Next Level Winning with Commercial Real Estate's Powerhouse CEO
By: Julie Nelson
From the football field to JLL’s global CEO of Markets, Greg O’Brien has built an extraordinary career in commercial real estate spanning three decades.
The Tufts University alum started his career at JLL in 2008 when JLL acquired The Staubach Company, the former Dallas-based real estate services firm founded in 1977 by National Football League Hall of Fame and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. O’Brien was formerly the Chief Executive Officer of The Staubach Company.
O’Brien’s mentor, 2X Super Bowl Champion and MVP, Staubach has played a huge role in his life and career. O’Brien credits much of his success to learning from the former Heisman Trophy winner.
“I joined his company [The Staubach Company] when I was 31 [years old],” said O’Brien. “We worked hard to build something special. He’s been a foundational influence throughout my life.”
O’Brien is a Washington, D.C. native who shifted into real estate after earning his Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He was named CEO of the Americas at JLL in 2014 after several years of as CEO of the Brokerage group in the Americas. He assumed expanded global responsibility as the company’s CEO, Markets, in January 2021, and is the Global Executive Board member responsible for strategic leadership and oversight of all regional and local market operations.
O'Brien representing JLL at The World Economic Forum Davos in 2019.
O'Brien and his sons with NFL Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach.
Being a former student-athlete himself, O’Brien knows that athletes possess a rare, unique set of skills. Among these attributes are perseverance, resiliency, coachability, flexibility, focus, dedication, and being a dynamic learner. O’Brien believes possessing these traits makes these candidates incredibly attractive and desirable to performance-based companies.
As stated on JLL’s website, “We are a world leader in real estate services, powered by an entrepreneurial spirit. We want the most ambitious clients to work with us, and the most ambitious people to work for us. It’s as simple as that.”
O’Brien noted that, “The purpose of JLL is to shape the future of real estate for a better world. We use the most advanced technology to create rewarding opportunities, amazing spaces and sustainable real estate solutions for our clients, our people, and our communities.”
The company has a strong commitment to growth and diversity, which includes providing access and opportunities to former collegiate and professional athletes.
“We win more and have found that we get better outcomes for our clients when we put diverse teams together,” said O’Brien.
Working for JLL provides a good next step for athletes and numerous opportunities to impact the world around them. They have the chance to work with people who think like them and value that same ‘teamwork’ mentality.
His advice to those transitioning into the corporate world is, “Come in and do the work, put in the extra time, learn the game, the playbook, and go execute. You will be successful and have a platform for a very lucrative and meaningful career.”
O’Brien aims to further foster another message he adopted from Staubach: to always look through the client lens and take care of clients and his corporate family.
JLL has played an integral role in helping several of its clients address new needs driven by the pandemic – whether building temporary hospitals in conference centers, finding space for critical and high demand life sciences work, or helping support critical elements of the healthcare cycle, from management of health facilities to supply chain support for vaccine manufacture and distribution.
“There’s so much that you can do to make a difference, whether you are on or off the field,” said O’Brien. “It might not be exactly like winning a championship, but when you solve a client’s problem, see the hard work pay off, or notice an impact in the community, you have that similar feeling of a team accomplishment.”
O'Brien and family.