Ben Filkouski, Madison Commercial Real Estate LLC

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Ben Filkouski, principal, Madison Commercial Real Estate LLC.
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What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The most challenging aspect of commercial real estate, at least for me, is staying ahead of the market. Week in and week out, clients and customers request market advice. They are wondering how the market may react from one incident or another. I spend numerous hours doing market research to stay ahead of the curve. As a commercial real estate professional, the No. 1 tool in my toolbelt is information. It is essential to stay up to date and ahead of the market to best serve my clients.

The most rewarding part of working in commercial real estate is community building. As a commercial real estate broker, the community-building process could involve a startup company, an existing business in expansion, or an existing business coming to our market. Regardless of the specific deal, the broker acts as the quarterback through managing the entire process from either site selection or listing, through construction or build out, and finally when opening for business. It is important to note that this work would not be complete without collaborating alongside my wonderful colleagues in skills and trades to continuously create jobs and build the economy within our community.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

This is a tough question because there are so many people from my undergraduate studies at UW, to my father and his business partners in multifamily development and even fellow brokers within our community. Overall, I would have to say the late Bill Zeckendorf is someone who has been most admirable and influential to me. I read his autobiography for the first time while in school and it was at that point in time that I knew I had to be in real estate brokerage and development. Zeckendorf was a community-building visionary. He assembled the site that the United Nations moved to in New York in 1946, he developed “Century City” in California, owned the Chrysler Building for a portion of time, and worked with world-renowned architect, I.M. Pei regarding two of his early skyscraper designs — the Mile High Center (Wells Fargo Center) in Denver and Place Ville Marie in downtown Montreal. These most notable projects, among others, enlightened me on the genuine impact one can have through quarterbacking a real estate deal, and this inspiration has driven me within my line of work ever since.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

The high point of my career thus far was winning the 2021 Overall Deal of the Year award at the annual Commercial Brokers Group Inc. awards ceremony earlier this year. This was the first time in my career that my work has ever been publicly recognized, which was a great honor. I remember when I received the award, looking around the room at all the phenomenal brokers we have in Madison and feeling grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside so many driven and talented people.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I would tell my 21-year-old self to be fearless. When I was 21, I was a junior in college and felt almost stagnant. I was learning in school, but I didn’t feel fulfilled and was scared to explore new things. It took me many years to build up the courage to quit my salaried job and go into business at Madison Commercial Real Estate. Thinking back, I had to go through these trials and tribulations to be the confident businessman that I have become. Therefore, I wish that I had told my 21-year-old self to take a chance on yourself, set difficult goals, work hard, and you will see that you do not have to be scared when you genuinely believe that your success is inevitable.

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I would say that the best thing about living and working in Dane County is summed up by one trip to the Saturday Dane County Farmers’ Market on the Capitol Square. This is where Madisonians and small businesses throughout Dane County come together. It is all about celebrating the community, being active, and supporting one another. This camaraderie, in my opinion, best exemplifies my experience while living and working in Dane County.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

When I am not representing my clients on real estate manners, I am busy at the Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton, coaching the Middleton High School junior varsity hockey team. I enjoy coaching youth players and it fulfills me to see our team come together and compete. Although I have played hockey most of my life, I only have one season of coaching under my belt. Given the JV team’s 18-2-2 record, I would like to think that we can qualify my hockey coaching abilities as a secret talent!

What are your guilty pleasures?

Honestly, my guilty pleasure is the show Peaky Blinders on Netflix with Cillian Murphy. I have watched the first five seasons of the show at least 10 times, every time starting the show on season 1, episode 1 and watching it through the end. The sixth and final season was recently released in the U.S. soon and I couldn’t wait to watch!

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