Buying a piece of land is a nerve-racking process. It is not an expense that can be made impulsively, and people proceed with a lot of reserve and caution. Generally, customers prefer to hire a real estate broker to help them in the process of making the purchase but often find themselves dealing with brokers who are perhaps more interested in making a sale than fulfilling the needs of the client. This is what sets Karen Leslie Simon apart from her peers—her client-focused outlook and willingness to go the extra mile.
Today, Karen is the President & Managing Partner of Emerson’s Commercial Real Estate in the Tarrant County Division, but it was not always so. Her coming to the real estate field has been a journey that led to having a three-decade voyage in the field. She became the first woman in Tarrant County to practice industrial real estate and the first female broker to be one of the highest producers state-wide in the industrial department of Henry S. Miller, then the largest real estate firm in Texas.
Karen specializes in office, retail, industrial, and land sectors in leasing and sales. She has been inducted into the prestigious Marquis Who’s Who biographical registry. She was also recognized by The State Women’s Chamber of Commerce as the ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ on the basis of her position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in the field.
Karen came to the real estate business in 1983 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she was executive assistant to the regional administrator for Region 10, which was Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Louisiana. She was in charge of all public relations for the five-state region and all intergovernmental and congressional relations, and so forth.
One day Karen learned that anybody could take the broker’s exam as long as they completed the required hours, most of which she had already done. So, she took two weeks’ leave to complete her semester hours, sat for the exam, and got her broker’s license.
Six months later, at a party in Dallas, Karen got the opportunity to meet with a gentleman, who was in charge of the industrial real estate division for the Henry S. Miller company. He offered Karen the chance to open an industrial real estate section in the Fort Worth office.
After some discussion and negotiation, Karen accepted the position as the head of the industrial division for the Miller organization in Tarrant County. She says, “I was a bit unique. There were no women filling that role in the marketplace and no women filling a commercial division head role within the Miller organization. I found that in the real estate business, clients did not care whether you were male or female. What they cared about is whether you could help them, did you know enough, and whether you were willing to work hard enough to be of assistance to them.”
In the six years, Karen was with the Miller organization, she was the top producer in the division company-wide for three years. She was also singularly recognizable in the marketplace because she was the only one that was of the female gender.
Scaling the Growth with New Opportunities
In 1989, Karen’s office was closed down, and she was looking for opportunities that would enable her to maximize her value to the real estate industry. She joined hands with two other gentlemen involved in real estate and formed a corporation called The ReGroup Advisors Inc. It was a woman-owned company, and women and minorities were given preference in opportunities by the federal government at that time.
At that time, the RTC and FDIC owned a lot of real estate that they needed to dispose off, and they sent a request for proposal to various real estate companies to assist them. There were additional points for being a woman or a minority.
Karen recounts the time, “So my partners let me own all the stock, and they had profits participations. As a result, we got the opportunity to handle a great deal of real estate for the government. I learned a great deal, particularly about retail, land, office, as well as industrial.”
Karen has witnessed the rise and fall of the real estate market multiple times in her career. She has worked as the head of a division in various companies, but she was never afforded the opportunity to be the owner of the said company. It was in 2016 that she met the partners of Emersons while she was selling them a piece of land. They asked her if she was willing to open an office for them in Tarrant County in partnership. Hence, that is how Karen became the owner and partner of the Emersons Tarrant County.
Understanding the Secrets of Success & Growth
It is known that to achieve success, putting the client’s needs first is necessary. But big companies often lose sight of that goal and instead become driven by the bottom line. Karen resists that type of thinking. She thinks that Emersons’ success is due to the willingness of employees to be willing to show up when it’s not convenient, to continue educating themselves beyond the required hours, and to assist clients in any form, even if it meant they required less space.
She says, “In other words, how can you meet the needs of the people that you are working for, and how can you continue to improve your own performance? I think that sort of sets us apart, to some degree, from the big companies that sort of have a role model that you need to follow. I think that you need to see how each situation may be different and how you can best meet the needs of those different situations.”
Emerson realtors make sure that somebody is available for the clients anytime, unlike many other commercial realtors. Karen says, “If you need to see a property on Saturday, I might not be available, but someone else in the company may be. That means I actually have to split my fee because I’m asking somebody else to do something for my clients. We do it. We try not to put ourselves first.”
Karen also prefers to do as much business face-to-face as possible. Her office does a lot of cold calling on the phone and door knocking. She says, “I don’t think anything is nearly as successful as a face-to-face dialogue with tenants or potential tenants. I think it is very rare that we get hired by people we’ve never met. So, I think it’s important that we continue for growth purposes, to outreach as much as we can on a face-to-face basis.”
Karen continues, “We also try to continue to educate ourselves so that we have a good story to tell, that we know the market, and that we are able to convince people that we’re a good choice. We’re not necessarily a better choice because we’ve reached you, but we’re a better choice because we’re willing to go the extra mile.”
The values at Emersons are to be as successful as economically possible without reducing the service that is needed to be provided for clients. The realtors are very client-oriented in their outlook and never try to take advantage economically of someone with whom they do business.
Karen shares her wisdom, “I have been doing this for so long that the old saying what goes around comes around has some real value. People will look to renew their business opportunities with you if they always know that you’re going to give them a fair shake.”
Surmounting the Adversities
Currently, the real estate market is facing a lot of challenges. Karen is of the opinion that the biggest problem that they need to overcome is fear of the unknown.
“What is the future going to hold? How long will interest rates stabilize? What effect does it have on mortgages? People, for example, in the residential market have to consider that six months ago, they could get a residential loan at 2% lower or more than they are able to do it today. So that has an effect on the home acquisition, but it also has an effect psychologically on their business. How are they able to make business decisions when they’re so insecure about their own personal decisions?”
Plans for the Future
“My plan is to help the people who work with me to secure business so that they are more comfortable. To help the people that work with me to row the boat. It means if they’re here working with me, I feel the necessity to help them work for themselves. And hopefully, we will grow our business. Our volume of business. Together,” concludes Karen.