11/13/2014 09:46 am ET Updated Jan 13, 2015

Women in Business: Tere Blanca, Founder, President and CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate Inc

Tere Blanca is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, Inc., a leading commercial property real estate advisory services and brokerage firm based in Miami, Florida.

Ms. Blanca has more than 25 years of experience in the South Florida real estate sector. Prior to launching Blanca Commercial Real Estate, she served as Senior Managing Director for Cushman & Wakefield of Florida, Inc., where she led the firm's South Florida operations, achieving significant revenue growth and increased profitability.

Prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield, Ms. Blanca held the position of senior vice president at Codina Realty Services, Inc. ONCOR International where she was consistently among the top producers during her 14-year tenure. She has participated in numerous projects from land acquisition through the master planning, design, construction, marketing, successful lease-up, and sale phases.

Ms. Blanca is chair of the Board of Directors of City Year Miami, a member of the Board of Directors of BankUnited, a member of Strategic Forum and the World Presidents' Organization (WPO) Miami-Ft. Lauderdale Chapter, and an associate member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO). She also is past chair of The Beacon Council and is a member of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), a member of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) South Florida Chapter, and a Trustee member of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

Ms. Blanca has earned several honors from her peers and leading news outlets, including being named among 2013's "Women of Influence: Legends" and 2010's "Women of Influence" by Real Estate Forum, and 2013's "Top 25 Women in Real Estate" by Commercial Property Executive, 2010's "Top Dealmakers of the Year" by the Daily Business Review, a 2007 "Ultimate CEO" by the South Florida Business Journal, one of 2009 "Most Influential Business Women" by the South Florida Business Journal and one of Camacol's "Successful Hispanic Women of the Year" in 2008.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Entrepreneurship is in my DNA. I came from an immigrant family. Both of my parents were successful professionals in Cuba and I watched them rebuild their lives and professions in the U.S. There was always an emphasis on education in my family. I worked part time jobs throughout school and earned my bachelor's degree in less than four years. The early part of my career involved working alongside talented people at companies across various industries, from the Burroughs Corporation where I learned the art of selling, to John Burnham & Associates and Codina Group, where I learned real estate. When it came to creating my own business I was able to combine some of the best lessons I learned during those experiences.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Blanca?
I have worked at global firms that have huge resources and offer a wealth of services. That appeals to some clients, but we have found that many users and owners of real estate want to know that their advisory team has a deep bench, is experienced, understands the market inside and out, has access to decision makers, works with a sense of urgency and knows how to complete a deal with their best interest at heart. This is what we bring to every client relationship, and it's why we're growing as a firm with new and existing clients placing their trust in us.

I launched Blanca Commercial Real Estate in large part because I missed being fully engaged in the day to day work with clients, be it developing marketing and leasing strategies on behalf of landlords, or advising tenants looking to align their real estate needs with their business objectives, or structuring joint ventures or sales transactions. Building a lasting relationship with a client has always fueled my passion for this business. I wanted to get back to my roots and grow a business from the ground up around a unique culture of collaboration amongst top talent with a strong work ethic, and that's exactly what we're doing.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Blanca?
It's easy to look at major wins - leasing trophy assets, completing large deals, bringing new companies to Miami - as highlights. But I'm equally proud of the relationships we have created and grown over the years. There's nothing better than a past client sticking with you over the long term and referring new business. Watching the firm become a significant force in the Florida real estate market has been the most gratifying experience of my career; doing it with talented people who genuinely enjoy working with one another is something I don't take for granted.

The biggest challenge is making sure we continue providing the level of service our clients have come to expect from us as we grow. We refuse to settle for less and always strive to learn, and disrupt the status quo to make it better. And we are always challenged with identifying exceptional talent, engaging the right partners, and managing overhead.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Looking back, I was often the only woman in meetings. I never let gender become an issue for me, which meant never thinking of it as an obstacle or an advantage. My advice to women is to be the best professional and the best leader possible, your femininity aside.

Women entrepreneurs must place their highest priority on relationships. That means taking advantage of professional networking opportunities, developing mentors and sponsors both in your company and on the outside, and taking the time and effort to build networks. Important too is to take risks and not to sell yourself short. Oftentimes women don't see in themselves the potential and talent others recognize in us.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Owning my own business is a balancing act of priorities, every day. I have learned that there's no such thing as perfect balance. There are simply not enough hours in the day. I have two awesome daughters and a loving and patient husband who always come first and who are the first people to support my career. But it's true what they say about owning a business: it becomes your baby, and you have to care for it every single day. My youngest daughter enters college this fall, which means I'll either have more downtime at home - or less time at home!

Your business is not known as a profession that attracts many women... yet half of your employees are female. Is that by design?
We do have a higher ratio of women than other commercial real estate services firms in our market - half of our brokers are female and more than half of our team is multilingual - but I don't think that's indicative of our hiring philosophy. We look for top-tier talent, period.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My experience working with strong mentors throughout my career has been a gift. Community involvement is invaluable. You can't put a price tag on the importance of meeting new people who share similar interests and civic goals. I have found great joy and fulfillment in giving back and in the friendships I have gained from this involvement. Over the past 50 years, Miami has been shaped by some very strong personalities/leaders who have donated their time, talent and money to making our community better. I try my absolute best to stay involved with the organizations that I believe in, such as City Year Miami for which I serve as Chair, my alma mater University of Miami, The Beacon Council, Miami's economic development agency of which I am a past Chair and more. It's something that I learned early in my career - and I have worked to instill, support and encourage the importance of this involvement in my team at Blanca Commercial Real Estate - and in my children.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
As a University of Miami alumnus and a Miami resident, I've watched closely at how far the University has come under the leadership of President Donna Shalala. What was known as an athletics-first school outside Miami for decades has blossomed into a thriving academic research institution that attracts students and professors from around the world. President Shalala came to Miami with a plan and has executed that plan with precision; the business and civic community has embraced her.

What do you want Blanca to accomplish in the next year?
I want to build upon the firm's success in Miami-Dade County by growing in Broward County to the north - expanding our South Florida footprint and also look to expand our advisory services practice for occupiers. We now have our first trophy asset assignment in Broward County representing a quality institutional owner. This gives us the opportunity to grow our platform recruiting top talent there. Next, will be expansion across other revenue generating opportunities that are complementary to our core business.