Arguably the most successful sales team in the toniest areas of Brooklyn, Jim Cornell and Leslie Marshall, with a combined 50 years of borough sales experience, clearly have keys to the King’s County kingdom, closing out last year with 199 transactions and a sales volume of over $480 million.
Their four-person team, consistently ranked among the top 25 brokers in Corcoran’s 5,700-person sales force, serves just about every corner of New York’s Brooklyn neighborhoods, from Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights to Williamsburg and Brownstone Brooklyn’s townhouses, co-ops and condos.
Cornell, a Boston transplant and former technical writer, and Marshall, a Fordham Law School graduate and public defender, came into real estate from different backgrounds and with different talents, but credit their success as a team with an instant meeting of the minds.
Barbara Pronin: The two of you came to Corcoran within a year of each other some 20 years ago, when teaming wasn’t yet really a thing. What was it that brought you together?
Leslie Marshall: We met while working with a client in Park Slope, Jim for the buyer and I for the seller, and it didn’t take long to realize we had a very similar approach—easygoing but client-focused and detail-oriented, and familiar with the best Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Jim Cornell: We had different skills, but the same goals and work ethic, and a partnership appealed to both of us. But there weren’t a lot of teams at the time, so we really had no role model. It was Corcoran, actually, that made it happen, moving us both into their Brooklyn Heights office. We were all in, fifty-fifty, no matter where the leads came from, and we shared every task from showings to all the administrative work that comes with every transaction. The process was kind of organic, but it worked.
BP: When did you decide to expand the team?
LM: I had branched into the design, marketing and sale of new developments, and we were preparing to launch a 134-unit development. Jim was very busy, we were handling properties in the $5- to $10 million dollar range, and we knew we needed help to keep up with the business we were building.
JC: In 2019, we brought in Nick Hovsepian, who came to Corcoran with a track record of over 200 closed sales in seven years. Like Leslie and me, he has a kind of laid-back, friendly, but detail-oriented approach and he’s been a great addition to the team.
LM: About the same time, Ashley Banker reached out to me, and we were impressed with her background and ambition. She had been with Corcoran about 14 years, mostly specializing in marketing and project management. She is diligent, capable, and committed to providing the same high level of service that has always been the hallmark of this team.
BP: Considering the volume of business you do, it’s surprising you don’t have a dedicated administrative staff. How does your team split the work?
JC: We all do a bit of everything—no ego, no hierarchy, just pitch in and get it done, and that includes the admin work. One of our key strengths is the way we support each other so that every client has a seamless and rewarding experience.
LM: We’re on the phone with each other often and we’re all tagged on every email, so any one of us is knowledgeable and accessible to every one of our clients. It may seem casual, but we are supremely organized, and our clients appreciate the way we work. We operate in a kind of rarefied area, and the majority of our business comes from referral.
BP: You’ve racked up numerous recognitions from Corcoran’s President’s Council and Million Dollar Club to Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights Team of the year. Do you consider yourselves a role model now as teaming becomes a more popular way of doing business?
JC: Teams reach out to us all the time, and we are happy to act as mentors and share what has worked for us. Giving back where we can is important to us, not only within our company, but to the communities where we work. We are all active in a variety of non-profits and civic organizations, all of which we thoroughly enjoy.
BP: What are your plans for the team going forward?
LM: We have no plans to expand at the moment, although we are always open to it as the business grows. Mostly, we are focused on maintaining the reputation for excellence that we have worked so hard to achieve.
BP: Best advice for building relationships and creating a successful team?
JC: Trust. It’s the overall reason for our success—both a personal trust in each other to do the right thing and support one another, and instilling trust in our clients.
LM: And being authentic—putting your personal touch on every task and your heart into everything you do.
To contact the Cornell Marshall team, email email@example.com.
Barbara Pronin is a contributing editor to RISMedia.