Jon Geanakos grew up in Ipswich, Massachusetts, raised mainly by his Greek immigrant grandparents. They gave him a strong sense of ethnicity and hard work, speaking Greek predominantly in their home and running a local grocery store and ice cream parlor. He was recruited to play lacrosse at the University of Lowell and it was there that he found himself embracing leadership. As the captain of his lacrosse team, he excelled at helping the right people work together to achieve their goal.
His lacrosse coach introduced him to the president of the local bank, Lowell Institution, and that set him on the trajectory to real estate.
“It’s fascinating how one person just at that pivot point in a young person’s life can guide you to what your life’s work is. You never understand the profoundness at the time when it happens, you obviously realize it when the years have passed.”
Jon’s Leadership Journey
After a few years at the bank, he was approached by some of the bank’s investors to join them in starting The Tallard Group. This gave him his first entrepreneurial experience. When they closed their doors shortly after, he applied to join Copley Real Estate. There, he took a job as a portfolio manager of failing properties in Texas, and later in Ohio.
At Copley, he remembers sitting at meetings amongst Ivy League executives and feeling like he didn’t belong or deserve to be there. However, each time he would make a successful decision, he felt his confidence slowly building.
“When somebody says, ‘This is a really difficult job, you might fail at it,’ I always tell people ‘You must take the tough job because that’s where the upside is… and you’ll learn something from it.’”
When Copley and AEW merged, he faced a fork in the road: his mother was diagnosed with cancer and he was ready to move into a more brokerage-focused role. While she was in surgery, he contacted 150 names in the hopes of finding a position in New York, and this initiative landed him at Secured Capital.
After gaining experience in brokerage, Trammell Crow approached him and he moved back into closing deals in capital markets. When CBRE merged with Trammell Crow in 2006, Jon trusted his gut and joined Houlihan Lokey where he discovered a new dimension of real estate. During his time at Houlihan Lokey, one of his clients who he was advising on capital raising opportunities, Anthony Westreich, invited him to join Monday Properties as a partner.
At Monday Properties Jon began identifying emerging gateway markets like Nashville, Portland, and Denver, which had the potential for large profits. He had a vision for how this could become a viable business, and Cabot Street Capital Partners was born. While this new venture was exciting, it was also lonely. When JLL pursued him, Jon knew it was time to move on to the next step in his career and realized this was it – it was the perfect opportunity.
In Jon’s position at JLL, he finds himself employing everything he has learned over the years, as he oversees all sales and financings for the firm’s Capital Markets platform in the U.S., Canada, Latin and South America. This involves everything surrounding investment baking and executing transactions on ownership. While he spends the majority of his time in the U.S. and Canada, his dashboard and longstanding relationships with investors bring him around the world to places like Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Jon identifies JLL’s technical proficiency and expertise, global connection, and wonderful client management as key differentiators among their competitors in the industry. An intentional and active focus on their communication and culture has also lead to huge growth, client satisfaction, and success.
“You have to be as selfless as you possibly can. It really isn’t about you, it’s about them.”
His tips for leadership and managing a team include:
- Be as selfless as possible and remember it is not about you, it’s about them.
- Be patient.
- Simplify things whenever possible.
- Be forthright and truthful, even when it is hard.
- Be consistent.
Besides working hard and being competitive, Jon says that intellectual curiosity is key to success. You must be open to asking more than the obvious, linear questions. He also identifies increased diversity and ever-evolving technology as game-changers that will transform the future of real estate for the better.
Real Estate Is For You
Jon names real estate as a career that is only limited by your own imagination and work ethic. Outwork everyone around you, network aggressively, align yourself with mentors, and remember that you can always find new paths to learning.
Learn more at jll.com/voices.