Two decades before the iPhone, there was “Merlin.” Designed by a former NASA scientist, the popular hand-held electronic device played six different games, including Tic Tac Toe and Blackjack.

And third grader Chelby Sanders had to have one.

“We had a fundraising contest at school, and one of the prizes was Merlin,” Sanders recalls. “I said, ‘I’m winning that.’ I went home that night and got out the telephone directory and underlined every person I knew. Then I called or went to see all of them. I knew if I followed through, I would succeed.”

Sanders won her Merlin.

Chelby Sanders won her Merlin


That tenacity is a quality Chelby employs every day as a Senior Vice President of Transaction Advisory Services at CBRE to create advantage for her clients.

“Excellence means going the extra mile – doing things that other people generally won’t do because it takes too much time, effort, or creativity,” she explains. “I always keep digging or will make that one last call, because finding that key piece of information can make all the difference.”

“Excellence means going the extra mile – doing things that other people generally won’t do because it takes too much time, effort, or creativity.”

Sanders and her team work on about 70 transactions a year, advising clients on a range of engagements, from renewals and expansions to large complicated headquarters relocations. She advised and worked on over 5 million sq. ft. of transactions with a value of $500+ million in 2016, including the JC Penney headquarters consolidation and Charles Schwab’s new regional campus. Other notable assignments have included the American Airlines corporate campus and the Hilton Worldwide coast to coast headquarters relocation.

“I tell my two daughters, ‘If you believe it, you can achieve it,’” she says. “People are successful because they have the ability to keep getting up when they get knocked down. Don’t take it personally. Persevere through the adversity.”


Sanders grew up in a town of 14,000 people about 80 miles east of Dallas. She was close to her mother and grandparents growing up, and credits them with passing on their values (her grandparents lived through The Depression). “They were thrifty, hard-working and modest, and valued education, family and faith,” she says. Sanders was the second person in her family to graduate from college.

In fact, a few months before completing her degree in accounting at University of Texas at Tyler, Sanders began looking for a job as a stockbroker – an undertaking that didn’t escape her usual thoroughness.

“I wrote a business plan about how I would be successful as a broker, and sent it with my resume to all the firms in Tyler, asking them if I could come in and learn more about their companies,” she recalls. Sanders met with every brokerage firm in town and accepted one of several offers – which meant the daunting task of studying for her college finals and Series 7 exams at the same time.

Sanders took on the challenge and set high goals from the outset, including what she calls a five-year, no-complaint clause. “Before I started my job, I asked people how long it would take to see results in the business,” she says. “They told me five years. So, I decided I couldn’t complain or quit for five years.” Sanders’ talent and grit elevated her to the top ranks, and she eventually joined the private client group at DLJ, the former investment bank.


A client there recommended she consider the commercial real estate industry. After doing her homework, Sanders took the biggest risk of her life, and walked away from a lucrative career in finance. “I talked to a lot of people who had been in the commercial real estate business for a long time, and everyone still loved it,” she says. “And I know I can do whatever I put my mind to.”

Sanders quickly found success, but worked at a company that didn’t foster collaboration and partnership. She wanted a different model. “I knew that by surrounding yourself with really good people and being strategic and working together, you could accomplish even more. I had heard about CBRE’s philosophy, style and leadership. It really inspired me.”

Sanders joined CBRE in 2012 and flourished in the collaborative culture. “The industry is moving in a direction that requires a consultative mindset, rather than a transactional one,” she explained. “I think of my assignments as engagements, not deals. It’s a privilege to be able to consult with these companies and help them create state-of-the-art work environments for their employees. We can and do build advantage for clients by leveraging all the resources of the largest real estate firm in the world.”

"It’s a privilege to be able to consult with these companies and help them create state-of-the-art work environments for their employees."

In 2016, her team won the Gary Beban Teamwork Award for the JC Penney transaction. “That’s what I’m most proud of,” she said. “It’s nice to have success on your own, but it’s better when you have colleagues to celebrate it with.”

Meet Our Advantage Builders

See All

How will you build advantage? Explore our careers page.