Betting on the industrial boom: Taking a risk pays off for Likewise Partners’ founder

Steven Buss knows commercial real estate. He’s worked for big-name companies such as CBRE and JLL during a career that has lasted for more than 25 years. During this career, Buss has thrived: As a principal and institutional advisor, he’s completed more than $200 million of industrial, office and multifamily acquisitions since 2017. He’s also closed more than 130 industrial transactions totaling 44 million square feet.

Buss could have continued at this pace. But last year, he decided to take a risk. This industry veteran in September opened Likewise Partners, a commercial real estate investment company based in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. And Buss did this even though the COVID-19 pandemic continued to upend life throughout the United States.

So far? The move has paid off. With his new investment firm, Buss is focusing primarily on industrial real estate in Minneapolis, Des Moines, Milwaukee, Madison and Grand Rapids. Business has been strong, as the industrial sector continues to grow during the pandemic.

Midwest Real Estate News spoke with Buss about his new business and why this was the right time to start it. Here is some of what he had to say.

We should start with the obvious question: Why did you make the decision to start a new business during the pandemic?
Steven Buss:
The truth was, not many other people were doing it at the time. I started the business in August of 2020 and opened the office on Sept. 1 of last year. I had been traveling and talking to people at a time when most people were not doing those things. People had time on their hands. They were tired of not seeing anybody or talking about what was happening in the real estate market. In a way, the quiet in the marketplace led to some nice conversations. It was so quiet, I found a good audience of investor partners who were interested in what I was doing. I was able to promote the business fairly heavily before it even officially started. It helped me get off to a strong start.

A lot of people reevaluated their careers during the pandemic. Did you do the same before deciding to start Likewise Partners?
I’ve invested and developed property during my career on the side. My day job was brokerage at two big shops and leading good-sized teams at each of them. For me, this was an opportunity to go full time on the investment side. This was the chance to focus on building an investment business. At the same time, there was a slowdown in the brokerage business. It just made sense to make the move from the brokerage world at this time. And the other part of it was that the industrial sector, which I am focusing on, has really become the standout product type.

I know that you’ve sold other product types, but you also have a long history with industrial, right?
A large part of my career at CBRE was selling industrial buildings across the country, especially in the Midwest. Starting this business gives me a chance to get back to…

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