Corrections or additions?
This story by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
March 31, 1999. All rights reserved.
For Fennelly, a New Reach
It was a wrench to give up the logo — his last
name in white capital letters within a blue box. He used it in a
campaign worth $135,000 last year and did $72 million in commercial
real estate deals. Now everything from voice mail to stationery to
billboards must be changed.
"It’s gone. So much for the blue," says Gerard J. Fennelly.
"Sometimes you have to grab change, hold onto it tight, and go
with it. If you stay the same, and resist change, somebody else will
grab it and go right by."
After 13 years of running his own shop, Jerry Fennelly has joined
New America International, a 200-member global partnership of real
estate providers founded by Gerald C. Finn and headquartered in
(see story, page 16). Fennelly got his real estate license when he
was in high school, founded his own company when he was 26, and now
at age 39 has hopped onto commercial real estate’s consolidation
leaving his distinctive logo behind.
Fennelly has decided that successful commercial real estate dealers
must be able to serve as in-house departments for global firms:
corporations look at travel, or human resources, or payroll, or real
estate, they want to outsource that activity so they can minimize
their overhead. The concept of single sourcing is at the forefront
Fennelly saw it work in the travel business, when national and
corporations insisted on having all their travel services performed
by one company. He is married to Nancy Ruderman, and her family owned
Revere Travel but sold it to American Express.
It’s the same in real estate. "If I have a client with four
in Trenton and one in Camden, I know that I have somebody in Camden
to do the job. They run every transaction through me, so I can qualify
it and be the point person to see that the deals are real before I
bother him. That leaves the client free. When I say `Focus on this’
he can make the decision and move on to the next thing."
Fennelly says he interviewed with various networks but decided NAI
had the best base of business, covering almost every part of the
"More so than anybody else, it had the ability to do single
under one roof. Now I can literally take assignments anywhere in the
world," says Fennelly. "It is one central company as opposed
to offices put together, like Colliers Houston."
"What Finn has down to a T is the reporting — efficiently,
effectively, and immediately. It lifts responsibility from the client,
but it also creates a systematic approach. A corporation will get
a booklet every month and can see everything in great detail, whether
it is a marketing assignment or an acquisition."
Fennelly won’t say what the NAI obligation costs. "The entry fee
is nominal compared to the results you get out of it. I get to keep
100 percent ownership, do single source and global business, and my
name stays in the logo." (Like the old one, the new logo has his
name in a box, but it is a different color). "The Finns have been
going through a period of enforcing the brand name." When brokers
look alike, clients have confidence that they will work as a unit.
"Changing is a tough decision, but to all those who resist, I
say you guys are wrong."
Adapting to change is a Fennelly family value. "My
father always taught us to get around things to get to the end result.
Maybe you didn’t have the talent or the skill or whatever, but you
found a way to get to where you wanted to go," says Fennelly.
"He was an improviser."
Both of his parents had real estate firms; his father (the son of
an Irish policeman) sold insurance and opened a commercial real estate
office in Iselin, and his mother (a French Canadian from Montreal)
was one of the first women in New Jersey to open her own residential
brokerage, the Prairie Agency in Colonia. They worked long hours,
coming home for dinner — with plenty of real estate table talk
— and then going back to their offices until midnight.
The children — Jerry was the fourth of five — were expected
to be independent. They were also required to pass the real estate
licensing exam before they could take their drivers’ tests and pitch
in on whatever real estate-related business came their way. One year,
in order to clear 50 acres for development in Manalapan, the family
started a firewood selling operation.
Fennelly majored in business with an emphasis on real estate at St.
Peter’s College, sold houses in the summer, and went to work for
firm after graduation. (Two of his siblings are also in real estate).
At age 26 he had a manager who, as he puts it, "created issues
that got in my way, and one Friday afternoon I said I’m outta here
and went skiing." On Monday he started to work for himself.
He met his future wife when he tried to sell that company some
"She didn’t listen to what I said, so I took her out to
says Fennelly. They have a daughter, 4, and a son, age 7.
In the most recent past, his firm has been comprised of himself and
an assistant, but during the boom times of the late ’80s he had a
couple of other agents working with him, and he hopes that with NAI
he will expand again.
Fennelly has a notoriously high energy level; he runs, races, swims,
takes karate lessons, and does biathlons and triathlons. His cohorts
say he never stops working. And Fennelly makes no apologies for his
"There are two types of people in the real estate business,"
he says, "real estate people and people who work for real estate
companies. If you are a real estate person, you live and eat and drink
and sleep it all the time. If you work for a real estate company,
you go to work and then you leave."
The difference between the two is immediately obvious, he says, and
it is one of two major factors for success. "If you are not
about success and satisfying clients, you are not going to be there.
You will not last."
The other criteria for success is, of course, prognostication ability.
"The oldest saying in real estate, is that if you have the ability
to stay — and predict market conditions — you will
So Fennelly says staying the same was not an option. "It was a
definite calculated move based on a need in the market." And even
though his wife told him not to change, and his seven-year-old son
said he hated the new logo, change he did.
"As my father always said, `Improvise, make it work, get through
it.’ That’s what business is about today, it’s about looking at
accepting it, and getting over it."
102, Hamilton 08619-1209. Gerard J. Fennelly, president. 609-520-0061;
fax, 609-631-9208. Home page: http://www.fennelly.com.
— Barbara Fox
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