Connections is a Q&A series with some of the shopping center industry’s most notable professionals. Jeff Pape, Managing Director of the Shopping Center and Diversified Divisions at GBT Realty is our inaugural participant. We hope you enjoy getting to know our industry associates.
Where did you start your real estate career? In Rochester, NY. After working for an engineering firm right out of college for five years followed by two years as a Project Manager at the regional development firm Wilmorite, Rich Poline recruited me to move south to Atlanta and join The Sembler Company as a Senior Development Manager.
Name one person that has been influential in your career. During my six years at North American Properties from 2001 through 2007, one of the firm’s partners, Steve Lam, became a great mentor to me. I always felt he had a great balance in negotiating.
What is your biggest accomplishment to date? In my career, I hope my biggest accomplishment is yet to come; but right now, I’m probably most proud of helping GBT Realty grow over the past six years and the team I’ve helped to build here. Personally, I’m most proud of the wonderful young men my two sons have become.
What tools or resources do you engage to help you grow as a professional? Over my career, I’ve certainly read many books, but as I get older I’ve found that talking to my peers in the industry and paying close attention to how they interact helps me the most. The single most helpful growth tool I have experienced was a week-long leadership training program at the Center for Creative Leadership.
How did you land at GBT? Peter Hartman, a Partner at the Atlanta-based law firm Hartman Simons, gave my name to George Tomlin, the President & CEO of GBT Realty, when they were looking for help with the development of several shopping centers at various stages in their pipeline. After a year of talking with George, I came on board.
What is GBT’s primary business focus? GBT has always focused on retail development—from single-tenant, triple-net deals to large power centers. Over the past few years we have expended into more mixed-use projects and just last year we added a capital holdings platform that buys existing assets.
Describe your job. I focus on the development of all of our shopping center and diversified projects and oversee a great team that manages the development aspects of each deal.
Share a bit of insight into the company’s culture. The culture and entrepreneurial approach at GBT is critical to our success. We will look at any deal that we feel has a great opportunity to be successful for the company. It is also very much a family – and that all starts at the top with George Tomlin.
GBT has grown significantly over the past several years and has hired several new associates. What characteristics do you look for in a potential employee? The number one requirement is that they fit our culture. Beyond that we look for intelligent and driven people who are likely to succeed with little direction or continuous push.
What is on the firm’s horizon in 2018? A lot more of what we have been doing for the past 30 years. We expect our development platforms to remain strong and we have a newly-added acquisition platform which has a pipeline that is filling up quickly.
Are you currently looking for talent? If so, what position & what skills are important for that position? As we add more operating properties we will likely need to add staff on the asset and property management sides of our business. We will continue to look for people that are a good cultural fit and who are driven to succeed.
Do you conduct most interviews in person or over the phone or video? What do you look/listen for during the interview? We prefer face-to-face, but if a candidate is out of town we will start with a phone interview. However, we will never make a hire without meeting them in person. The most important traits I want to see in the interview process are self-confidence and strong communication skills.
Do you review social media profiles of candidates? If so, do you rule out candidates based on their online profile? We certainly look at social profiles, but have not made that a formal part of the candidate review process.
What advice would you give someone who is just entering the CRE industry? Be flexible—our industry changes constantly so if you cannot handle change, then commercial real estate is likely not for you. Always pay attention to the trends in your chosen category.
What general comments can you say about the talent within the CRE industry? There seems to be as much talent as ever; and I think millennials will succeed in taking our industry to the next level.
How does Poline Associates support your talent needs? Poline Associates is always the first group we come to for our hiring needs. They have been an integral part of our growth over the past 5-6 years. They know our culture and our expectations, so they can quickly identity qualified prospects for us.
How do you spend your free time? Sports—playing and watching, exercise, being outdoors and watching movies with my wife.
Favorite restaurant? I’m a total foodie so that’s hard to narrow down. But, McKendrick’s Steak House across from Perimeter Mall is one of my go-to places.
What are you reading now? I actually just went back to re-read Good to Great by Jim Collins. It’s been over 10 years since I read that book and we have been talking about it lately so I wanted to go back and read it again since it’s such a great book.
Favorite drink? I’m simple, Beer or Bourbon, just depends on the setting.
Best vacation you have ever taken? Renting a big ole house at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. That’s the one place I tend to totally disconnect.
Favorite inspirational quote? If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
If you had a theme song, what would it be? That’s easy. My wife is a song writer, and she wrote and produced a song for me for Christmas last year about the night we met that hasn’t made it to the radio yet, but completely fits my life. It’s called “Lucky Me”.
What keeps you up at night? Knowing all the people on our team here at GBT count on us to keep the machine going.
Favorite city? New York for visiting, Nashville to live.
Where is one place you’d like to go, but have never been? Italy, but my wife and I are going to fix that problem next year.