NMHC Emerging Leaders Update: Greystar’s Stacy Hunt on Making Bigger Better

In This Issue:
Dallas Speaker Series: Greystar’s Stacy Hunt on Making Bigger Better
NMHC Annual Meeting: Special Emerging Leaders Registration
2014 Emerging Leaders Speaker Series[read]
Phoenix Emerging Leaders Gather[read]
How Can Your Emerging Leader(s) Get Involved[read]  

Dallas Speaker Series: Greystar’s Stacy Hunt on Making Bigger Better  

Greystar Real Estate Partners’ steady rise to the top of the podium among large-scale apartment management firms has been a remarkable growth story. Greystar first debuted on NMHC’s annual rankings of the top 50 apartment owners and managers in 1999, subsequently breaking the top 10 in 2006 and then clinching the No. 1 position in 2011 and 2012.

Stacy Hunt, executive director and head of national client relations and new business for Greystar’s management company, shared some reflections on that outstanding growth during an NMHC Emerging Leaders Speakers Series event in Dallas in November. Special thanks to RealPage for sponsoring the evening.

As Hunt walked the audience through a growth story that began with roughly 2,000 units under management early in his career to the 200,000+ units now in Greystar’s portfolio, he seemed still slightly amazed at the phenomenal growth. “It’s been a great ride,” he said with a smile.

The first big break for the company came in the early 1990s. Greystar CEO Bob Faith, then a former Trammell Crow executive, partnered with fellow Harvard Business School alum Barry Sternlicht to cofound Starwood Capital Partners, a private real estate investment firm, in 1991. Two years later, Hunt says, Faith came to him and said, “I don’t want to just be a trader, a flipper.” And Greystar as it is known in the industry today was born.  

In the 1990s, Hunt says the executive team was mostly focused on organically growing the management company rather than buying properties. “In 1998, we had 30,000 units,” Hunt said. “We [then] grew 60,000 units in 10 years. That’s hard to do in property management because you are always losing clients [through turnover].”

Growth shifted into a higher gear in 2008, when the company acquired a 40,000+ unit portfolio from JPI. The transaction significantly expanded Greystar’s footprint to 88 metro markets across the country. “We were in the right place at the right time,” Hunt said, adding, “The transition was hard. We had to go and talk to all those clients and say, ‘How do you feel about Greystar?’”

The company has continued to grow its private client base, as well as its institutional client roster. Hunt said in the past three years, the firm’s pension fund clients in particular, including GE, Goldman Sachs and a number of Canadian pension funds, have helped fuel growth. In addition, the company has entered into new product markets—the JPI acquisition gave the company entrée into the student housing market, for example—and made a leap to several international markets. While overseas operations could represent a future phase of growth, the management team is comfortable with just dipping its toes in for now. International markets have unique dynamics and constraints that take time and focus to learn to navigate with efficiency and efficacy. 

“We feel like we have the capability to understand [new markets],” Hunt explained. “But we’re going to crawl before we walk and walk before we run. … We are smart enough to know what we don’t know.” As the company has grown—along with the size of many of its clients’ portfolios—the question has arisen as to whether the company has gotten too big to service some of its smaller clients. To that, Hunt emphatically said no.  

“You don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket. Some people just go after the big guys and then, all of a sudden, I’ve no longer got good 5,000-unit portfolios in the mix.”

Similarly, with the company’s development arm actively pursuing new opportunities, there’s been some industry concern over whether the company is shifting away from its core competencies. Hunt responded by putting some numbers in perspective. “I’ve got 183,000 units under management and 35,000 owned. I can assure you we’re not going to gut the fee-management side of the business.”

But whether big or small, Hunt said that maintaining focus on the client and being a good steward of the relationship are paramount and credited them for being one of the key drivers of the company’s success; as their clients have continued to grow their own portfolios, many continue to expand their relationship with Greystar.

“The reality is that they’ve got to understand that you’re sincere, that you’re not just making them feel great because all you want is their money, their business,” Hunt said. “You want a level of trust, and it takes a while to develop it.”

 That’s why Hunt said he willingly spent $4.1 million on travel this year; it’s the best opportunity for his people to get in front of their clients, talk with them and get to know them and their businesses better. But Hunt said he had another secret weapon. “I signed a check the other day for $38,000 for pecan pies. People up north love those, even if they call them “pee-can” pies,” he chuckled. “You've got to find something to stay memorable. It’s the little things.”

And the same goes for employees. “You have to genuinely care about the people and want to see them succeed,” Hunt said. On Hunt’s must-have list for corporate success are an open-door policy and educational opportunities for employees both internally and externally. He said he often sends property operations people to go check out how the development team works and vice versa. “You want to make sure you have great people, and you want to encourage them to ask questions.”

Hunt also said it was important to recognize contributions and achievements at all levels of the company. For example, “You have to celebrate the successes of a C property as much as if it was a high-rise in downtown Houston,” Hunt said. “The managers of the C properties and REO properties—I have the utmost respect for them. Don’t let them feel like second-class citizens.”

[return to top]

NMHC Annual Meeting: Special Emerging Leaders Registration

There’s still time to register for one of the 200 special Emerging Leaders' registrations at NMHC’s upcoming Annual Meeting January 21-23 in Boca Raton, FL.

This special registration allows member firms to send one young leader who might not otherwise be able to attend given the existing meeting registration caps.   Unlike prior years, this year’s Emerging Leader registrants will have access to the entire meeting, including a special reception the first night.

To qualify, attendees must be under 40, have at least five years of industry experienceand be employed by a member firm. The limited number of spaces remaining will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

For more information or to reserve your spot, click here. 

[return to top]

2014 Emerging Leaders Speaker Series  

Planning is underway for the quarterly regional 2014 Emerging Leaders Speaker Series.

Mark your calendars. Our first event will be held on February 26 in San Francisco. Additional events will be held in Boston in May, Washington, DC, in September and Atlanta in November.

[return to top]

Phoenix Emerging Leaders Gather 

More than 25 Phoenix-area Emerging Leaders gathered at an informal networking event on November 14.  Organized by NMHC Emerging Leaders committee member Jennifer Staciokas, Lincoln Property Company’s Vice President of Marketing & Training. 

The event is part of a new initiative to encourage local communities of emerging leaders who come together a couple times a year for networking and idea exchange. Special thanks to LeaseHawk for sponsoring this first event. 

If you are interested in hosting or sponsoring an informal networking event in your town, contact NMHC’s Kim Duty at kduty@nmhc.org  or 202/974-2333.    

[return to top]

How Your Emerging Leader Can Get Involved 

NMHC’s Emerging Leader program is open to anyone under 40, with five years of industry experience and employed by a member firm. Designed to both create new networking opportunities and engage the next generation of multifamily leaders within NMHC, there is no limit to the number of employees a member firm can sign up for the program.  

Like other NMHC events, we limit the number of registrations for our networking receptions and Speaker Series events to ensure they are engaging and valuable to the participants. However, there is no requirement that the same people attend the various events. In other words, a member firm can have 10 different people in our Emerging Leaders database and a different person from the firm could attend each event. 

We encourage you to have the promising leaders from your company:  

  • Sign up for the NMHC Emerging Leaders Database
  • Join the NMHC Emerging Leaders LinkedIn Group

[return to top]