Best Practices

Art Ramseur, S.E.C., who left Coldwell Banker to form his own office recently reached out for ideas and experiences on building a good team for his new venture. Art says that he already joint ventures many of his clients and projects with Jack Harper, Debbie Biegler and Caroline Du, but he would like to hear other folks processes and thoughts on organization building.

Best Practices interviewed three Society Members known to be part of outstanding organizations. This column shares the ideas of these leading SEC real estate executives for all of us to learn…

The first is Harry Kennerk of the Sycamore Capital Group, LLC. Harry is located in the Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville and specializes in project development, apartments, industrial properties and creative ventures.

BP: Harry, share your thought process on building a team or forming a company?

Harry: I have tried to understand what makes organizations work effectively. Every project has specific requirements, but most business activities require three elements: an entrepreneur, a manager and a technician. The entrepreneur sets the vision and sees the opportunities, the manager runs the business, and the technician performs the detail tasks. Each role requires specific skills and talents.

Sole practitioners fill all three roles. Each of us is better at some roles than others. As the business grows, we need to determine which role or roles we want to retain and which role or roles we want to assign to others.

BP: What specifically do you do when you decide to bring another person into a project or company?

Harry: First you determine exactly what you want done. When I say exactly, I mean that you need to not only know the tasks you want done, but how they are to be done, the order, and the time frame. Next you must be able to very clearly and definitely convey that information to another person. The level of clarity you can bring to this discussion determines the level of understanding the two of you will have, which in turn helps you decide if this person can successfully fill the role you need. During the process, the interviewee, may provide some insight you had not considered and a synergy can be created

Often you look at resumes and are very impressed by the accomplishments of someone coming from a large corporation. There is no footnote showing the resources behind him or the leadership over him. Folks from major corporations come from a different culture and you have to tutor them into your culture.

Once a person is hired, you cannot abdicate our personal responsibilities. Many people do not succeed because they lack direction and energy. In Visioneering, Andy Stanley tells about Nehemiah who lived in 500 BC. Nehemiah built a wall around the city of Jerusalem. The book tells why this man could perform a task expected to take years in only 45 days. Nehemiah was able to cast his vision so the right people understood it and it energized those people in such a way as to empower them.

BP: Any other good books?

Harry: I like the E Myth by Michael E. Gerber. This talks about the three roles of business services.

BP: Any last thoughts?

Harry: A lot of good partnerships and businesses not succeed because there are too many people with the same skills, often too many leaders. There is an old Chinese proverb, “Only one tiger to a hill.”

Harry is getting to know a lot about tigers, since he is joint venturing with DePaul University to bring the National Tiger Sanctuary to Lake Perry, Missouri.

What do Donald Trump, Woody Allen and Rudolph Guiliani have in common with Tom Langel? Aside from being innovative leaders, they all love Manhattan. Tom is a real estate developer in Manhattan, Montana. He is the founder of ReExchange and Trade Tracker, two Internet information systems to stimulate marketing and exchanges.

BP: Many of us have been very impressed by the Trade Tracker team. They are tech savvy young people who can actually communicate with the rest of us. Their excitement and dedication is infectious. How do you find and keep such good folks?

Tom: Security and confidentiality are important in both real estate and high tech product development. I look for a high level of loyalty. Sometimes that is easier to find in smaller communities.

BP: How do you screen for loyalty?

Tom: It is not easy. When I interview people, I listen very closely to how they describe their previous relationships. In many ways, it is like counseling clients. In the end you just have to go with your feelings.

BP: Your people also seem very happy in their positions.

Tom: I try to find each person’s niche. If they are in a place where they can succeed, they will not be faced with a lot of negativity. Often when you are trying to create something new you go down a lot of dead ends, this can be very discouraging. I like to make certain that we do not push people too far from their ability and comfort levels. This allows people to really grow.

I also think it is important to work around minor flaws. All of us have our warts and it is best to overlook the little things. You need to find a person’s best qualities and focus on them.

BP: Tom, this is good advice for any relationship. Thanks

Next Best Practices went to Pasadena, California, to talk with the lady who found and hired Jackie Hellingson, our Executive Director. With a credit like that I knew she would have some good advice on building a team. Margaret Sedenquist is the founder and owner of Mohawk Management.

BP: Margaret, why did you name your company Mohawk?

Margaret: Unfortunately, there is no wonderful story. We were sending out bills and we needed a name. I wanted something easy to remember and easy to write as payee on a check. My secretary said, “We are located on the corner of Mohawk and Rosemead, let’s name it Mohawk Management.” I didn’t have a better idea and it was easier to spell than Sedenquist.

BP: What is the first thing that you do when you need to fill a position?

Margaret: I look for talent… nothing can replace it.

BP: What makes the different between an organization being great and second rate?

Margaret: Every organization needs a purpose, a vision that all the members of the group can independently hold. To accomplish this the organization needs a really good sales person. Someone that knows the purpose and the ideas of the organization and is able to articulate them in such a manner that it unites the group.

BP: Setting the vision is often the definition of leadership.

Margaret: Leadership needs to be more than setting and articulating a vision. It also needs to set the standard of ethics. We are seeing this failure now in many of our national companies. Vision starts at the top and so do ethics.

BP: When you begin a project, how do you find your team?

Margaret: I often begin with my Rolodex and look at the people I already know. Many teams come together for a single project. That is when it is important to have built a strong foundation of integrity, so people will want to join the team and share the vision.

BP: What advice can you share on retaining good people?

Margaret: You need to compensate people fairly and regularly. Money is necessary for most people to live, but compensation goes beyond just dollars; it includes paying respect to people for the work they do. Nothing beats genuine interest and concern for the people that help you every day.

BP: Any last bit of advice?

Margaret: Yes, it is important that team members like each other and enjoy working together. It is also best if they don’t like each other so much that they begin dating. The team begins to suffer even before the romance ends.

BP: Speaking of romance, we need to find a more romantic or exciting story of how you named your company.

Art, I appreciate your question and hope you are able to use some of the advice.

Send column suggestions to Vicki Yeomans at or call 713-529-6677.

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