Founded in 1962 as Echols & Lynn by the late Dallas real estate icon Robert Lynn, NAI Robert Lynn is one of the largest independently owned commercial real estate service firms in North Texas. In 2020, the firm closed 1,025 sale and lease transactions totaling more than 27 million square feet.
As NAI Robert Lynn marks its 60th anniversary, Mark Miller, president, sat down with D CEO to discuss the company’s past, present, and future.
D CEO: As the firm turns 60, you’ve been with it for more than half of that—33 years. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Mark Miller: “When I started, we had maybe 10 brokers, all of whom specialized in industrial. Today, we’re closer to 70 brokers across all sectors. It’s significant growth, but it has been a gradual, strategic growth for us. My partner, George Dutter, is a fantastic operations guy. Today, we probably have 10 or 12 other partners in the firm.”
D CEO: How has the firm evolved since becoming part of NAI and expanding into different sectors beyond industrial?
Miller: “At this point, industrial transactions account for less than 50 percent of the total transactions that we do in a year. As an example, we did more than 350 office transactions in 2021. And about 15 percent of business is now outside of Dallas. It gives us a great opportunity to work together with our clients when they have requirements outside of Dallas and to work with NAI brokers across the country. We know that when we go to New York or LA or Chicago, wherever we have a client looking, we have someone there who knows the market inside and out.”
D CEO: How has Robert Lynn’s legacy, and the company culture that he helped create, been preserved throughout the years?
Miller: “I was fortunate enough when I was hired in the late ’80s, I got to start full speed ahead in the business with Mr. Lynn. He was known for his great work ethic. He was a fantastic person and a great salesman, as well. We’ve really tried to keep those same things—the work ethic, the honesty, integrity, treating people right, always doing what’s best for our client. Those are all things that Mr. Lynn emphasized that we continue to focus on today, 60 years later.
It also is important that we have his son, Tom Lynn, here with us. He’s a great leader and broker who heads up our office division. It’s great to still have that family connection.”
D CEO: As the firm marks its 60th anniversary, what do you want NAI Robert Lynn to be known for?
Miller: “The market expertise that we have is probably our biggest calling card. As we hire brokers, they’ll work a certain sector, but then they’ll also work a certain submarket, too. If I get a deal in Fort Worth, I’m calling Todd Hubbard, who heads up our Fort Worth office because he knows that market better than anyone else in the firm.
Because we are so segmented and specific, it gives us an inside track to deals that aren’t on the market yet. We can tell clients about properties that might be coming to the market in six months. We’re true market experts.”
D CEO: How has the North Texas industrial market changed since you got into the business in the 1980s?
Miller: “When when I first got into real estate, there were a good amount of individual owners. Today, Dallas has become such an industrial hotbed. Everyone wants to be here. The market ownership is much more institutional. It’s a significant change.
With an individual owner, if we can lease it and have very little vacancy and get a good rate, they’re usually pretty happy. With institutional owners, they’re talking to shareholders and they’re trying to perform to help increase their stock value. If the rates don’t meet their expectations, they’ll pass on a deal.
And if it takes three or four months to lease a building, it would be lost income to an individual owner. But for institutional owners, their performance is all about the long game and pushing those rates.”
D CEO: Where do you see the greatest opportunities for NAI Robert Lynn moving forward?
Miller: “There are certain areas where we have very good track records, but we also have great opportunities to grow. Our property management division has been around for 10 or 15 years, and it continues to grow and have a tremendous upside for us. It has certainly been a very profitable part of our company.
More recently, in the past two or three years, we’ve focused on the growth of our capital markets. We have such great market intel on the office side, the retail side, and the industrial side. There’s a lot of opportunity there. We’re working very hard on growing our capital markets team. I think capital markets has a great potential for growth for us.”