“What is the calculus of innovation? The calculus of innovation is really quite simple: Knowledge drives innovation, innovate on drives productivity, productivity drives economic growth,” – William Brody, Scientist.
In the world of real estate, knowledge is everything. The one who knows the current market can make the best possible transaction. Especially with the new normal and the next new normal and the next, that keeps arriving. The real estate industry is in an upheaval, and the time is right to drive growth with innovation.
Karen Simon, a three-decade veteran in the real estate industry, has been driving growth at Emersons Commercial Real Estate as its President and Managing Partner. Specializing in office, retail, industrial, and land sectors in leasing and sales, Karen began her journey in the real-estate sector when women rarely opted for the path.
She was the first woman in the Tarrant County to practice industrial real estate and the first female broker to become one of the highest producers statewide in the industrial department of the Tarrant County office.
In August 2021, Karen was inducted into the prestigious Marquis Who’s Who biographical registry, where she was recognized as the ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ on the basis of her position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in the field.
Insights Success in conversation with Karen Simon get to know the woman behind the title:
Laying the Foundation
Karen started as a community college teacher, where she taught for four years before she qualified as GS14115. She gained the position of Executive Assistant to the Regional Manager for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in region 10. Karen handled the public relations and intergovernmental relations for the states in region ten, which are Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.
During this time, Karen came to know of an opportunity to obtain a real estate brokerage license, and she only needed to complete nine hours of training and take an exam to get it. She took a two-week leave and got licensed, which meant that when she got a job offer from the fifth largest real estate company in the country – Henry S. Miller Company – she immediately jumped at the chance and accepted the job.
Karen was hired by the Miller Company to create and lead the industrial and land division in the Tarrant County office. She became the first woman to lead an industrial real estate firm in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Any resistance she faced as a female in the male-dominated field was from other male brokers; the clients cared only about her competence leading her to become one of the highest producers in the department statewide more than once.
A Professional Trajectory
After six years at Henry Millers, from 1990-93, Karen became a partner and significant shareholder at the R.E Group Advisors Inc. DBA the Real Estate Group, a woman and a minority-owned company.
Post that stint; she headed the industrial and land division at Woodmont Company, managing site development and addressing the industrial needs of their retail clients.
The next 12 years Karen spent at the Bradford Company’s Tarrant County office, making it a successful venture. Still, when no opportunity for ownership popped up, she founded her own office for TIG in Tarrant County, also an industrial and office brokerage and management company.
It was in 2016 that Karen’s path crossed with the partners of Emerson’s Commercial Real Estate– Richard Webb, a former banker, and Matt Price, a CPA. They knew they wanted to form a partnership instead of an employee run office in Tarrant County. Today Emersons manages and or leases over seven million feet of assets in Texas and is a partner with Priority Properties in a company called 1045 which manages over 100 million square feet and operates in more than seventeen states.
In the current scenario of changing work trends, Karen thinks one has to be understanding of the fact that not everyone wants to come into the office and work a 9 to 5 job. People are more concerned about the cost of driving since the cost of gasoline and general expenses are 10 or 15% higher, but the same amount of work needs to be done to complete transactions.
Karen says, “We just need to get used to the fact that people dress more casually, don’t come into the offices as frequently, and prefer to do their work on their computer or phone rather than in person or in meetings.”
Gaining Tech Independence
Karen thinks that people who are less technologically savvy than others but are still receiving less direct assistance from employees need to work on honing their own skill set. This is because, in order to achieve the same goals, an employee would want more money to be physically present, with remote work being the current preference. “As a result, we must be more independent and establish our own standards for our workers.”
On Current Market Trends
Karen says, “One of the things that is happening right now is that interest rates are a little uneasy after the Fed raised interest rates two weeks ago. And threatening to raise rates again when they meet, I believe on November 1st or so. Deals that were teed up in the marketplace are questionable because, while loan rates can already be stabilized and proposed, development costs will rise as interest rates rise.”
As a result, the transaction that was once worth eight million dollars may no longer be worth eight million dollars. In other words, one must factor in the cost of interest rates not only on the acquisition but also on the development and construction costs. And whether or not rental rates will be justified if they are 10% to 15% higher than initially stated at the start of a transaction.
Drawing Inspiration and Support
Karen draws her inspiration from her mother, who didn’t retire from her profession until late in life – only when it became a question of mobility – she feels grateful for that legacy.
Karen also drew immense support from her husband, who she married at 19, as a senior in college. She says, “He was supportive of my going to graduate school with an 18-month-old baby, as were my mother and my father. They’ve always been there for me to count on, even at a time when education beyond college was not as common as it is today. And I always got the encouragement to further my education and further my career.”
Know More Than Your Neighbor
Karen concludes with advice for aspirants looking to venture into the industry, “One of the things I always say, and it may sound a little repetitive, is that you should be willing to work as hard as, if not harder than, your neighbor. Try to become an expert in a geographic area or a specific segment of the real estate market, such as retail, industrial, office, or land. Try to know more than your competitors so that people will look to you for answers. Nothing is more valid than simply being willing to work harder. Even if it’s convenient to work from home on occasion, come into the office, drive if possible, and try to know more than your neighbor.”