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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: Karla Smith, SRS Real Estate Partners

The executive vice president and principal with SRS Real Estate Partners’ Dallas/Fort Worth office shares her best advice, her proudest moment and her hopes for the future of real estate

Retail power broker Karla Smith overcame many obstacles when she segued into real estate as a second career. “It’s a fast-paced business with deep relationships,” she says. “I was told by one firm that I wasn’t cut out to be a broker and that I wouldn’t succeed. My gut said otherwise, and I’m grateful I continued my pursuit.” Today, Smith is an executive vice president and principal in the Dallas-Fort Worth office of SRS Real Estate Partners. She specializes in big box and national tenant representation in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas and in handling dispositions of surplus real estate assets for major retailers. Smith also oversees a women’s brokerage group at SRS.


University of Texas at Dallas (BS) 


Miami, Florida


“My first job was in retail at a family-owned jewelry store. I worked in customer service assisting with purchases, repair orders, receiving payments, taking inventory of merchandise, and cataloging the quality and color of diamonds. Working there gave me a love for retail early on. It taught me many aspects of dealing with customers and how to provide service to others. I learned early about long hours, about working holidays and weekends, about being trustworthy, and about being accountable for valuable items. The most valuable lessons were how to deal with people, identify customer needs, and how to professionally respond to a myriad of personalities.” 


“The best advice I’ve received in this industry is to ‘be service-driven, not fee-driven.’ This is a unique industry with a commission-based income structure. If you focus on your clients, help them achieve their goals, and work at making their needs a priority, you will build long-lasting relationships and proudly be part of your client’s success. Fees will work themselves out. I often share this nugget of advice, especially to young people starting their career in the industry.”


“I recently went to Anguilla in the British Virgin Islands. It was a beach paradise with amazing views, clear turquoise water, great food, and wonderful local people. Our family go-to vacation spot is in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado in the small towns of Lake City and Creede. My husband’s family has been going there for 90 years, and we are happy to keep up the annual tradition with our family.”  


“Being in the simplicity and beauty of the outdoors near water. My ultimate happy place is being on the lake, but I will take river rafting or live music poolside anytime.”  


“I would do something to change the instability of brokerage fees. There is a lack of certainty in brokerage fees, and even standard anticipated fees can require negotiation. As a broker, a fee is not earned unless a transaction is consummated. I would like recognition by landlords and developers for minimum brokerage fees as part of projected soft costs. Most other professionals involved with real estate transactions such as attorneys, engineers, and architects are compensated for services rendered regardless of the project outcome.” 


“I have more than 150 pairs of shoes, and I just cleaned out my closet!” 


“I began my CRE career at UCR with mentor Jean Smith. He became my business partner and lifelong friend. His mentorship paved the way for me to establish relationships, learn best practices, navigate the CRE business, and maintain character in an ever-changing industry.”


“I used to drive my aunt’s Buick from Dallas to Houston on Interstate 45 when I was about 14 years old and way too young to drive—and with no seat belts! She taught all the kids to drive at an early age because we went to Houston a couple times a month to see family. I purchased my first vehicle on my own from a used car lot in Austin. And it was a Buick!” 


“I am most proud of my time and efforts spent mentoring young women. Although I have been committed to educating, mentoring, and collaborating with women in the CRE industry for years, I oversee a women’s brokerage group at SRS Real Estate Partners and have seen notable results over the past 12 months in the number of female successes and connections, and the number of women joining the company.” 


“If I wasn’t in commercial real estate, I would own and operate a riverbank resort in the Texas Hill Country, meeting people from all over and offering them a taste of Texas hospitality.” 


“Integrity, trust, sustainability, compassion, appreciation, and maintaining a sense of humor”


D CEO Staff

D CEO Staff

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