Tenant-representation expert Jason Hughes has dedicated his career to becoming a leader in his industry. He’s now one of the most sought-after CEOs in the commercial property sector in San Diego and beyond. And yet, Jason Hughes came from humble beginnings and admits he’ll never forget who helped give him a leg up, like the Cushman & Wakefield broker who took him under his wing and showed him the ropes of the commercial real estate market. Hughes, who was in junior high school at the time, was so taken aback by the broker’s passion, he realized he’d never look at office buildings the same way again.
Once he turned 18, Hughes earned his California real estate broker’s license. As an undergrad at Pepperdine University, he was already interning at Cushman & Wakefield in the Century City submarket of Los Angeles. As he reflects on his more than 30 years in the business, Jason Hughes says there are three main lessons that helped him reach a pinnacle of success.
“While still in college, I immediately got involved in a couple of residential sales,” Hughes says.
Jason Hughes married his college sweetheart, Shay, after both graduated from Pepperdine — which Jason put himself through at his own expense. He vowed to make his mark on San Diego. The couple moved to San Diego and he began working for commercial real estate firm Grubb & Ellis (known now as Newmark).
“I was working in downtown San Diego and was put on a landlord listing in the largest building in the area during that time,” recalls Jason Hughes, who has earned various accolades over the years, including: Most Admired CEO from San Diego Business Journal, one of the Top Most Influential People from the website The Daily Transcript, and one of the Movers to Watch from San Diego Metro Magazine.
This was very unusual, given Jason Hughes was only 22 at the time, but he was a natural, and leasing out the building was a simple task for the phenom. “I was a good salesman,” Jason Hughes says. “But I quickly realized my niche would be in corporate real estate (helping companies with their real estate) rather than commercial real estate (helping landlords and developers).”
Before launching Hughes Marino in 2011, he was president and owner of commercial brokerage Irving Hughes from 1995 through 2011. As chairman, CEO, and owner of Hughes Marino, Hughes is proud to oversee day-to-day operations with his wife, Shay, who is president, COO, and co-owner at HM.
“Shay has helped transform an antiquated industry through the development of our core values, which created a cultural revitalization,” he says. “We’ve been recognized by Fortune as one of the best places to work, and that’s something we’re very proud of and take seriously.”
With more than three decades of experience in commercial properties in San Diego and throughout the United States, he admits one of his greatest lessons was learning there are no shortcuts to success. “At Hughes Marino, we have a saying that we’re the hardest workers in the room, and nothing could be more true,” he says. “This business is not for the faint of heart. Each day takes the same dedication and determination as the very first day you started, but that also keeps me so passionate about what I do.”
Assemble a Dream Team.
The big-hearted boss cherishes his team. “So many of our team members have been with us for more than two decades,” the San Diego–based businessman says. “We’ve watched them grow and expand their families, purchase their first houses, and it’s such a rewarding feeling to know we’re part of something so significant.”
From “wow” awards to company incentives such as game days and tournaments, Jason Hughes goes above and beyond to make his team members feel validated and appreciated. “When you’re running a company as large as Hughes Marino, you devote a crazy amount of time to it, nurturing it, developing it, and maintaining it as an industry leader,” he adds. “Our team loves being here and we couldn’t be happier. We’re so appreciative of them. Without our team, there would be no Hughes Marino.”
Resiliency is another important business lesson Jason Hughes has learned over the years. Hughes Marino is one of the few companies that managed to expand during the pandemic, during which it added a Denver office. When his industry came to a screeching halt, Jason Hughes calmly gathered his team and carefully constructed a plan to brave these uncharted waters. He ramped up support for his crew and increased communication. “We pivoted when it mattered most, and we persevered,” Jason Hughes says. “Our team is stronger for it.”
Never Get Complacent.
As a longtime fan of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Jason Hughes has made “Onward” his personal and professional mantra. “I was fortunate enough to meet with Howard and he taught me the priceless value of seeing things through your team’s eyes,” Jason Hughes says. “I wrote down what he told me and it’s something that remains with me today.”
For Hughes, it’s always been and always will be about his team. “We invest in our team and always maintain a sense of gratitude,” Hughes said. “I think that’s been an integral part of our success. Our brand is packed with meaningful sayings and traditions. We work hard and play hard. We never take anyone or anything for granted.”
Community is also important to Jason Hughes. While he’s been a key player in growing San Diego’s flourishing life sciences sector, he’s also dedicated to keeping San Diego a great place to work and live. Hughes Marino and its team members have dedicated time and energy to supporting various nonprofits and important charitable causes.
“Authenticity and humility are part of the essence of the Hughes Marino brand,” Hughes says. “We deliver excellence in everything we do. We also never stop learning and growing. Our company offers a variety of tools and resources to keep our team members fresh and inspired so they can approach their role each day with every possible opportunity to succeed.”
But perhaps the most important lesson he’s learned thus far is simply to enjoy the journey. “Life is full of surprises,” the San Diego resident says. “Enthusiasm is contagious. Always show your team how much you appreciate them and celebrate their wins. A happy team usually results in creating happy clients. Remember, we’re all in this together.”