Commercial Real Estate, Capital, Insurance, Leasing & Management

Yvonne Baker brings 25+ years of experience to Franklin Street

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From starting in commercial real estate lending during a financial crisis to diving head first into office leasing, Yvonne Baker’s determination to dominate the industry has not gone unnoticed.

From starting in commercial real estate lending during a financial crisis to diving head first into office leasing, Yvonne Baker’s determination to dominate the industry has not gone unnoticed.

While serving for two years as senior director for Cushman & Wakefield in Orlando, Baker was named one of Orlando Business Journal ’s 2014 Business Executives of the Year. Prior to Cushman & Wakefield, she was director of agency leasing for JLL and helped grow the firm’s portfolio in Orlando and Jacksonville from slightly under 1 million square feet to more than 4.5 million square feet.

With her success, Franklin Street approached Baker with the opportunity to lead its new Orlando office, which opened in May, as regional managing partner. She is responsible for growing the company’s new location while remaining directly involved with her clients’ lease transactions.

Franklin Street, founded in 2006, is a full-service firm with locations in Tampa, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Here, Baker talks more what she’s learned along the way:

What prompted your initial move from commercial real estate lending to specializing in office leasing? I went into the business in 1989 at one of the worst times because the financial crisis was so deep. However, it was a good time to learn the business. Someone who had been in lending, a mentor, brought me in, taught me the business and made sure I was successful.

What attracted you to Franklin Street? Franklin Street provides a platform where they’re very dedicated to bringing in young talent and making sure they really get trained, and that’s part of what I’ll get to do. That’s what I’m really passionate about and very excited to be part of, being able to grow the office with young talent and have a hand in training them, knowing you’re leaving a good legacy with good people behind you.

What else distinguishes Franklin Street from other brokerages you’ve worked at? Major corporations typically focus on the typical brokerage areas: office, industrial, tenant rep and capital markets. What we’ve added into this is the evaluation side, so if you’re ready to sell your asset, we already may be leasing and managing it for you, and our evaluation people can do an appraisal for you and provide that service. And then with the commercial insurance side, we can insure your property for you, as well. We also do multifamily leasing and management, which none of the major corporations provide. From its inception, Franklin Street was always planned to be a diverse multi-services firm. After starting as a mortgage brokerage, the firm quickly opened up its insurance and real estate lines in 2008 and the management services division in 2009. Through the collaboration of our business lines, we were able to position the company to withstand the market downturn in 2008 and successfully grow it in one of the hardest-hit states during the greatest real estate and financial collapse since the Great Depression.

Why is Orlando a prime location for Franklin Street? It’s the center of the state and a critical city to have operations in. A lot of owners are here. This gets a lot of looks from investors from all over the United States. We have clients that are in Tampa who also are in Orlando. For instance, when we won the property management for Starwood Capital, we picked up three assets. Two were here, and one of them was in Tampa. So, you’ll often have these cross-lines of clients. If you’re going to “play” in Florida, you’ve got to be in South Florida, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. That’s where all the investors look.

What are your immediate plans for the Orlando office? We’re looking for permanent office space downtown, growing the portfolio of clients on the institutional and private client arenas, and hiring more people.

Has it been a challenge being a woman in a male-dominated field? Being in a male-dominated industry has its challenges. However, the industry has made great strides for women and the leadership of women. Franklin Street has a great group of talented leaders, both men and women, who are interested in working as a team. Collaboration is not just a buzzword here.

What’s been the best business decision you’ve made? Going back to UCF and getting my master’s degree in 2010 to 2011. That motivated me to do more, look at work and life in a different perspective as education can do. That decision put me on the path to be prepared for this opportunity at Franklin Street.

Your advice to other entrepreneurs? Don’t be afraid of following an affirmative path. Make the time you’ve been given count, right down to the seconds.

Yvonne Baker

Title and firm: Regional managing partner, Orlando office, Franklin Street

Description: Full-service commercial real estate brokerage

Year company founded locally: May 2016

Address: 390 N. Orange Ave., Suite 2300, Orlando

Contact: (407) 458-5400;

Twitter: @FranklinST_llc

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