Challenging Times Spur Partnership and Progress
To many, inside and outside the industry, the real estate market looks like Gettysburg after the third day of fighting. With so much carnage, it’s difficult to choose winners. Yet, even in these tumultuous times, there are some who are not simply holding their own or staying afloat, but are steadily gaining ground.
Brian Lightle had witnessed earlier reversals in the market so when things began to shift late in 2006, he realized some strategic changes would have to be made. The basis of his analysis was as simple as it was sound. “Rent supports value,” he explained. “If an area is not over-built, but the rental value of a property is disproportionately lower than the pricing of the asset, the value of the asset has been unrealistically inflated and a correction is inevitable.”
Foreseeing that the bubble was going to burst, Lightle asked, “Who was going to be in the market for realty services with his background and skills?” His answer seems obvious, with the 20/20 clarity of hindsight . . . namely the banks and financial institutions. These lenders were not only saddled with unwanted residential properties, but with countless commercial properties as well.
Seizing the Opportunity
However, seeing potential and capitalizing on potential are two completely different skills. But Lightle quotes Solomon, concerning one of the firm’s core values, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Knowing the dogged persistence and rejection resistance needed when “cold calling” potential investors, he went to work.
Leveraging the company’s reputation and assets, Lightle began marketing their services. This went beyond simply finding tenants for properties all over the state, but to providing management and maintenance as well – services that banks and property investors were desperate to find.
In the process, Lightle was training his longtime friend and fishing buddy Robert Beckner in the art and science of commercial real estate. Beckner, who had a natural aptitude for the business, was sharpening his expertise in office properties. At this time, Lightle owned 100 percent of the business and was faced with the common owner’s question: “How do I keep the people I have trained and invested in from leaving and becoming a competitor?” A risky solution which has clearly paid off, Lightle made Beckner a partner.
Like in medicine and engineering, specialization is becoming essential in real estate as well. Expertise in one arena doesn’t always transfer. In addition, the more substantial the client, the more proficiency or professionalism is needed. However, finding the third leg on their stool involved more than just experience; they wanted synergy. Jeff Robison shared their common values of integrity, hard work and a teachable attitude. But he also brought an aggressive, ‘make it happen’ and yet ‘fun’ approach.
Robison’s arena would be retail properties, while Beckner continued to focus on office space. Lightle, who Beckner said brought, “experience, wisdom and the ability to find realistic solutions,” oversees the burgeoning operation, while concentrating on corporate clients like Rockwell Collins, Harris, Publix and the U.S. Postal Service.
Building On Your Core
As the business has expanded, the three partners recognize the detailed systems and processes they have used – to analyze a client’s needs and match it to a property – can be replicated in other regions. Also, their property management expertise is critical in any market. Plus, they have for some time served regional clients like H & R Block in sight locations throughout Florida and now are working in Georgia.
Therefore, exploring the next steps they may take in their company’s growth is in the forefront of their minds. But it is a decision and a plan the three of them feel confident, together, they will successfully make. In fact, far from being pessimistic about the commercial real estate market they agreed, “Everyone can take advantage of a down market…this is an exciting time.”