Curtis, a virtuoso of the Real Estate industry, is the CEO of Workman Management Group and WMG Development. Workman Management Group is a single family office and WMG Development is a fast-growing real estate arm of Workman Management Group that develops, owns and manages over 450 properties.
Q.1. Describe your leadership style at Workman Management Group & WMG Development?
A.1. We are extraordinarily adaptable at WMG and match our style to the needs that are in front of us. Most often, we focus on our Visionary Leadership Style and strive to put the day-to-day decision-making power in the hands of the team members who are closest to the opportunity or problem. In practice, we align on our vision, mission, and core values, nurture culture and collaboration, and encourage impeccable follow through.
Q.2. Seems like you’re effortlessly juggling multiple positions as EVP at Workman Management Group and EVP at WMG. How have these roles been different in terms of your responsibilities & takeaways from each?
A.2. Thank you for acknowledging! There definitely is a balance here and this would not be possible without having amazing individuals on the team. While the roles are similar in many ways, there are a few differences. When you lead a family office, adaptability of skill sets is a huge asset. You might be contributing to an investor discussion one day and then buried deep in a unique 400-page contract the next. This need to adapt between skill sets happens more rapidly with a dynamic family office that still has one or more operating entities. There is likely the same amount of change going on in the operating entities, such as our real estate development company, however the capability to succeed is carried out by many expert team members who have had experience within or outside the company.
Q.3. How has your experience as Director at Heartland Dental facilitated your current role?
A.3. The opportunity to serve as a Director in various departments at Heartland Dental provided a broad scope of technical business focuses at scale, while continuing to improve on guiding team member collaboration and overall leadership skills. Heartland Dental is the leader in dentistry, and they invest significantly in leadership development. This commitment to personal and professional leadership has helped me become a better version of myself, pushing me toward greater achievements in life, all while accelerating my career.
Q.4. How has partnering with tenants and clients expanded WMG’s capabilities in aspects of investment and development?
A.4. Our capabilities are expanded by how well we listen, adapt, and perform for our partners. When we listen actively, intently, and ask clarifying questions we can then adapt our services to produce the best possible outcomes. I recall an experience working on a project with a coffee user in a high-volume area with limited space to roll out a new drive thru queuing layout. The team’s ability to quickly respond with creative solutions allowed a new prototype that allowed both the volume and space needed. This has sparked new opportunities with this user as a result of our communication and action.
Q.5. How has the pandemic impacted your real estate investment thesis?
A.5. The pandemic has accelerated our real estate investment efforts. When many tenants and partners were slowing down or pushing the pause button we remained steadfast in our efforts and kept progressing projects forward. This focus has continued to build trust in our relationships and displayed the core values we embody. We will continue to study our external environment and adjust our strategy and investment thesis as the economy adopts any new norms such as flexible work schedules and office space demand.
Q.6. What are some of the most important considerations a novice real estate investor should keep in mind?
A.6. There will be bumps in the road and you will always need to be prepared to keep progressing forward many times taking risk along the way. Treat real estate investing as a long-term goal and be surprised if you achieve short term returns that exceed your expectations.
Q.7. What is your outlook on the real estate market over the next decade?
A.7. Over the next decade we will continue to experience transition and adaptive reuse of existing infrastructure, such as malls and bank buildings, even in rapidly growing markets like Florida. The real estate landscape must respond to technological changes as they see fit. We will have first movers, middle adopters, and late reactions in the industry. All can be successful. There will likely be some who over invest in transitional technology. The staples will stay the same and generational transitional is occurring differently than some had anticipated. The digital natives do not only want to transact with a mobile device but when they do engage in brick-and-mortar shopping they desire an experience. If their brick-and-mortar shopping feels like a transaction, they can just do that online.
Q.8. Based on your experience, what are the risk/return/timeline requirements of family offices from real estate as an asset class?
A.8. Risk is measured in many ways and one of the biggest contributors is how one builds their capital stack and the resulting cost of said capital. If you are sound in the capital supply, one will be afforded the opportunity to work with partners who have less risky credit and therefore you can continue to focus on long term partnerships and real estate with great core characteristics. This opportunity leads to returns and timelines that meet or exceed expectations of most family office investments in real estate as an asset class. If you are a family office trying to beat traditional real estate returns, then you will likely want to blend direct real estate investment with indirect private equity placements. However, this requires family offices to give up some control of their investments and that may very well be a challenge depending on the family office’s maturity and its high-level investment strategy.
Q.9. What do you hope will be different about it in 3 years as compared to now?
A.9. Three years is tough because change always takes longer than one would hope. I would like to see the real estate industry continue to adapt to be more efficient especially when it comes to retailers operating in real estate that provides the best customer experience possible. The problem is many times when you try and adapt current assets to new demands it can be more costly than starting fresh or continuing as is. The changing demands of the end customers are happening much more frequently than any time in our history.
Q.10. What closely held unpopular opinion do you believe in about the real estate industry?
A.10. While sometimes difficult to discuss, I do believe that companies can take on too much outside capital too quickly which can result in diminished results over time. When a company has plenty of new business coming in and capital that needs to be put to work decisions might be made that lean toward the investor needs over the retailer/tenant needs.
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