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Up From San Diego

Tucker Hughes, director of Hughes Marino’s Orange County office, and Jason Hughes, president & CEO.

By Misha Euceph

Do the basics so well that it’s cutting edge.

That’s the stated strategy at Hughes Marino, which bills itself as the leading tenant representation firm in Southern California.

The company was cofounded in 2011 by current President and Chief Executive Jason Hughes and David Marino, who serves as executive vice president.

Jason and his wife, Shay, chief operating officer, run the company with their son, Tucker, and their daughter Star.

Hughes Marino’s clients include California Bank & Trust, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill and Invisible Children. The private San Diego-based company represents tenants from a broad range of industries, from education to banking, with offices in Irvine, San Diego and Los Angeles.

Hughes Marino, which has 35 employees companywide, 16 of them in Orange County, was honored Nov. 19 in the small-business category at the Business Journal’s 15th annual Family Owned Business Awards.

Business Plan

Shay Hughes and Star Hughes
Shay Hughes, COO, and Star Hughes, director.

The family attributes their success so far to a business plan based on their values, which has led them to carve a niche in the market as a firm that represents only tenants as a matter of business principle.

“We weren’t sure if it would work long term or not,” Jason Hughes as he accepted the award. “Turns out that it’s worked really well, and we’re extremely proud of the extended family that Hughes Marino has become.”

Jason attended Pepperdine University at the same time as his wife, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration while she earned a bachelor’s in communications. He went on to get his MBA in real estate finance from the University of San Diego and did stints at Cushman & Wakefield and at Irving Hughes, where he met Marino.

Hughes Marino said it now represents roughly 75% of corporate tenants in downtown San Diego, where Star is the director.

The company has OC pegged for growth potential, with Tucker spearheading an expansion as director of the office in Irvine.

“Our core team had been doing business in Orange County for two decades as part of Irving Hughes,” Tucker said, referring to his parents, Marino and former Irving Hughes employees who moved to Hughes Marino after its establishment.

“[Hughes Marino] had already saturated the San Diego market, so we thought that the blue ocean for me and the company would be in Orange County.”

Tucker moved to Irvine to oversee the push here.

He said Hughes Marino was interested in OC because the community is similar to San Diego’s.

“Our model allowed us to be successful in San Diego.”

He predicted that the OC office will employ about 25 people by the middle of next year. The company attempts to replicate the culture that made its San Diego office successful as it expands.

The key, Tucker said, is Hughes Marino’s lean size and flat leadership structure, which help create a family-like environment.

That all started with Shay and Jason. They met each other at a conference in Boston a few weeks before their freshman year at Pepperdine. “His first words to me were, ‘Hey, blondie,’ ” Shay said. “We have been inseparable since.”

The couple married in 1989. She took on her current role at Hughes Marino in 2011, cementing the company’s status as family-owned.

Tucker and his siblings, Star and Bailey, would sit around the dinner table every night and discuss shop with their parents, even before they were of age to help run the firm.

“Having the opportunity to share everything that we do enriches our family dynamic,” Shay said.

The family also makes sure to “stop and smell the roses,” Jason said.

They take quarterly vacations, often visiting other countries, with recent trips to Dubai, South Africa, and Russia.

Quality Time

Family members said they apply a similar approach to quality time with employees.

Hughes Marino employees get the chance to bond at events that bring different offices together and at companywide ski trips. The company holds team meetings in San Diego about once a month and an annual retreat at a local resort. OC employees compete in a basketball league.

The family’s involvement expands as the company’s offices do.

Tucker said younger brother Bailey, a sophomore at the University of Southern California, is considering joining the family business.

It will be his decision, according to his mom.

“I want him to pursue what he is going to be happiest doing,” said Shay. “I’d love it if he wanted to, because we love having our kids as part of the business. They are incredible additions to our team, and it’s a unique experience to share with them.”

Jason Hughes is founder of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company with offices across the nation. A pioneer in the field of tenant representation, Jason has exclusively represented tenants and buyers for more than 30 years. Contact Jason at 1-844-662-6635 or jason@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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