Over the past 20 years, Todd Glidewell and Bill Powell of C&I Appraisal Services Inc. have seen firsthand the commercial real estate market’s peaks and valleys.
Todd Glidewell is president of C&I Appraisal Services Inc.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
In 1991, when the pair founded the firm, the market was in a growth mode. That continued through much of the 1990s and into the 2000s, until 2007 when the market began to decline, said Glidewell, C&I president.
“When I first started in the business, the late ’80s was a difficult market that I didn’t have enough business to know how bad it was. I was just trying to make a living,” Glidewell said. “But I’ve never experienced anything like the past four years. I’ve basically had to relearn many parts of my job as an appraiser.”
C&I, which stands for commercial and industrial, visits with small-business owners on a daily basis. Besides Glidewell and Powell, the firm employs seven.
And just like the clients it serves, the firm is keeping close tabs on increasing efficiencies and cutting costs in a dour – and seemingly stagnant – economy.
“We all have the same problems right now – we have no feel for a direction in this economy,” Glidewell said. “The politicians are at a stalemate on a lot of these issues, there seems to be no effort to improve our job growth. Companies, big and small, have a difficult time making decisions on capital investment because we have no feel for the direction of where we’re headed. A lot of businesses can’t invest in buying real estate because they don’t know what new regulations are going to be put in place over the next year.”
To combat that sense of uncertainty, C&I tries to reduce its debt in every way it can and is constantly shopping for better pricing from its vendors.
“Those are the things that we have to do,” Glidewell said. “I’m fortunate that my business has remained steady through a down economy, but I’m hesitant to hire new help. To bring in a new employee to become an appraiser, it’s a five-year process to train. I’d like to at least have a sense of direction for our economy first.”
The majority of C&I’s work comes from business the firm has developed over the years or from referrals from brokers or existing clients. That’s why C&I is a corporate sponsor of the local chapters of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors and Certified Commercial Investment Members, and has been a long-time contributor to the Memphis Area Association of Realtors Commercial Council’s annual commercial property forecast summit.
And while those advertising dollars may be an expense upfront, it’s well worth the return on investment, Glidewell said.
“My sponsorship there not only pays off in that I’m in front of those guys, they know who I am when I call them for information, but it’s also a way for me to thank them for the help that they do give me,” Glidewell said.
The company has a website, but Glidewell said C&I’s single-best marketing tool is its quarterly newsletter that’s sent out to 800 contacts and then posted to the website.
Technology has helped C&I do more in less time, but that’s a double-edged sword, Glidewell said, especially for a small-business owner trying to stand out among the competition.
“I used to deal with a lot of people one on one when loan officers or customers would call and ask for pricing on a job,” Glidewell said. “But now, all of these banks and financial institutions have a central ordering process – they’ve taken the loan officer out of the equation. So I get an email to go and log onto a website and it’s a blind bid process. It’s taken a lot of the personal relationships out of my business and made me more of a commodity. Quality in some cases is secondary. It’s more about price and timing.”