Inside Track: Colliers' Hunderman is hardwired to serve
Although his studies at Calvin were leading to youth ministry, Derek Hunderman finds commercial real estate suits him.
Today, Derek Hunderman is a prominent person with a bright future in the industry as one of the leading executives at one of the top local commercial real estate firms: Colliers International of West Michigan.
Hunderman now is vice president and managing partner there, but he would readily admit that a bit more than a decade ago, he wasn’t even aware of the field.
“I didn’t consider it. I didn’t even know what it was,” he said.
That was before he met Duke Suwyn, president and CEO of Colliers International West Michigan. He came across Suwyn while he was working in another sales arena.
“At the time I was in kind of an account management sales role at Gill Industries. I liked my job. I was young for what I was doing and I had a yearning for more. And Duke said, ‘If you want to unlock some potential, you should consider going 100 percent commission, an eat-what-you-kill kind of world, and join me,’” said Hunderman.
“Honestly, that was about a two-year discussion,” he said with a laugh.
“He didn’t sell me right away because I went from a very secure environment to one where the risk level was higher. Ten or 15 years ago, I don’t think kids coming out of college were aware of commercial real estate as a career path. I certainly wasn’t. At the time, it was a whole new world to me, and I just didn’t fully understand what it represented,” he said.
“But he finally wore me down,” he said of Suwyn with another laugh. “It was absolutely the right decision. I sold with Duke on the industrial team for six years. I absolutely loved it and had a great run with the team. Duke has been doing this for a long time and he is an entrepreneur himself.”
“Colliers, at a corporate level, has me as a trainer, and once in a while I get to fly out of town. I just got back from a trip to Charlotte where I met with a group of guys and coached them and trained them on building up their businesses. I do the same thing here, internally, and that’s fun — it’s just fun to help those around me to succeed, whether it’s staff or brokers, and that also rings true for clients,” he said.
“If I can make others succeed, I get great satisfaction from that.”
Another source of great satisfaction is his family. Derek married Andrea 15 years ago, after they had dated for three years. They met as students at Calvin College. “So she was a college sweetheart,” he said. Derek said he was drawn to Andrea because she had an adventurous spirit.
“I liked to get outside and do stuff, and she was game,” he said.
They live in Ada Township and have four young children. Emma is the oldest at 10 and in fifth grade. Reece is 9 and in third grade. Six-year-old Jack is in his first year at Ada Christian School, which the other two attend, as well. Elsie is the baby at 20 months.
Hunderman said the girls love their dolls and to go shopping with Andrea, while Reece and Jack are into guy stuff like hunting, fishing, camping and playing sports.
“We go outdoors a lot,” he said. “Thankfully, my boys like to hunt. Lately, we’ve done a fair amount of waterfowl hunting together.
“My wife and I are also pretty avid cyclists. Our best ‘date nights’ tend to include hitting the local mountain-bike trails together before dinner.”
Instead of earning the standard business management degree that some in his position might have pursued, Hunderman graduated from Calvin with a bachelor’s in religion and theology.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I am the son of a pastor, and the classes at Calvin that interested me were religion classes. At the time, I was toying with the idea of doing some youth ministry,” he said.
“After a brief time in some internship roles in that world, I realized that it was just not for me. I don’t have the charisma. My charisma shut down at that time. I think the effect of being a youth minister was wild and crazy all night long, and I just didn’t have that in me,” he said.
“I realized — and kind of too late — that I probably wasn’t wired for this, personality-wise. But at that point, I was already knee-deep into the college path and decided to finish it out and figure it out from there.”
Even though he didn’t become a youth minister, his degree has played a significant role in his sales career.
“I would say the common theme is serving people, and whether it’s management or clients, that’s how I’m hardwired. There is actually quite a bit of carry-over. Business is all about people. The dollars are a by-product of a job well done,” he said.
Hunderman recently joined the Commercial Alliance of Realtors as a director and will begin serving next year for three years. He is active at Redeemer Church in Ada and sits on the board for the Michigan Boys and Girls Club and at Ada Christian School. The organizations reflect his character.
“I look at Ada Christian as kind of a faith-based thing. The Boys and Girls Club is kind of community minded, and I’ve also just stepped into the director role at the Commercial Alliance of Realtors, which is kind of the industry focus,” he said.
Hunderman began the working portion of his life managing an assembly department at Grand Rapids Spring and Stamping and then became a quality manager for Jim Zawacki’s company. At Gill Industries, he managed Lopez Industries, a minority-owned sister firm, before he moved into sales and account management at Gill.
Although his current career certainly wasn’t planned, he said he hasn’t any regrets and there isn’t much he would change about where he is today.
“We’ve got a great team, and West Michigan is just a great environment to do business in. And it’s fun — it’s fun waking up and wanting to go to work,” he said.
“The market is improving — probably more rapidly than most people perceive, so that’s exciting as well to see things turn.”
As for his immediate professional future, Hunderman sees more of the same but in a bigger sense.
“Our strategy here is to continue to bring more services to the market. It’s not necessarily brokerage, per se; it could be facilities management, lease administration or some corporate services. So continuing to bring more services to the market is part of the plan, and I’m excited by that,” he said.
“On the personal level, it’s just trying to keep up with all the kids.”