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Q&A with Cathy Jones, president, owner and broker of Sun Commercial Real Estate

Cathy Jones heads the No. 1 woman-owned commercial real estate brokerage firm in Southern Nevada. However, she took a roundabout path to get there.

She became a CPA and moved to Las Vegas in 1981 to accept a position with Deloitte & Touche. She went on to become chief financial officer of Nevada Title Company.

“Developing business relationships with clients was foreign to me, but I found that I not only liked it — I was good at it,” she said. “I also learned about contract negotiations and got involved in the community. As a senior manager, I eventually felt like I was spending all my time managing people, and I wanted to roll up my sleeves and do something more hands-on. I’d always been interested in commercial real estate, so I made the decision to leave accounting and step into commercial real estate in 2003, and I’ve never looked back.”

Jones founded Sun Commercial Real Estate in 1986, focusing on selling income-producing real estate to investors. The company is headquartered in Las Vegas and also has a Phoenix office. Responding to changing market conditions, Sun became a full-service brokerage, handling leasing and owner-occupied sales, and formed a separate company to manage commercial properties for clients.

How did you keep your company going when the real estate market collapsed?

When the market turned at the end of 2008 and investor sales stopped, we had to reinvent ourselves. We were tenacious in calling on lenders to generate business through lender-owned properties. Once we gained their confidence, we got repeat business, but times were lean — I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and soup. We got down to six or seven agents. Our business has doubled since then, and we now have 15 agents, plus seven in our property management company.

Is it challenging for women to succeed in such a male-dominated field?

Women are at a bit of a disadvantage, and initially you have to work harder to gain certain people’s respect. But once you have their respect and establish yourself in the commercial real estate community, you’re OK. I was fortunate because when I started in real estate I already had a good reputation due to my position with the title company and the boards I served on. Being a CPA gave me additional credibility, so it was less of a challenge than it might have been.

What’s your connection to United Way?

I joined the United Way board as treasurer in 1985, worked my way up to chairman of the board, and I’m now a senior trustee. I’m a firm believer in their philosophy. They do a really good job of analyzing community needs and responding with funding to get results. I co-founded their Women’s Leadership Council, which has raised more than $1 million for United Way projects, including Family Engagement Resource Centers in five local high schools. They’ve had great success helping struggling students turn their lives around.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I’ve always been an outdoor person. I started riding and jumping horses when I was very young, and I’ve competed in equestrian show jumping since 1997. I also enjoy bike riding, and I own a cabin in southern Utah where I spend a lot of weekends, riding quads and hiking.