Leasing director learns selling is all about listening

By: Jeff Owstrowski

Sometimes you just need to go to the park and feed the ducks, commercial real estate broker Dyana Kenney once learned from a mentor.

Dyana Kenney is in charge of leasing for Penn-Florida Cos.′ extensive portfolio of properties in Boca Raton.

Kenney has worked with a list of big-name clients including Flagler Development, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance and Geico Insurance. But perhaps her most valuable lesson came from a mentor who took her high-achieving pupil to a park to feed the ducks.

About your company: Penn-Florida Companies is an owner and full service developer of luxury, high profile real estate. Our services include development, design, construction, brokerage property management and investment services. Penn-Florida’s portfolio includes millions of square feet of prominent commercial, residential, mixed use and hospitality projects. Via Mizner, our most recent development currently under construction, is a 2 million-square-foot urban resort featuring Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Residences, transforming downtown Boca Raton. As executive vice president and director of leasing, I’m responsible for the leasing and marketing of Penn-Florida’s commercial portfolio.

First commercial real estate job and what you learned from it: I worked for a company located in Atlanta from 1986 to 1993 and was hired to develop and manage Lake Wyman Plaza in Boca Raton (currently Peninsula Plaza). I started in a temporary location while under construction and transitioned to property manager. I had a mentor who would visit from Atlanta to train me. She was so knowledgeable and so strong that she challenged me to exceed my own expectations. I couldn’t sleep the night before I knew she was coming. One day, I was nervously waiting for her arrival and when she got here, she said we were going to the park to feed the ducks. What? She said, “Let’s enjoy the day.” I learned more from her than I could from any school. I enjoy teaching others. The best way to learn commercial real estate is experience. Start at the bottom and learn all aspects. With junior agents and assistants, I like to give them challenges and encourage questions. This creates a team atmosphere and a sense of personal accomplishment.

Best business advice you’ve received: Selling is not about talking or persuading. Selling is about listening and giving. Understand what people really need, not just in business but in life itself. Build strong and long-lasting relationships.

Latest business book you’ve read: “The Big Potential” by Shawn Achor. It’s about the potential in everyone and working together as a team. Every dimension of human potential — performance, intelligence, creativity, leadership ability and health are influenced by those around us. When we help others become better, we reach new levels of potential.

Biggest mistake you’ve made in business: Generally, not delegating enough. By delegating, it frees up your time for other endeavors and gives others the opportunity to utilize their potential to learn and grow.

Favorite power lunch spot: I like J. Alexanders and Max’s Grille.

What you’re doing when you’re not in the office: When I am not at the gym, playing squash, attempting to play golf, or hanging out with my awesome puppy (Baxter) who was rescued from Tri-county Humane Society, I volunteer with several nonprofit organizations. I am heavily involved with The Downtown Boca Raton Rotary and the Spirit of Giving Network, two organizations that help so many other nonprofits. The Downtown Boca Raton Rotary’s focus is on health and wellness and believes in service above self. The organization hosts two large annual events, Honor your Doctor and the Boca Raton Mayor’s Ball. I am honored and excited to be this year’s co-chair for the Mayor’s Ball which has sold out every year and benefits 28 local nonprofits.

I also serve as a board member of the Spirit of Giving Network, an organization that provides various resources to children and families in Palm Beach County. Annual events include a Back to School Bash and Holiday gift drive which helps over 4,000 children each year. Last year, we created the Community Spirit Race where other nonprofits can fundraise for the cause and allocate donations to the charity of their choice, all without having to do any preparation for the event. It was a true success with over 400 participants in the first year. Finally, I am also a community captain for the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, which is being held at FAU Stadium on Dec. 21. This is the first year it will be live on ABC. Pregame events include The Boca Raton Idol, where locals audition to sing the National Anthem prior to the game, and the Great Chefs Tailgate party, a popular and fun community event. Proceeds from both of these events benefit the Spirit of Giving Network.

Most important trait you look for when hiring: Integrity is the most important to me. I look for employees that are ambitious, communicative, adaptable, and a team player with the ability to take charge and follow through. A positive attitude is a must. The glass needs to be full.

What you see ahead for Palm Beach County: With all Boca Raton has to offer and its central location between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, this market remains active and strong. Executives continuously relocate their offices and residences to Boca Raton for the exceptional quality of life, tax advantages and excellent healthcare, world-class restaurants and culture. As downtown Boca Raton continues to evolve, this vibrant city has adopted the live-work-play concept and is attracting a much younger generation which is great for hiring and retention of employees.

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