Bill Cawley: For Long-Term Success, It’s All About Relationships

Bill Cawley
Bill Cawley

The Dallas market is white-hot. Deals are floating around everywhere, and activity is at levels few have seen before. But make no mistake, it’s not about the deals. For long-term success, it’s all about the relationships.

As a former broker turned developer and investor, I have the unique perspective of having represented tenants for most of my early real estate career. So my first instinct is always to protect the tenant. It’s a hard habit to break, having been on that side of the table for so many years.

As an investor developer, there are several additional relationships that need attention. The main customer is the tenant; they are occupying the building every day. They must be our focus. If a tenant isn’t happy with their experience, they won’t be with you long. And in the office business, it’s all about keeping your current customers happy.

It’s also important to be able to convince prospective tenants to consider one of our projects. That requires a reputation in the market that you will honor your commitments made in the pursuit of the new tenant, and provide a great experience over the term of the lease.

In a long-term relationship, a lot of things change. Issues come up, and it’s about how you deal with those issues that solidifies the relationship. We all tend to deal with people with whom we have had a good relationship. Relationships drive deals. Your focus should be on the client-customer.

You might have the best location, but if you have a poor track record, people will try to find ways to avoid you. What they want and need will determine their location, but we all want to work with people that are easy to work with and do what they say they will. You must be consistently open and honest, even when giving people an answer they may not like.

Building owners are toast without great broker relationships. They have to believe in the developer’s ability to deliver and provide a great relationship with their No. 1 relationship—their client! Brokers have building owners they prefer to work with because of past experiences.Up and down the deal chain, it’s all about the relationship.

Every transaction presents many opportunities to build—or destroy— relationships: brokers, building owners, contractors, management companies, leasing agents, etc. Some ultimately benefit the customer, even though they may never have any contact with them.

I would guess every transaction involves hundreds of relationships, and each one leads to the next.

For long-term success, it’s critical to remember that you are only as good as your relationships. You must honor them, protect them, and continue to build them. Without them you are dead!