JLL's precursors in Brazil share the challenges they faced 25 years ago

Showing the long-term benefits of professional management and developing talent were some of the obstacles during JLL's early days in Brazil.

June 16, 2021
  • Agência Tecere

Resilience and persistence. These two characteristics have been widely evoked today in view of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they also aptly define the spirit in which the Brazilian Milton Jungman and the American Eric Scaff started one of the pioneering centers of JLL, developing a professional work in property management in Brazil for 25 years. To celebrate JLL's anniversary in the country, we talked to the two executives about the challenges of developing the business on Brazilian soil two and a half decades ago.

The work began at Compass Birmann Asset Services, a joint venture of the American Compass, represented by Scaff, with the Brazilian developer Birmann, represented by Jungman, forming the first initiative that gave rise to JLL, a few years later.

"The idea was to bring something new to Brazil. Compass was already doing property management in the USA and there was a demand in Brazil, although the market was not aware of it. It was the beginning of the arrival of smart buildings and large corporate buildings on the national scene,” says Jungman. 

Later, Compass was bought by La Salle Partners, which, with the merger with the English Jones Lang Wooton, gave rise to Jones Lang La Salle, now JLL. Thus, through the introduction of the professional property management service in Brazil, Jungman and Scaff were pioneers of JLL, and largely responsible for developing and educating the market about this need for this professionalism.

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For Scaff, this meant trading California for São Paulo, overcoming cultural and language barriers to venture into an unknown country.

"When I heard that Compass was going to open an office in Brazil, I expressed my interest in running the operation, as I wanted to gain international work experience. When I arrived in São Paulo, I was surprised at the size of the city. Brazil had just adopted the Real and was achieving economic stability after years of hyperinflation. I was arriving at the perfect time, on the eve of an economic upturn. I was afraid, because I didn't know how to speak the language, or what the business environment was like, but I found the perfect partner in Milton, who became a friend for life," says Scaff.

It was a perfect match in every way: the company thrived, Scaff adapted to the country, and his first child was born here. In all, he lived in Brazil for three years and has returned a few times to visit. "Those were probably the best years of my life," he says. 

Developing the market

Despite the enormous opportunities Brazil offered, Jungman and Scaff had to undertake a real culture change in the market to establish the property management service. Up to then, the management of commercial buildings was handled by the building manager or from maintenance companies, without a strategic management vision, while the company's proposal was a professional management structure, led by a local executive in the building.

It took many meetings, conversations with other executives, and press reports. "I remember talking to the executive of a large bank who found the service expensive when I presented it. I told him: 'if I had a lot of money, I wouldn't manage alone, I would hire you, a professional. Why don’t we think the same about buildings? If you have a valuable building, give it to a professional to be taken care of. But it was a long road,” says Jungman. 


Milton Jungman (left photo) and Eric Scaff (in the left of the right photo) were the forerunners of JLL Brasil, which celebrates 25 years in 2021.

The "amateur" management of the time led to situations of poorly preserved buildings, delayed maintenance, and inefficiently functioning systems.

"We invested a lot of time showing people that the value invested in professional management turned into a benefit in the long run, as it extends the service life of the systems and equipment, avoiding greater expenses in the future," says Scaff.  

Training professionals

In addition to educating potential clients about these issues, they also needed to establish processes and standards for the work and develop professionals to perform the service. For this, they sought to expand the skills of their front-line teams, looking for professionals not necessarily with an engineering background, but with proactive attitudes and talent for services, simultaneously investing in training and technology to improve the other necessary skills.

Today, the profile of the property management professional is broader and includes graduates in business administration or related courses, with a broader vision of the business. The advice that the two property market veterans give to professionals who want to work in the area is to:

-     Look for a company with professional structure and management, such as JLL, to learn to work seriously;

-     Invest in relationships and networking with colleagues and partners who will evolve with you in your career;

-     And, of course, have a passion for the work and adhere to the company's culture.

For those who are going to hire a company to perform property management for an enterprise, they both have the same tip: check the company's relationship history with its clients - this is the main indicator of good service.

Longing for the successful professional partnership of times past, Jungman and Scaff are still active in the real estate sector. Scaff is director of Sequent Real Estate and Wealth Management, in the USA, and Jungman is director of Realtycorp and a university professor in São Paulo.