ADVANTAGE BUILDER: RANDAL DAWSON
When Randal Dawson was a freshman in high school in Topeka, Kansas, he joined the wrestling team. His coach, the driver’s ed teacher, didn’t have a lot of experience with the sport. So, Dawson went to the Public Library and checked out a book by Olympic gold medalist Danny Mack “Dan” Gable, who coached the University of Iowa to 15 NCAA team titles.
“I read his book over and over and then just practiced the moves in the pictures,” Dawson recalled. The studying paid off. Dawson won the conference championship for wrestlers in his weight class. Although his coach proclaimed him a natural athlete, “it was just perseverance and hard work,” Dawson said.
“One of my tenets is ‘if I can read it, I can do it.’”
Dawson leads the Litigation Support Practice for CBRE’s Valuation & Advisory Services based in Chicago. He joined the company in 2007 and has more than two decades of experience in commercial real estate valuation and consulting. His perseverance and life-long love of learning is something he still practices both professionally and personally -- and preaches to the at-risk high school students he supports in his volunteer work.
“One of my tenets is ‘if I can read it, I can do it,’” he said, adding with a laugh, “except for cars. I had to give that to a mechanic. I tried and that worked out very badly.”
Dawson grew up in Topeka with three brothers. His dad was a real estate broker and his mom worked for the federal government. “It was simple and safe – you played baseball, football, track and basketball and went to church on Sunday. The whole ‘it takes a village’ thing – it was that kind of childhood.” Dawson’s family spent three weeks every summer camping in their Winnebago and visited 40 states. He fondly recalls his trips with the Boy Scouts, canoeing and portaging on the Minnesota-Canada border. Dawson received his Eagle Scout award at 14. One of his other passions was three-dimensional chess – in which three chess boards are stacked on top of one another, allowing the pieces to move both horizontally and vertically.
“There were just a few of us who played – it was truly niche,” he said. “Most of the time I played by myself, so I was playing both sides of the board.”
That ability to strategize and analyze problems from multiple perspectives has helped Dawson build a robust roster of clients in real estate, consulting, banking, law and government.
Dawson, who is married with a grown daughter, has served on non-profit boards that promote education and the empowerment of women and children, including Glenwood Academy in suburban Chicago, a boarding school for at-risk youth. “One of the things I tell high school students is always fall forward – don’t fall back,” he said. “Take stretch assignments, because you never know what you’re going to be good at. Success is never a linear path. Just give it a shot.”
“One of the things I tell high school students is always fall forward – don’t fall back.”
Dawson also counsels them to be life-long learners. “Everyone needs to develop new skills and knowledge for the new opportunities that arise -- and this applies from the CEO down to the new college graduate,” he said. “You have to constantly reinvent and think about what’s next. Take commercial real estate for example. The industry is on first base in terms of disruption and the impact of technology on real estate, and the rate of change is exponential. What are our clients going to need in the future? How can we help them think about ten years from now?”
“Everyone needs to develop new skills and knowledge for the new opportunities that arise -- and this applies from the CEO down to the new college graduate.”
Dawson is an avid golfer, enjoys travel and cooking (smoked beef brisket is his specialty). And of course, he’s always reading. Not surprisingly, his current recommendation is a biography of someone who was obsessed with learning: Leonardo De Vinci, by Walter Isaacson.
“You have to love to learn and re-learn, because the world always changes,” said Dawson.