Presented by Willmeng Construction
“I have learned so many pearls of wisdom from mentors, colleagues, and friends over the years that have helped me immensely both in business and personally,” says the Senior Managing Director at Savills Studley’s Phoenix office. “I remember Mike Beall from my time at Cushman & Wakefield telling me that sometimes the best brokers don’t make the most money; but they have clients for life.”
Savills Studley, operating under the global Savills plc brand, is the world’s fifth largest commercial real estate firm, according to Johnston, who started in 2015. “We are strictly a tenant representation platform,” he says. “We have no conflicts of interest and advocate only for our tenant clients.”
A third generation Phoenix native, Johnston attended college at Columbia University where he played football. He earned his degree in economics. From there he entered the workforce selling corrugated boxes in Los Angeles, and subsequently surgical instruments for U.S. Surgical.
“It was in my medical days that I learned a lifelong lesson from a mentor, Doug Gloff. ‘Be respectful to everyone from the janitor to the CEO,’” Johnston says. “You never know who is coming up and who is coming down.”
It wasn’t until his early 30s that Johnston made a career change into commercial real estate.
“Interestingly, commercial real estate is in my blood, although I did not know it until after I started in the sector,” he says. “My great grandfather was once president of the Phoenix Real Estate Board in the early 1900s.”
The transition into the space was quite easy for Johnston.
“I called Jim Wentworth Jr. to discuss career change possibilities, and Jim’s dad called me the very next day,” Johnston recalls. “Beall and Wentworth were my two biggest commercial influences.”
In his early days at Cushman & Wakefield, Johnston honed his craft under Mike Beall and Keith Lambeth as an office leasing broker.
“When Jim Wentworth resigned, I was honored to fill his shoes,” Johnston says.
After brief stops at PhoenixMart and Voit Real Estate Services, Johnston found himself at Savills Studley and back at brokering after years of management.
“Managing is tough, hats off to those who can,” he says. “Now I am back hunting, killing, eating – which I love and was successful at for many years.”
In his role at Savills Studley, Johnston works with the executive team to foster an ecosystem built on the principles and practices he learned.
“Always do the right thing and take care of your clients,” he says. “I want to help create leaders of the future, such as my partner Mike Miller (and a slew of others before him that I was honored to help mentor?), succeed in business and life. Culture is very important; the chemistry, so we are very selective about who we bring into the organization.”
“What separates me from my peers?” asks a chuckling Johnston. “Height and weight.”
It is that spirit, passion, and a dose of irreverence that keep Johnston one of the best in the Metro Phoenix commercial real estate community.
“The truth is what makes me a good broker comes down to: I’m type A, have a fear of failure and am selfish, self-centered, arrogant, paranoid and insecure,” he says. “I believe that you need healthy doses of each to succeed in this business.”
Of course, his experience, incredible professional network, and accomplishments don’t hurt either.
The success I have enjoyed both as a manager and a salesman, is the result of learning not just from my own experience, but from that of others too,” he says. “What I learned early on from Chris Toci was the 24-hour rule. Grieve a loss for 24 hours and move on. For me personally, I hate losing more than I love winning.”
Johnston enjoys nothing more than spending time with his daughters: one lives in the Valley and the other soon will graduate from Fordham.
“They are truly a gift from God,” he says proudly.
Johnston also cherishes his role as a teacher and coach.
“That would be my career if I was not chasing the almighty dollar,” he says. “The best experience is working with young people, seeing individuals like Mike Miller succeed.”
Johnston will continue to espouse the lessons he has learned in an exciting career.
“Love what you do, be pleasantly persistent, continue to learn, and get to know everyone,” he says.
On that last point, Johnston no doubt would close out his bestseller with #25 – no man is an island.
Read the full article in our digital edition (page 78).