Phil Scherer has been a notable captain of industry navigating the waters of the commercial real estate business in Louisville for more than 50 years. When you talk about the kind of company Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Kentucky is, it’s nearly impossible to separate him from what he has created in the industry.
2018 marks the company’s 45th anniversary since Scherer, along with his partner Charlie Casper, launched their well-respected commercial real estate firm. For more than four decades, their focus has been on superior client service while exercising nimble adaptability in an industry that has seen dramatic shifts in Louisville as well as the commercial real estate industry.
Scherer, who began his career in 1968 working in a three-man industrial real estate company, said the evolution to his current firm, which he founded in 1973, is unique.
“Prior to the 1970s, most commercial real estate was focused on very small local boutique firms that handled industrial, retail or office,” Scherer said. “But once the business began to blossom and broaden scope, firms that had traditionally been industrial, retail or office started needing other ‘service lines.’ Appraisal, property management, project consulting, and asset management were some of a whole menu of services that a more sophisticated commercial real estate client base began to demand of their service providers,” he said.
At the time, there were effectively no national real estate firms in Louisville but before long, Scherer would have the opportunity to make history and become the first.
Scherer and Casper, with whom he attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, began a new firm as partners in 1973. The men quickly began to develop a robust business handling local industrial property.
A turning point came in 1979 when Scherer and Casper developed a relationship with Cushman & Wakefield while cooperating on the sale of a large industrial facility in Somerset, Kentucky. Soon after, the two men sold their firm to Cushman & Wakefield and became a company-owned office, which offered the opportunity to expand services beyond industrial real estate.
“We began to add brokers and had access to all of the systems and resources that Cushman & Wakefield offered nationally, such as research, appraisal, property management and project consulting, along with office and retail brokerage services,” said Scherer.
The company then managed high-profile buildings in Louisville including the Humana Building on Main Street, Farm Credit Bank, and the Presbyterian Church headquarters at 100 Witherspoon. “With an arsenal of tools available to us through Cushman & Wakefield, not an assignment came through we weren’t capable of handling. We went from a boutique firm to full-service, and became the first national commercial real estate firm in the city.”
In addition to that expansion of resources, Cushman & Wakefield had an extensive market research platform and was the first to offer office and industrial commercial real estate market research in Louisville, which offered statistics on market inventory, vacancy rates, rental rates, leasing activity, absorption, and analysis of current trends – “the sort of information increasingly savvy investors, lenders and users were beginning to request,” said Scherer.
Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Kentucky has a current Louisville staff of 13 brokers, a market research professional, business office manager and four support staff.
Throughout his career, Scherer has had his finger on the pulse of nearly every major downtown office development in Louisville’s modern history – National City Tower, PNC Plaza, Humana Building on Main St., Brown & Williamson Tower and the American Life Building; it attests to a breadth of knowledge about Louisville commercial real estate development that is nearly unmatched.
Scherer is past Chair of Louisville Central Area (LCA), past President of the Main Street Association, and served a nine-year term as the Chairman of the Louisville Landmarks Commission under former Mayor Abramson. Equal to his business acumen, however, is his ability to create a company culture so sought after that one-third of its 13 brokers have 30-plus years of tenure, and most of the others are in the 15- to 20-year range.
Scherer’s partner Casper, who is now retired, attributes that company longevity to Scherer’s leadership.
“You try to recruit the best people. Phil and I always said that we had the position in our heads to try to recruit people who would be as good or better than we were,” said Casper. “I think the length of time people stay is a real testimonial, especially in the marketplace with all the options individuals have in the real estate market.”
Susan Lennon, business operations manager, who began her career with the firm in 1987, said the company kicked off a new program, CK Cares, to help celebrate its 45th anniversary in the community.
The program will feature a different charity each month in 2018 selected by the company’s brokers and staff. For January hats, gloves, hand warmers, and other items were donated to The Forgotten Louisville, a local organization that provides support to the homeless. Upcoming months will include donations to My Dog Eats First and Dare to Care.
Susan said Scherer’s leadership not only sets an example for his team but for the whole community. “He always wants us to grow and be the best version of ourselves we can be. You can look at anybody here – the good examples abound – because people tend to follow the leadership culture. He cares about the company, cares about his people, cares about Louisville. He’s a jewel for us and a jewel for the city.”
Casper said the continuing legacy of Phil Scherer in this community is his integrity. “When you look at the qualities as it relates to this business, the only one that sticks out is integrity. I can’t think of anything more important. Your reputation precedes you, and it’s clear in the way Phil has conducted himself over this business for 45 years,” he said.
What does Phil Scherer say has been key to the company’s success? “It’s that adaptability, if you will, and that commitment that is part and parcel of the reason we’ve had people who have been with us for over 30 years. We’ve kept up, we’ve adapted, we’ve done a Pygmalion of a very small, boutique industrial real estate firm that started in 1973,” he said.
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