Bill Cawley: Lessons My Father Taught Me

Bill Cawley
Bill Cawley

I have been thinking about what I wanted to write about this month, and I sat down to put some thoughts on paper and realized it was the two-year anniversary of my father’s death. Thinking about that and missing him every day, it reminded me how he mentored me as a young man.

I didn’t always agree with him, but I always listened to him because I knew his focus was on helping me avoid the mistakes he made, and guiding me in the rough world of real estate. My dad gave me a few bits of advice that have stayed with me through my career and helped guide me:

1. You are not in charge. God is. You must always keep your focus on God. Honor Him in your daily life. He should always come first. It’s not about the money. God and family are much more rewarding than wealth. Work hard, but keep your focus on God.

2. You are only as good as your reputation. What you do and say matters. Do what you say, and always honor the spirit of the deal.

3. There is a direct correlation between hard work and success. When I committed to my career, got to work early, and focused my time on my business relationships, the business began to flourish.

4. Stay with what you know. Don’t get into something you know nothing about. If you do, you will have to depend on other people. If you run into trouble, you won’t know if their solution is the right one until it works or doesn’t! Stay with what your experience. It will serve you well. (This is one I have not always listened to, and every time it has not been fun!)

5. Time is risk. Real estate is a cyclical business. Markets are only good or bad for so long. You have to stay focused on the time to complete a project to minimize risk. In today’s world, there are lots of outside risks that can affect your plan. Be decisive; move quickly.

6. Why do a small deal when you can do a large one?! Larger deals are easier to do than small ones. Larger deals have less risk as well as more profit. Institutional investors have large amounts of money to invest, so it’s more efficient to do larger deals. Having an experienced equity partner can be a great help to your success.

7. The people in the deal are more important than the deal itself. If you have great real estate but the wrong partner, you are toast.

I have made tons of mistakes in my life and will probably continue to do so. I’ve found that the best solution is to work smart and hard while you are at work and spend quality time where it counts—with your family.

William R. “Bill” Cawley is chairman and CEO of Cawley Partners. Contact him at [email protected]

Editor’s Note: Bill Cawley’s firm, Cawley Partners, recently released a nifty video promoting its new projects. It’s worth sharing. Here’s a link.


  • Riis


    I lost my dad almost 4 years ago, and miss him dearly. His word was his bond, and his handshake was as good as a hundred-page contract. “A deal is a deal” was his favorite saying. I know that your dad was the same kind of man.

    His (and your) #1 on your list should be peppered throughout the list! Mathew 6:34: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all the rest will come to you as well”.

    I’m blessed to have you as a friend. Great column. Keep bringin’ it!


  • Kristen Schults

    Nicely said Mr. Cawley!

    BTW, there are MANY things that I learned from YOU when I started my career many years ago that have served me well in business and in life.

    Thanks for believing in me and for your kind words over the years.