Rocket IT Business Podcast | Jeff Richardson | Nurturing Lasting Connections | Ep 7
For a business to thrive in today’s marketplace, a sense of transparency must be achieved. But how exactly does an organization cultivate this heightened level of trust while remaining competitive in their industry?
In this episode of the Rocket IT Podcast, commercial real estate principal, Jeff Richardson explains the impact strong core values and passionate client advocacy can have on a business. From these efforts, Jeff and his team at CTR Partners believe they’ve found the secret formula that keeps clients coming back, long after the transaction has ended.
In This Episode, You’ll Hear More About…
- The purpose of community engagement
- How to take a listen-first approach
- Balancing a client’s best interest with your own
- How strong core values can create a united team
- The role of transparency in establishing credibility
- Long term relationship building versus quick sales
- The impact of client referrals
- Why clients seek strong connections
- How to act as a client’s voice during the decision-making process
Like What You Heard? Give Us Some Feedback!
Matt Hyatt (00:00):
Hello and welcome to the seventh installment of the Rocket IT podcast. I’m your host Matt Hyatt. And today I’m excited to introduce our guest, Jeff Richardson of CTR Partners.
Intro music (00:24):
Matt Hyatt (00:26):
As a principal at his commercial real estate firm, Jeff and his team have built a values based organization that keeps clients coming back again and again. Many times leading to friendships that endure beyond their business transactions. And today’s episode, Jeff gives us a brief overview of how he continues to establish a nurture, those lasting connections and the impact that can have over time. Jeff, welcome. Glad you’re here.
Jeff Richardson (00:49):
Thank you Matt. It’s great to be here. Appreciate the invitation.
Matt Hyatt (00:51):
Absolutely. So Jeff, let’s get this right out. Out of the gate here. You and I are friends. We are. And we have done business together. We have. And I think we started we really started our relationship as a business relationship and that’s nurtured into a more friendship over time, right? But we’ve done business together a number of times, right? We have. So for our benefit of our listeners Jeff and his team have helped Rocket IT with finding space, I think more than once renewing the lease and expansions most recently the acquisition of a new building.
Matt Hyatt (01:25):
So that’s been a lot of fun. But we’re also friends and we’ve done some fun stuff together. In fact we’ve got a a relay race coming up. That’ll be exciting. We hope just a couple of weeks, one of us has been training and the other has been a little maybe a sitting on the sidelines. I won’t say who’s there, but Oh, that should be good. Right?
Jeff Richardson (01:44):
It should be great. And I think both of us are going to do fantastic.
Matt Hyatt (01:48):
I like the optimism. So,uJeff, let’s, let’s dive right in a little bit and learn a little bit about you. So CTR Partners, a real estate firm, typically a, you call it a commercial tenant representation firm, is that what is that technical term, right?
Jeff Richardson (02:04):
Yeah. And CTR actually stands for Corporate Tenant Representation. So that is very clearly what we do. We, a lot of people hear that name and think we only help companies with leasing, but we also help companies with purchasing as you’ve experienced and walking through a lot of times to evaluate both sides of those and compare leasing and purchasing at the same time. But yeah, we’re strictly on that side of the table, but focus on the office and industrial real estate market.
Matt Hyatt (02:29):
Okay. Awesome. so I’m, I’m very interested to hear more about that. But I want to give folks a little bit of an idea of your background. Right. One thing that I was sorta surprised to learn as we got to know one another is maybe it didn’t start in real estate, but maybe IT, it did. Tell me a little bit about it. Did I, and that’s for you particularly?
Jeff Richardson (02:49):
Right for me particularly. Yes. I, this was actually a Management Information Systems major in college, went to the University of Alabama, studied that, did, did well, had a great job coming out school with a company consulting company here in Atlanta, but based in Chicago. Worked there for three years and really enjoyed the company. And the what I got to work on. But I realized into that, that it wasn’t the path that I wanted to go down for a career. So had a lot of great experience developed and tweaked programs internally to our organization that we served fortune 500 companies with. I got to do some consulting in that, but, but longterm, it wasn’t really where I felt like I was being led. So I ended up making the shift from that to a whole separate type of, of corporate real estate. Oh, well. And they went in between that. There was ministry involved.
Jeff Richardson (03:40):
So it was kind of a, yeah, it was, it was an interesting transition, but it’s been good. So I ended up leaving the corporate world for awhile. Went to work with an organization here in Atlanta called North Point Ministries, which a lot of your listeners with Andy Stanley’s Church. So I worked there for two or three years and that was actually really fantastic experience because I was coaching and leading and to recruiting people much older than me and much more experienced than I was. And I got to watch people who had done life really well, both in business but also in their personal lives and their families. And that was just great experience for me to see that at that age and be around people who had just really done, done life in a very wise way. But I had the itch to get back into business.
Jeff Richardson (04:25):
So after being there two, three years, I didn’t want to be a pastor. That wasn’t my calling. It wasn’t where I was being led. So I started investigating and really interviewed a lot of people who had been doing what I do now and doing other things. But more and more people that I met that do what I do now, it became evident that’s, that’s a really interesting career. It’s one that I could really get behind. It would, it would merge that consulting piece I have before in the technology realm, but it would merge it with brick and mortar and concrete and, and culture of an organization. And that was very attractive to me. So ended up making the move into that. And that’s been 16 years ago now.
Matt Hyatt (05:07):
Wow. So, wow. Yeah. So you know, I have teased you several times that if the whole real estate thing doesn’t work out, call me you. And it really could go either way. You can help us out on the it side to come to help me out with faith based stuff. You don’t have lots of questions. There are always opportunities, Jeff.
Jeff Richardson (05:25):
You do not want me helping you out with IT stuff. Remember what I said? That was 16 years ago, right? You guys know how much it’s changed in six weeks. So I, I’ve enjoyed that time, but I’m not qualified. They tell me at the office, I’m the resident IT expert and I’m like, you guys, you really need to get a new IT expert.
Matt Hyatt (05:43):
I’ve met your team. I think you probably are. You may be right. You may be right. So I am curious though, in any exposure growing up to real estate was, I mean that’s, it’s a, it’s interesting to hear that’s three pretty different fields have absolutely potential paths. So I just wondered, was there something in your life growing up that had some exposure to real estate that drew you towards it?
Jeff Richardson (06:10):
Not really. I mean, my dad obviously we owned our house and some land, which, you know, that’s not uncommon and my dad owned a building that he ran his company out of, but it was never a focus. I think really what attracted me was the ability when I had been in that consulting world and I was able to have an impact on clients from the technology realm. I wanted to be more client facing. I love the relationship part. That’s one thing with, with management information systems versus a CS major, there was a lot of business interaction. There was a lot of communications CS being computer, computer science, right. I had a MIS major and a computer science minor, but I always gravitated toward that business side. I enjoyed the development piece, but I didn’t want to be doing development at my desk all the time.
Jeff Richardson (06:56):
One of the client interaction and I had opportunity to have client interaction in that world but not as, not as much as I would have wanted cause I was more on the technical side of the team versus the business administration side of the team. So I think living and seeing the consulting side kind of helped prepare me. And then when I started investigating the real estate piece like, Hey, this is a great way to marry both of those out. Like you know, we’ve spent time recently in the car. That’s great time for me cause I’m with a lot of times friends and people that I enjoy and I’m out outside getting to know them better, spending time with them but also hopefully impacting their lives and their organization too. So it really married up well. I can’t, I can’t profess to say that I was smart enough to figure that out earlier, but the way it kind of unfolded, it’s really been right. It’s been good.
Matt Hyatt (07:48):
So you’ve gained an interest in real estate, particularly commercial real estate. I know that. I think, I know that CTR was founded by two others. How did you get introduced to that team? How did that work?
Jeff Richardson (08:03):
Very funny story. Yes, the, my business partner now Rob Coatsworth or you know Rob was one of the founding partners of CTR back in 1993. Our other wow. Good long time. It’s great. Yeah. We’ve been, you know, 25 years plus. His partner at the time, Kevin Murray, who the three of us became partners after I joined the firm for a few years, he and Kevin started the firm to focus strictly on what we talked about earlier, focusing on the tenant or virus out of the market. There are a lot of organizations out there, especially in real estate that try to do a whole lot of things. Right. We wanted to be very careful and be very intentional with whose side of the transaction and whose team are we really on as opposed to, you might be driving around seeing our signs everywhere, but then we’re trying to help you find something.
Jeff Richardson (08:50):
And how does that make a company field or am I only seeing what you have or are we seeing whole market? For instance, we had a client reach out to us, this has been a couple of years ago, but we had not worked with them before, but he wanted us to help him on their lease renewal. So we were looking at that and also looking at options in the market. And he had worked with another firm in the past and he said, well, he goes, they did an okay job, but I was working with them at one point and I drove up and their company is listing the building we’re driving up to and I don’t know who, who can I trust you not to talk to these people and you know, or who’s really, who’s my advocate, right? So we really want to take that off the table.
Jeff Richardson (09:28):
And Rob and Kevin specifically when they started the firm. So they started that in 1993 I joined them. I’d been in real estate for about a year working on the other side of the table. I worked for a landlord and a developer for about a year doing some marketing of his buildings, but also doing some third party representation. It’s a very funny story of how we got connected. The gentleman that I worked with at the times, great man, he really wanted to do development. He wanted to have brokerage as part of his organization because he had always known brokerage, but he was also a scratch golfer and he comes in one day from a golf tournament and I’m working away and it was just me and him. He goes, I met some guys that want to hire you. What your employer. Yeah. Which obviously as you said, took me by surprise.
Jeff Richardson (10:19):
There’s two things wrong with that one. Is there something you need to tell me? And to having met these gentlemen, so I don’t know what you mean. So that kind of went away and a few months later he comes back from another golf tournament. So I ran into those guys again today and they want to hire you. Wow. So long story short, we set up a meeting. My boss and I go into meet with Rob and Kevin who were working partners together at the time and my boss said, well, we’re going to go with them, go to them. And look at merging our organizations. So we’ll represent landlord, we’ll do landlord work, they’re specializing in tenant work and we’ll come to come together in one shop. I’m like, okay. So we go to meet with them, sit down, and literally in the first five minutes of the meeting, it was very clear that they had no intention of doing that.
Jeff Richardson (11:08):
Oh really? Huh? And they asked me in the meeting, do you want to come to work for us? With my boss sitting wow. To my left. Yeah. So as a young green, just young guy in general and green to the real estate world, I didn’t know what to do. Long. Again, I keep saying, long story short, I’m trying to fast forward some of this, but he was really looking out for me. He’s like, ah, you’re my boss. He’s like, I don’t have the bandwidth that it takes to keep you busy and to have you make a living for your new family. And I know these guys do and I know that they will help mentor and shape you. So I owe him a debt of gratitude. And I’ve expressed that to him in the past. So Rob, Kevin and I started talking. I came on with him shortly after it had there ever since.
Jeff Richardson (11:54):
So that’s been 15 plus years we’ve been together my goodness. Yeah. So kind of a crazy story how it came to be before it was, it was an odd situation. I really did not know how to respond to that, but I am very thankful that I had really three people looking out for my best interest, which is what we try to do now for folks who are working with us.
Matt Hyatt (12:16):
So, so other than young green families starring Jeff Richardson needing a job, what was the attraction to CTR and what Kevin and Rob had started?
Jeff Richardson (12:28):
Great question. One thing, and this kind of dovetails into being young and green. I knew that I could go there and really be mentored. I knew that they cared about people. I knew that they wanted to do business the right way. And I knew that they wanted to, they weren’t looking to hire me as just another agent, if you will.
Jeff Richardson (12:48):
They were very strategic in how they grew their company. They had kind of resisted growth. We’re a very small firm and that’s intentional. We tell clients that all the time. We’ve had larger firms approach us numerous times over the years, even before I was there. And since I’ve been there, Hey, we love what you guys have created. We love your relationships, we love your model. We want to fold you into our organization. And that’s not really our heartbeat. Our heartbeat is to be a small company that we can, we can sit down and spend time with clients. And a lot of times it may not be talking business. It may be talking family, it may be talking faith, it may be talking, you know, health is whatever that is. We want to be available to do that and not have more bureaucracy holding us from that.
Jeff Richardson (13:31):
So it’s been very strategic to remain that way. But I could see from Kevin and Rob, their desire to really have succession planning and it wasn’t, Hey, come in and be a partner. Wasn’t that you had, they’re much, much older than us. Right, right, right, right, right. There was definitely for our audience, they’re not that much older, just say they are. But yeah, obviously you have to earn those things. Right. It’s not something that’s given, but I could tell that they had a longterm commitment to the process. Right. Which attracted me as someone who was new, but also I could just tell they approached business and relationships the right way. And that really was the, the piece of the puzzle. And fast forward a few years after I was done a partner, my wife and I were going to an event one evening and we were just talking about the company and you know, kind of the structure and I made a comment to her and this is something I tell people a lot and I was like, you know, we have the business. Rob and I could go sell bicycles if we needed to sell, but that was the illustration I used to just pull it out of my brain.
Jeff Richardson (14:37):
But we could go do a lot of different things cause we have the people part figured out. I can trust him. Hopefully he can trust me and we know that each of us are going to be pulling the same direction. We know that we can trust the other to do what they need to do. That to me is the essence of a good organization. We are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, there are times I’ll get frustrated. I’m sure he gets frustrated but we know at the core that we can lean on each other and that we’re going to put the client first above our self-interest. Right. So that’s really I think the secret sauce of a lot of organizations. And I’ve talked to people who haven’t gotten that right and it can be a very long and arduous road either when it unwinds or to deal with that in the midst of it. So I’m very thankful for that.
Matt Hyatt (15:26):
So I’m curious from the outside looking in and I feel like I’ve got a pretty close view of your organization, your team, it seems like you’re a purpose driven values based organization. Is that something that’s sort of wear on your sleeve? Is that something you’ve sat down and said, okay, this is our purpose, these are our values or is it more just kind of who we are and we come in and we’re here we are who we are. Was there an intentional sitting down and figuring out what those purpose and values were?
Jeff Richardson (15:59):
I would say both. And I think there is some intentionality behind that. Not, not in a way to be something we’re not, but in a way that we want to make sure that we’re communicating to the community and the clients that we serve of really where we stand.
Jeff Richardson (16:18):
So there is some intentionality about, okay, what do we communicate? How do we communicate that effectively? But we’re a very, I would say almost a laid back organization. The fact that we just want to be who we are. It doesn’t mean that we don’t learn. We don’t be better and we don’t try to new things and we don’t innovate, but we also are comfortable. We want to be comfortable with what we’re called to be doing and Rob is really a good reminder for me and hopefully I’m for him of in those times where it’s easy to shy away from that. Okay, really what are, we’ve talked about this, why are we really here? And there are too many instances and I’m sure everyone has those right where you’re, you’re doing something with business that might be buying a car, it might be buying a computer, whatever it might be.
Jeff Richardson (17:08):
You’re dealing with people who are only interested in what they’re getting from the transaction or from the relationship. We’ve all been there. That’s life is too short for that from our perspective. We, we were walking through a place yesterday and it was, it was an old, it was a commercial property, whether it was a house on the property and it made me realize it was an abandoned house and I was standing on this back porch thinking, man, how fast this goes. There’s trophies in the floor of their kids. There’s things that have just been left behind and it makes you realize how quickly this life passes and how quickly the transaction passes. But the relationship should withstand that. And if we can continue to focus on that, I think that serves our clients better. And I know we enjoy that more. You don’t become best friends with everyone you work with. We hope to, but we want to go into every relationship with that intent. And, and, and hope and pray that maybe that does happen.
Matt Hyatt (18:09):
Right. So, and I think it probably often does. My observation.
Jeff Richardson (18:13):
Yeah, it does. It does a lot. And it’s very rewarding when that’s the case cause it just, it just makes life more enjoyable and it does. And candidly, it helps out hold us more accountable. I mean, if you’re working with a friend, you got a lot of accountability there, right? It’s not just, Oh well if this customer or this client isn’t happy, we’ll move on to another customer. Well it’s deeper than that. Like I don’t want to lose my friend over this either. So there’s also built in accountability for us when our, I mean, we want to do that for every client, but as you get to know deeper that person, that, that helps everyone do their job better.
Matt Hyatt (18:52):
Yeah, yeah. I can see that. You know, just this morning I ran across a well it’s a YouTube video and I don’t know if you’ve heard of this Fire movement, the financial independence, retire early fire, right. I’ve not heard of this movement. So this is a, well, you know, we’re probably too old. We’re past that. We’re past all of that. But I was watching this video and the guy was talking about is it possible to retire early without the financial independence? So if you are ready to live the lifestyle of a retiree, but you don’t yet have the financial security to do that without some sort of income. And so he’s basically talking about, well, you know, my wife and I, we bought ourselves an Airstream and we travel around the country and our Airstream, we live a sort of our retiree lifestyle, but they’re earning money through posting YouTube videos and blogging.
Matt Hyatt (19:46):
And probably other resources. I, I only watched it for a couple of minutes, but the point he was trying to make was a lot of folks believe that their career is this thing that you sort of have to do to get set up for a retirement later. And so we’re going to do the hard work and the heavy lifting now so that we can enjoy life a little bit later. And his point was, look, maybe you can do both. Maybe there are ways that you can build a career and still do the things have the freedom that you might enjoy in retirement. And I just, you know, I liked that and what I thought to myself was, okay, well, I, you know, at least in my case at Rocket IT, I’ve, I’m pretty darn happy doing what I do. And and there is a freedom to spend time with my team or to spend time away from the team. You know, those things that can happen. And it sounds like that’s similar to what’s happening in CTR is you guys are building a business where you’re happy to come in and be yourselves and enjoy those relationships and the freedom of deciding what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do while still earning an income. I wouldn’t call it a retirement life just yet, maybe but a very enjoyable life that also happens to pay the bills.
Jeff Richardson (21:08):
Completely agree with that. And we talk about that in organization in the office a good bit because we do the same thing with vacations. I mean, how many people do we interact with? And then I’m guilty of this too of, you know, we work a lot of hours each week and then we can’t wait to get to the vacation to, to not work. But we put ourselves through all of this, sometimes pain to get to that point. And again, to me life is a little bit too short for that. What, what are we living for in those months before the vacation? I don’t, I don’t know what I would do in retirement and I’m not, I don’t consider myself a workaholic, but I enjoy the, the relationship side where I have a place to go every day. I have relationships to deepen, I have clients to serve. And if I just walked away from all of that and played golf or went for runs or whatever, what would that be rewarding? Would that be? I don’t think so. It would be for awhile. Yeah. But I agree with you. I think, I think how we very blessed and very fortunate to be able to, to be balanced in that, in that perspective. Yeah. So like, so I would agree.
Matt Hyatt (22:26):
Awesome. So for our listeners, I’ll just say, here’s the experience that I had with CTR. I, I actually, I’m trying to remember, it has been a quite a while ago, but my recollection is Kevin and Rob and I were all at a chamber event and they reached out to me after the event and said, Hey, we’d like to get to know you to come out to the office. And I did. And we sat down and we just spent a little time getting to know one another. I got to see the office, hear what you guys do, hear what I do. But I didn’t leave that meeting thinking, Oh, they were trying to sell me or the, you know, they were trying to close a deal or anything like that.
Matt Hyatt (23:08):
We felt like they had a genuine interest in me and I had a genuine interest in them. And we walked away with a new acquaintance that we continue to nurture after, after that. And eventually that led to, Hey, I’ve, I’m going to move, I’m gonna move my office from one building to another. I need help finding it. Who do I know? And it didn’t take long to say, Oh, there’s, there’s a Rob and Kevin over at CTR, I’ll give them a call. I like them, I trust them. I just need some help. So I’m going to call them and get some help. And that worked out and they were able to help me find a new space and it all worked. I did find myself after that thinking, huh?
Matt Hyatt (23:53):
Was that the plan all along that I fall into that clever trap. Right? But, but it felt very genuine to me. It felt very real. And you know, I’m in a high trust business also, by the way, you know, folks, folks don’t just hand over the keys to their IT infrastructure without having some trust in place. And so I think you and I have that in common and that we’re both on this high trust fields. And so I love it and I’ve emulated some of that in my own organization of, Hey, I want to make sure that I’m building real relationships with members of our community. I think people do business with people that they trust and that they like. And if we are just carrying out who we are as people, then the business will, will come, you know? And that has turned out to be the case. So that’s kind of a statement of what I experienced. The question is, is is that something you’ve codafide what’s, what’s your process? How do you establish trust in a community? What is your process for building relationships?
Jeff Richardson (25:00):
Well, first of all, I want to say I’m, I’m thankful that you took the time to come to that meeting and I think that’s exactly w look, we are not salespeople. I mean is there an element of sales to our daily life? Yes. I’m not wired as a sales person. It’s not my makeup. I never thought I would be doing it. My dad owned his own company. He got a paycheck every two weeks. I mean, I never thought I would want to be the owner of a business when I watched what he did and watch the hurdles and the struggles that were there. So I don’t see myself as a sales person and let’s go out and get to the next transaction, the next transaction, next transaction. We have built our business over time based on those interactions. And there’s countless meetings where we just, we truly just want to get to know this person.
Jeff Richardson (25:53):
And there’s, I mean numerous times we’ve met with people the same story. There was no real estate requirement even on the horizon. But we enjoy this person and we get to know this person. And then months or years later they go, Hey, we have requirement. Can you come work with us and help us with it? Or I know somebody that does. Right, right, right, right. Exactly. And there’s out. You asked if we codified that. I don’t know if I would go that far. I just think that’s kind of our DNA. We’re relational beings and that’s what excites us, so we just spend time doing that. The challenge, I think that a lot of organizations feel today and you got, I’d be interested to get your opinion on this, on what you to see. Even in the last 10 years, right? In the last five years, our world has become so much more fast paced.
Jeff Richardson (26:41):
Technology has changed at even in that short of time that you know, years ago it was kind of expected to take a meeting when you didn’t have a requirement necessarily. Right. Let’s just get to know this person are, especially when you’re a smaller community, let’s just get to know this person well. Those times and opportunities have shrunk and our busy lifestyle, it’s hard to have some to get someone to have lunch, just to have lunch sometimes. Right? And that’s a struggle for us because I think not just how it impacts maybe our business, but I think it’s a struggle for us because it’s a, it’s kind of a glimpse into what our society is becoming, how, how deep or our relationships or are we just having lunch with somebody when we need something? Right? And that’s something we have to battle against because people think, Oh, you’re calling me because you, you think you may think my lease expires in a year.
Jeff Richardson (27:32):
Right? Well, most of the time I notice I have no idea when their lease expires or even if I did, I don’t trust that date anyway. So it really doesn’t matter. So I, I think that’s just a little disturbing on our society overall is trying to find those times to connect. But that is how we built the business over years. Do we do prospecting? Of course. I mean that’s part of business and we try to do that, but we really enjoy those times where we get to meet someone with nothing on the table and they call us in six months and say, Hey, come in and do this. This happened with another client just a couple of years ago. The same thing happened and we’ve helped them renew their lease. We’ve helped them expand their lease and they’re raving fans. So we love doing that.
Jeff Richardson (28:15):
And then hopefully even more enjoyable is when we’re able to have once with somebody and they say, and I’m sending on you need to meet. So and so just what you’re saying. I love getting the phone call on the way home from John who says, Hey Jeff, I met Rob or I met Rick today and that’s fantastic. Well we’re going to do business together. Well that’s again, that’s what our community is suppose to be. And that person to person connection I think is important. So I don’t know if I answered your question, but that’s the, this is what we’ve experienced. I feel like.
Matt Hyatt (28:52):
Right. So, well, you know, it reminds me of our mutual friends, at GiANT Worldwide. We both know that organization. They have a saying a relationship before opportunity. Right? And I think that’s so important. There are we’ve become a very transactional society and I, you know, we were, when you were talking I was just thinking about all right, I’ve got, and I’m sure you do too.
Matt Hyatt (29:17):
We probably all do a mailbox just full of unsolicited invitations for lunch. Right? Quick five minute chat, quick question, you know, that sort of thing and far and away they are all, yeah. I want to talk to you because I saw this thing and I think you might want to buy it, right? I mean that’s what it is. It is transactional on its face. It is transactional on its core and there’s no interest, there’s nothing around relationship there. And I’m not going to respond to those emails and not going to respond to those phone calls. It is rare, I think for someone to reach out and look to build a mutually beneficial relationship with no expectation of opportunity. And part of it is maybe a sign of the times who’s got time for that? Right? But what I love about you and about your team is that you have codified that you know what, we’re, we’re not, that’s not us.
Matt Hyatt (30:20):
We’re going to pursue the relationships and we’re going to believe that the opportunities will come along. That was a great way to be.
Jeff Richardson (30:29):
I would agree. And I’ll, I’ll give Rob credit for this is a number of years ago, we were just talking through this subject again and trying to, I think the best way to approach it. And he said, you know, I just feel like, and from a faith standpoint is I just feel like God’s telling me that we just need to love and serve people, whatever that looks like, the rest of that will take care of itself. And now it may be somewhat of a simplified approach. We’ve just added a new person to our team who came from more of a corporate world and we were talking today and he loves that and he’s like, that’s my heartbeat. But sometimes people are looking at that and say that that’s, that’s too simple.
Jeff Richardson (31:10):
Like that’s not, that’s not a process, but it reminds me of what my job is every day. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that. Do you hope it impacts your bottom line? Of course. But that’s not what you, that’s, that’s not the number one thing. What I’m, what am I, what am I being called to do today? How am I supposed to serve someone else? And if I can do the right thing in that, regardless of the outcome, I can lay my head on my pillow at night and be okay with it.
Matt Hyatt (31:44):
Awesome. So, so I’m glad you mentioned a new team member because that’s one of the things that I wanted to ask you about is as, as you build your team, and I know it is a small organization, but can make it actually harder to add a team member and integrate them if adding one person is a 20% increase in the workforce, that’s a big deal.
Matt Hyatt (32:08):
That affects everybody. And so how, how do you, how do you use your values and your principles to integrate to select someone and to integrate them into your team?
Jeff Richardson (32:23):
That’s a great question. We are not always good at that because you’re right, we’re an organization where if you hire someone, that person can’t go sit in the cube and hide. I mean, there’s six of us in our office. Not too long ago there were four or five of us in our office, so have we always got it right? No, but in the last few instances we have seen where those people have crossed our paths and when they have, we’ve known we need to make room for that person on the bus, right? We, we don’t have, and a lot of real estate companies and a lot of companies overall, especially sales organizations grow because they add salesperson after sales person after sales person, after sales person, they say, Hey, you guys go figure it out.
Jeff Richardson (33:09):
We’re going to sit here and open the checks when they come in. I mean, that’s a lot of times the way it’s done. And going back to how we started the conversation. That’s not the way I was brought in the organization. I was brought in the organization very specifically and very thoughtfully on, okay, we’re gonna, we’re gonna teach this young green guy how we approach relationships in business, which I was already had that a lot of that was already there in me, but wanted to see it in that real estate world. We have decided over and over again that we’re not going to go hire the guy we’ve met with people who have, from a sales standpoint, have a spectacular resume. If you did a test, if you did a personality test on them, they would qualify as a very hard charge or sales oriented person, but when we have lunch with them, you can very easily tell it’s not about the relationship, it’s about the transaction and it’s about what am I going to get from the transaction and the approach to the relationship prior to the transaction is not what we would want to have said about CTR.
Jeff Richardson (34:16):
Again, I want to caveat that as to say we are not perfect and we did not get this right all the time. There are instances where we have failed at this, but that’s our heartbeat and that’s our goal. But for instance, we’ve hired two gentlemen, one about three years ago one just last week. Wow. Who is, who joined our organization and they’re both wired in a way that they love to connect with people, but they don’t do that in a, one of our values. By the way, don’t do that in a salesy way. Hey, I just want to know you. Let’s connect. And that, that’s very, that’s who they are, first of all. So it’s rewarding for them and I think that sets our business up for success going forward. We’re not going to approach it as a, as a salesy pitch meeting every time we’re talking with somebody.
Jeff Richardson (35:05):
Yeah. We want people to know what we do. But finding those people who have that heartbeat is hard to who have the go get it attitude which every entrepreneur needs, right? That’s what these guys. These guys are entrepreneurs. They’re able to build their own book of business as part of the firm. And we all work as a team and we all pull the same direction, but they also have that very important man, I care about the person. And the last guy we, we hired, I’ve had numerous people tell me, I’ve known him for a number of years. I have numerous people tell me. He’s like, man, he just cares about me. He just cares about me. And regardless of a business transaction, I don’t have many people who take the initiative to call me and ask me how I am. So those guys are doing that and they believe in those relationships. And I think that is, that’s, that’s the secret sauce I feel like because when you find somebody like that, but it’s hard.
Matt Hyatt (35:59):
So my guess is the sum of our listeners are probably thinking to themselves, one, wow, that’s a really slow way to grow an organization. If we’re not going to be hard charging, we’re not going to be focused on the transaction. If we’re going to be focused on building relationships and then just believe that some sort of magic will happen and re and those transactional will come. You know, there’s probably some skepticism there. And then I would think that the other part of it is also maybe a some skepticism of I, yeah, that’s not going to work if I, if I call up you know, if I’m Matt and I’m calling up Jeff and I don’t know you, Hey Jeff, my name’s Matt. I’m with Rocket IT. I’d love to just get to know you man. Right, right. We got just hang out and go have lunch or whatever.
Matt Hyatt (36:45):
I’m thinking a lot of folks are gonna say that would never work in my organization or that would never work in my life. My point in that is that I have experienced this. Do you guys have been at it for 26, 27 years? I’ve been out of it about 25 years. It is not the you know, to borrow the the company rock rock rocket ship right into the stratosphere of building a business. But what I like about it is I think it builds a business that has staying power, that is less susceptible to market conditions and you know, whatever happens to be going on in the news that day. If you’ve built a business built on relationships. And I think that that is the kind of business that can withstand whatever the economy is doing, whatever’s happening outside of that relationship. Would you agree with that?
Jeff Richardson (37:37):
I would agree with that. And a lot of that is out of our hands too, right? I mean, it’s, we’ve been blessed. Um but it, it isn’t the end. And there’s an ego thing with this. I mean, like I said, we just brought someone in from a large corporate setting who was leading a sales team and there’s all kinds of metrics. There’s all kinds of reports, there’s all kinds of stuff that goes on with that. Welcome to the world headquarters. Exactly. Exactly. And there’s a lot of ego challenged to me going, I’m bringing this guy in who’s a lot smarter than me and another, the other gentleman we brought in three years ago, it was a lot smarter than me and a lot of different marketing ways and things like that. But I’m hearing these guys say, man, this is so refreshing because we’re, we’re leading with the right things first. Right. What I will say as far as regard to staying power, I would like to sit here and take a lot of credit for that and yeah, we’d done this and this is what happens. That can change tomorrow. Right. Who knows what can happen. We all have hold this with an open hand, but I will flash back to the recession. We had a lot of people ask us, man, how did you guys survive, you know, 2008 and 2007 and what happened?
Jeff Richardson (38:46):
Yeah. And our story is, man, we were, that was probably one of our busiest years we’ve ever had. Right now that does.
Matt Hyatt (38:53):
And there probably were opportunities for both that are, yeah, downsizing or moving to a different space.
Jeff Richardson (38:59):
There were a lot of, we, we were very, very busy. Now does that translate to the best bottom line we’ve ever had? No. And was it always fun projects? Nope. We had friends calling to say, man, we didn’t do anything wrong but our market is gone and we’ve got this building and we don’t know what to do with it. And it was a lot of hard conversations and it hurt because your friends were going through hard times. But from they still called us like, Hey, I trust you guys. I need somebody to bounce this off of come talk to me about it. Right.
Jeff Richardson (39:30):
So I think that speaks to the level of trust that was created through those years when things were good to where people did call us. And a lot of times, you know, people, and th this isn’t necessarily with your question, but I think it’s related. A lot of times our clients, they don’t want to move. Right. And I’d tell him, we just, we just moved three years ago. Like, I don’t want to do that. Right.
Jeff Richardson (39:56):
But they call us and say, Hey, we need help figuring this out. And a lot of people think, well, I don’t really need to engage a real estate company unless I want to relocate my business. You really need a real estate company if you want to stay where you are or if you want to relocate. And I say, you want a real estate company you can trust, right? Because a lot of times landlords, will only, they’ll do better deals for new companies coming into a building and they will for existing companies. And we try to help level that playing field. So a lot of times people call and say, Hey guys, we don’t want to move, but we need you to help us with this. Right. And figure that out. And that’s another instance of that where they trust us as a, Hey, we value your opinion, not just, Hey, we need to move. We value your opinion on what, what do we need to do?
Matt Hyatt (40:40):
So, absolutely. Well, you know, speaking for my own personal experience you know, at least a space, I have a renewed an existing space with moved out of a space and bought something. So I had several different experiences over a long period of time. And the thing was, is that, you know, out of probably thinking maybe there were four or five transactions over a span of 15 years or so, probably three or four of those were, I’ve done this, this is my first time doing this. I’ve never done this before and this is my first time. So I don’t know what I don’t know. Right. I don’t know the questions to ask. I don’t know what’s normal. Something that seems perfectly reasonable to me might be completely out of the stratosphere with what the norms are. So I need somebody, a trusted person that can be an advocate for me really to say, okay Matt. Yeah, yeah, you’re, what you’re saying here makes sense.
Matt Hyatt (41:39):
But yeah. Did you know that here’s an opportunity. There’s an opportunity that you might not considered. And by the way, that thing, that other thing that is on your list probably not going to happen is nobody ever does that. You know, it just helps to have that. Absolutely. And so again, I think that’s where the trust relationship comes, but that that does bring a question is, you know, we know the golden rule but how important is it and how do you go about putting yourselves in the shoes of your clients to really go to bat for them as if it was affecting you personally. That’s something that comes easily to you. Is that something that you have to struggle with?
Jeff Richardson (42:21):
There are days it comes very easy and then there’s selfish days where it comes hard to, they’re very transparent and it’s like there are days where, and that that goes back to our partnership and our team because we all are very transparent and we’re all, we’re all working as a team. We’re not siloed. We help support each other. It doesn’t as an impact compensation, it’s just we’re all in the same team. I need that as a human being because there are days I walk in the office going, man, I just want these three things to happen today because it benefits me. It’s just a challenge. Yeah. So I don’t want to sit here and say, Oh well we got all that figured out and it’s easy and we always do that. But I have a group of people holding me accountable to that. It’s good.
Jeff Richardson (43:03):
Just the other day, there was a situation that came up and it was a frustrating situation for me, someone to walk to my office just talking about something else. I was like, I got to have a servant attitude about this. Like I gotta have a servant attitude about this particular problem. And it is sometimes fighting your humanity, if you will, and your selfish nature. But we know how, how, how do we want to be treated, right? I mean, if I went somewhere and I wanted someone to help me buy something and I didn’t trust that they were putting my best interest, they just wanted to check from it. I wouldn’t sit there. And, and, and to your other point, it’s a slow way to build a business. Well, if I kill a referral that’s killing my business. So if I don’t put your needs first, not only is it not the right thing to do, it also impacts me negatively because you wouldn’t use me again if I was not looking out for you.
Jeff Richardson (44:06):
So there have been times where we, we just met with a client and the last year I said, man, we need to look at this and what do we need to do? And we’re like, I wouldn’t do anything right now. You got plenty of time. The market, you know, we’re all, everyone asks me all the time, well, what do you think about the market and the elections coming up and what does that mean? Like if you can sit and wait a little bit, I would sit and wait a little bit. So it’s telling people the right thing, not telling people truth is not telling people what either they want to hear or what you want them to hear is telling them to the truth.
Matt Hyatt (44:39):
I love it. So we’re, we’re getting close to the end of our time together. But I do have a couple of questions for you on one on that topic is, you know, we were talking about that when, when I came to you various transactions, many times I didn’t, you know, I had never done it before.
Matt Hyatt (44:55):
And so tell me about that client education component is, is that something that you have to be very intentional about? Is that okay, I’ve got, you know, here are the nine things that every customer needs to know, I need to teach them these things, or is it more, I’m going to listen for the opportunities and step in what, how, what’s your process there?
Jeff Richardson (45:17):
Usually listening because every client is different. We have clients have done this numerous times yet they still come to us and ask us for our opinion. And there are some reasons behind that that we can unpack. But really it’s listening and trying to understand where that customer is, where that client is and what has been their experience. And then again, we’re, we don’t come in and beat someone over the head with, with what we think is right. We share our opinion and we share our professional experience with them.
Jeff Richardson (45:45):
You know, the, the perfect scenario is when someone invites you into a relationship to help you, have you helped them with something and they listen to you. Yeah. But I want that listening to be when they’re ready. So sometimes you kind of have to buy your time a little bit. Yeah. You have to be patient and, and candidly, I love the folks who’ve never done it before because it takes me back to where, wow, I can, I really can add value here. If someone has done it before, they know what to ask now they need to know what the market’s doing. And we add a lot of value. I don’t, I don’t mean we don’t add any value, but it’s fun to see those people who haven’t done it before. It goes, Oh my gosh, this is overwhelming. What do I do? How do I do this?
Jeff Richardson (46:32):
And then to step into that and try to calm that storm and bring things to a finite point that’s really enjoyable. I love that. But it is great when they invite you into the process and they listen. When you tell them something, it doesn’t mean they have to agree. Right. But let’s have a conversation. What do you think about it versus, well, this is what we’re going to do and we’ll, but you invited us in, like, I’d like to share with you what we think, you know, so, but there’s always that, that listening part needs to come first. Does that answer your question?
Matt Hyatt (47:03):
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, Jeff, look, this has been great. I do have a couple of sort of lightning round type questions for you. Uso I am curious,uwhat are you reading right now? What’s, what has your attention?
Jeff Richardson (47:12):
I was afraid of, you’re asking me that question. I have three kids under the age of 12. So you’re reading children’s books? I’m reading children’s books at bedtime and then I can’t hold my eyes before you have those kids. You were reading children’s books. Those are coloring books. Yeah, I unfortunately don’t have a lot of capacity right now to read. I’m reading some things through some church related, this stuff I’m doing, but it’s not really book stuff.
Matt Hyatt (47:39):
Are you a podcast guy, YouTube?
Jeff Richardson (47:43):
I do listen to some Podcasts. My wife and I have a we usually watch it like one episode of a show a night just to kind of, once the kids are in bed, unwind, we unwind a little bit. Yeah. So we’re doing some flashbacks to some shows that are older now that we’re going back and re watching like Friday Night Lights and some other things. I do listen to “Stuff You Should Know” Podcast, if you ever listen to that.
Jeff Richardson (48:06):
It’s, it’s very interesting. It talks about random events in history or random things that have happened that are just very peculiar and interesting, which I find interesting. So I’ll listen to that. And then this is a podcasts that kind of opens the door on my upbringing, but there’s a Marty Smith’s America if he knows this or not, but it’s a guy on ESPN guy, but he’s how the rural West Virginia raising and he talks about stuff that I experienced as I grew up. Oh really? So in Alabama. So I listened to that just because it’s entertaining and funny. And so unfortunately, not a lot of time for reading or if I do have time, I can’t keep my eyes open to actually finish the books.
Matt Hyatt (48:50):
Right. Well look, I’d love for you to share a how folks can reach out to you if they want to get to know you. Go have lunch. Oh boy, your phone is going to be ringing off the hook. That’s right. What’s, what’s the best way to reach out to you, Jeff?
Jeff Richardson (49:02):
Uh two ways you can email me at Jrichardson@ctrpartners.com. Or feel free to just call my cell phone or text me. That number is (404) 313-1298.
Matt Hyatt (49:22):
Wow, that’s brave. That phone’s going to be ringing off the hook. That’s, that’s fun, right. That’s awesome. Okay, well look, on that note, I think it’s time to wrap things up. Jeff, from myself and our listeners, thank you for joining us today.
Jeff Richardson (49:36):
Thank you, Matt. I really enjoyed being here. I appreciate the invitation. Good to see you.
Matt Hyatt (49:40):
To our listeners. Thank you for tuning into the Rocket IT Podcast. We hope you found today’s episode insightful and inspiring. Quickly a plug for Rocket IT. We work with businesses, nonprofits, and municipalities in the area of it security strategy and support. To learn more about how Rocket IT can leverage your organization’s technology, keeping you ahead of the competition, visit rocketit.com again, should you have any questions about today’s discussion, email us at email@example.com or catch us on any of our social media channels. Thank you.