Melissa Lal

President & CEO
Larsen Baker

By Romi Carrell Wittman

Melissa Lal confronted a harsh reality after she graduated with honors from the University of Arizona: It’s hard for English majors to find job openings. 

Fortunately, she applied to Larsen Baker, a full-service commercial real estate firm and the largest privately held retail property owner in Southern Arizona. 

“I was also an English major and I knew how tough it could be,” said George Larsen, then- president of Larsen Baker. “Of course, I hired her.” 

Today, Lal is president and CEO of the firm, with a portfolio valued at $300 million. She leads all facets of its commercial development, brokerage, and management divisions, including investor and lender relations, property leasing, acquisitions, dispositions and financing.

Lal’s rise to the top could be described as meteoric. “She became the CEO of our company before her 36th birthday,” Larsen said. 

 “It’s a combination of her communication and people skills. Plus, she’s wicked smart!” Larsen said, noting that Lal breezed through the Certified Commercial Investment curriculum in two-a-half years instead of the usual five to 10 years.

Lal’s drive was evident early on. “I always wanted to work. I loved making my own money,” she said. “That financial independence and need to be great at what I did spoke to me very early on and has helped me in my career.”

She is former president of the Southern Arizona CCIM Chapter and past president of the Southern Arizona Chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women. Lal is also active in several nonprofits, including Angel Charity for Children. 

Lal is committed to mentoring the next generation. “Don’t be afraid to start low or at any entry-level position,” she said. “Talented employees are the most important thing a small business owner or manager can have.”

She admits the male-dominated commercial real estate field can be intimidating for young women just starting out. “My hope is that the generations after me will never think twice about being a broker, a developer, or a construction project manager, that no stigma exists because our industry is ‘male dominated.”

Lal said she’s humbled to be honored. “These are women who are at places in their careers where they don’t get underestimated, overlooked, or put in a corner. They are confident in their abilities, and they can go toe-to-toe with the best in their business. That’s always how I aspire to be viewed.”

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