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“It’s easy to look at that and say, ‘don’t disrupt things, just let this thing keep going.’ And yet for us, there was this glass ceiling that we needed to break through. And it required us taking some big risks—and that was basically building a product that would compete head on with companies that we relied on to integrate with to sustain our existing products.”
But Bateman knew Property Solutions needed to offer more than a set of peripheral applications. So the company recently developed and launched Entrada, a tier-one platform that encompasses payment processing, websites, lease execution, renters insurance and many other aspects of property management. The company, which already serves 20,000 apartment communities, is now poised for a new era of growth and success.
Chad Christensen and Daniel Shaeffer started Cottonwood Residential in 2004, but it didn’t become a major player in the tenant-in-common (TIC) real estate sector until the recession hit a few years later. As many of the company’s competitors were going out of business in 2008 and 2009, Cottonwood not only survived, but managed to consolidate about half of the national multi-family TIC market. That was possible largely because of wise decisions Christensen and Shaeffer had made before the recession began, including sticking with a single market that they knew well and starting ancillary businesses to support their properties, which provided critical income in tough times.
“We really brought a long-term focus,” Christensen says. “We weren’t just about making money today. We really wanted to build something that could last, that could be beneficial to the investors and that could grow over time.”
That kind of steady focus, along with a policy of openness and trust, have earned Cottonwood the trust of its investors, many of whom are retirees whose life savings are invested in properties they’ve entrusted to the company.
The founders of Peak Capital Partners launched their multi-family real estate investment company right as the economy was taking a dive. “We had a lean beginning,” says co-founder Jeffrey Burningham. “We started at a tough time for real estate, but we stuck together as a team, and we persisted, and we’ve now grown to close to 10,000 units in the last three years, and spinning off other business ventures to service our growing real estate portfolio—so we persisted.”
The key to the firm’s success, says Jeff Danley, is that it focuses solely on the multi-family sector, instead of trying to dabble in every area of real estate. Even the company’s investment arm—Peak Ventures—funds startups that are able to support and service its real estate activity.
“We have very complementary backgrounds,” says Jamie Dunn of the three co-founders. “If we’re able to continue growing like we have been, we hope to be one of the largest, if not the largest, owners of apartments in the United States in the future.”
RJ Masonry specializes in natural stone products and installation, as well as brick, fireplace, paver and block masonry. Vice President Paul Ballif says the company’s single-minded focus on service kept their core contractors loyal throughout the economic crisis. “So even with the downturn, we still had opportunities. We didn’t make a lot of money, but we took care of our clients and they kept coming back.”
That focus on the client is also what led the original organization to spin out two new companies: Mountain Valley Stone, a stone quarry, and Delta Stone Products, a retail yard with the largest selection of stone in the country. “The big driver behind it was basically servicing our customers, making sure we could meet their expectations,” says President Robert Hicken. When they couldn’t do that with their existing suppliers, “we internally went back to the drawing board and figured out how to meet their needs. So that’s where the other companies came from.”
Consumer Products & Distribution
A few years ago, Robert Workman was in the Congo teaching people about running businesses, but it soon became clear that the local business people couldn’t do much without reliable power. Workman created a rudimentary portable solar-power generator and soon realized that if this need existed in the Congo, it probably existed all over the world. Workman, who was already an experienced entrepreneur, launched Goal Zero along with Joseph Atkin, another serial entrepreneur. The company now sells a variety of solar and power-storage products, ranging from small units for charging a cell phone to ones large enough to power a small cabin.