Back in the mid-2000s, Marilyn Cox saw the writing on the wall while working in residential real estate in Atlanta. She noticed that some deals weren’t closing and, sure enough, that trend soon moved to the commercial side. That’s when she saw an ad in the paper for a position at a six-employee firm operating out of a little shop in downtown Atlanta—Hunter Hotel Advisors. “I applied for assistant to the president and I got the job working with Teague Hunter. The company just grew from there,” she says. and Cox grew with it. Today, with 20 years of real estate experience under her belt, Cox is a vice president at Hunter Hotel Advisors and works as a broker out of Phoenix. Cox recently told LODGING about how she launched and grew her career in hospitality and shared what it’s like working in a male-dominated position.
What was your experience transitioning to hotel real estate?
I really had to learn from the bottom up. At first, I worked on all the OMs [offering memorandum] and assisted Teague [Hunter] with advertising, deal tracking, and confidentiality agreements. The first hotel I sold was for Leo Sand in Cayce, South Carolina. It just grew after that. Hunter moved into a large office space—the Atlanta Galleria Office Park—and is now recognized as one of the top brokerage firms in the hotel investment field. I am happy to be part of the story.
How has your approach to clients changed since you first entered the industry?
The hotel market is forever changing. We need to continually educate ourselves on brand expectations and loan structures available for potential buyers. Most importantly, we must ensure that clients are overjoyed with how sales are handled. You have to be super flexible because every client’s personality is different. You need to make sure both buyers and sellers feel like they win on all the deals. There’s a lot of psychology involved—whether you work with a smaller owner who has a handful of hotels versus Starwood Capital Group or Blackstone, two of our larger clients. That’s the beauty of this job—no two deals are ever the same.
How have you honed your skills?
Hunter is a very team-supportive company. We all work together, and we’re successful because of our willingness to be part of the team. This allows us to share information, get opinions on valuations, and discuss deals without any broker intimidation.
l Are there any types of deals that you enjoy working on more than others? I like working with large companies. They’re sharp and have high expectations, so it does challenge us. You never know what’s in the pipeline—it’s forever changing, whether it’s a one-off deal or a big portfolio.
What are the challenges of being a woman in the brokerage space?
I had an advantage in that I started when Hunter was a young company. I was able to get my foot in the door, learn, and grow. I didn’t really feel a lot of the struggle that many women in this space may encounter because Hunter has been so good to work with.
What will it take to get more women involved in the brokerage side of hospitality?
I don’t know if they’ve just never had the opportunity or they never woke up and said, “I’m not going to sell commercial real estate; I’m going to sell hotels.” It’s such a small, specialized industry that people don’t really think about it as a career choice unless they are somehow in the right place with the right opportunity—I wouldn’t have gotten into it if I hadn’t seen an ad in the paper and knew I needed to make a career change. I don’t think employers go out and search specifically for women—they just want qualified people, whether female or male.