a result of a movement or shareholder pressure. Our idea of diversity is not about our skin color or gender. Diversity means we have different people from different backgrounds and different talents. As a result, we all think differently.  The end result is creative and diverse skillsets for our clients. They get the benefit of a team of people who can help solve problems and create opportunities from different perspectives.  It is the best thing as a company and the best thing for our partners/clients, and we can to continue to add more diversity and do even better.” 

LOOKING AHEAD: “We are competing head-to-head with the big global firms. The investments we have made in resources, people, and processes along the way are paying off.  The tremendous amount of energy and new ideas we have today are going to propel us into the next phase. We are in a big push to scale the company through adding service lines, adding the right people, and opening other offices. We are not trying to get big, just trying to grow in the right ways. We are looking for others who want to be part of something special and make a difference. The timing has to be right, and our leadership team is aligned in that this is great timing. I am excited to grow, as that means we are creating more solutions for clients and can become an even better partner.”