By Orlando Lee Rodriguez
When she was a young girl growing up in England, Nicola Heryet, senior managing director and principal at Cassidy Turley, could not have imagined that she would eventually wind up brokering some of the biggest commercial real estate deals in New York City.
In fact, the UK native said the field she has become a difference maker in was the furthest thing from her mind.
“I knew nothing about real estate. I had no interest in [it] what-so-ever,” she said.
Raised in a town named Purley, a suburb about 20 miles south of London, Heryet grew up riding horses and competed on a national basis.
“Growing up, my passion was equestrian, I represented England as a junior show jumper,” she said. “Always from an early age I was a very competitive person, which probably helped me in real estate.”
But after spending a college semester in France, majoring in commerce and languages, Heryet went to work for an engineering company selling diesel engines in India.
And strangely enough, her path to the United States was set.
“I used to go backwards and forwards from England to India,” she said. “That was my first selling job. I loved it. I loved travelling.”
But in the mid-1970s, business got difficult after a mining strike prompted the company to institute a three day work week. Heryet, unable to get a pay increase, approached her bosses and was persuaded to come to the United States to pursue business opportunities here.
“I came over, and met with a number of companies and made a recommendation that we joint venture with somebody in Baltimore,” she reflected. “My boss said “Why don’t you go and open up the Baltimore office? I said I wouldn’t go unless I got a green card to stay in the US,” she said.
She got the card and the rest is history.
“I was in Baltimore for six months, and then I decided I wanted to do something else,” she said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I came through New York. So, I’m sitting and having coffee one morning and see a REBNY ad’ in the New York Times that said “Are you interested in having a career in real estate?” They were having an open session. I went there, talked to brokers, owners and managers. I decided that it was something I might like to do.”
So her career began, first in residential management, running a rental building on Central Park South for six years, and then onto commercial leasing with what was then Colliers ABR. The change was more than cosmetic — Heryet had to learn not just the differences between residential and commercial properties, but a different viewpoint on fiduciary representation.
“I came out of a tenant rep firm where my selling point was: ‘We only represent tenants, we don’t have a conflict of interest with landlords’,” she said. “Then I came to work at Colliers and I said to my partner, ‘I am a tenant expert,’ and he said ‘how can you be a tenant expert when you don’t know how buildings work?’”
Now, needing to figure out things like the cost of overtime air conditioning and power usage, Heryet had to learn the other side of the fiduciary coin by representing both sides, equally.
“Having come here, I consider myself a much more rounded broker than I was before.” Today, Heryet says, 65% of her business is in leasing while 35% remains on tenant representation.
“It makes it easier to negotiate deals,” she said. “When you understand how a landlord has to look at numbers, it’s easier for you to explain to your clients and come up with a solution that works for everybody.”
Finding solutions has become her specialty. A solution she came up at 366 Madison Avenue actually brought about a change in how agents approach leasing office space. “When the building was purchased, I was hired to re-position it,” she said. “My recommendation was that we pre-build our floors to a very high standard and that we attract financially based tenants. We would build one floor and if tenants came along, we would build other floors.”
The pre-building became a leasing success and Heryet brought the strategy to other buildings she controlled. At 598 Madison Avenue, a building that Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought for itself and wound up not occupying, Heryet pre-built spaces to attract higher paying tenants, turning what could have been a liability for LVMH into an asset.
There may have been hurdles, but Heryet always finds a way to jump them. “When I came into the business, there were a handful of women,” she said. “If you went to the Real Estate Board annual dinner, there might have been 30 women in the room.”
Heryet said that she never felt intimidated being one of a few females in the room and never saw it as a liability. She said she feels that although more women are coming into the business, the ratio should be much higher.
“There has always been a disconnect and I struggle as to why that is,” she said. “There are women who are attorneys, lenders and work in architectural firms, but the number of women brokers is still relatively small. There is no reason that women should not be in real estate as brokers.”