VOL. 127 | NO. 211 | Monday, October 29, 2012
SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT
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SPECIAL EMPHASIS: Office & Industrial Real Estate
Connecting Tenants With Space Keeps Acker Robison Thriving
By CHRIS MCCOY
For 11 years now, Acker Robison Realty has been helping businesses around the Memphis area with their commercial real estate needs.
The boutique firm, founded by Michael Robison in 2001, handles the full gamut of commercial brokerage services, representing landlords and tenants, purchasers and sellers in the office, industrial and retail sectors.
Though he is firmly entrenched in the real estate profession today, Robison got his start in the working world in a very different capacity.
“I worked on Front Street in the cotton business for about 10 years,” he said.
But when the cotton industry experienced a downturn, Robison decided to make the change to real estate, and in 1989 he left Memphis for Florida. His stepfather worked for a real estate consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale, and Robison joined him there to learn the business.
Two years later, he returned to Memphis to ply his trade, and by 1993, he was employed with FedEx’s properties department. At that time, Fred Smith’s giant was expanding, and that kept Robison busy.
Michael Robison and Acker Robison Realty specializes in commercial real estate brokerage and consulting relating to office, industrial, investment and retail properties.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
“I was involved in both the World Tech Center project and the corporate headquarters,” he said. “Most brokers don’t have the luxury to work for a big corporation and work on deals of that size. It was a very educational experience for me.”
By 1998, he had learned all he could from working at FedEx and decided it was time to move on. He spent a brief time at Trammell Crow Co. before moving to an economic development post at the Greater Memphis Chamber, where, over the course of three years as the Collierville liaison, he oversaw that city’s growth.
“Then I decided it was time for me to hang my own shingle and move out on my own,” Robison said. “It was pretty frightening to give up a regular paycheck.”
But ultimately, the 2001 decision to be his own boss proved to be the right one, and Acker Robison has remained successful through the economy’s ups and downs.
“Real estate is a tough business,” Robison said. “You have to go sell yourself to someone, generally, to get a listing or a representation agreement. But at that point, you haven’t yet made a dime. You just have the opportunity to make a commission. So, the field of real estate is unique in that respect.”
Even though the licensing agencies do not make a distinction between residential and commercial, Robison noted there are vast differences between the two disciplines, and he also pointed out the distinction between commercial sales and commercial leasing.
“When people find out I’m a commercial broker, they always ask me, ‘Have you had any sales recently?’” he said. “Well, the bread and butter of commercial real estate is not really sales, unless you’re in investment sales, which are generally done by larger brokerage firms. The bread and butter is leasing.”
“Real estate is a tough business. You have to go sell yourself to someone.”
Founder, Acker Robison Realty
Robison said his specialty is connecting commercial property owners with the right tenants, and vice versa. And it has kept him thriving in a slumping marking.
“I just try to be honest and sincere and explain my expertise and describe what I can do for them,” he said. “But you have to get them to open up and tell you what their needs are so you can fully understand.”
In the future, Robison said he hopes to expand his company by representing more tenants as the market improves.
“A lot of people miss out on adequate representation,” he said. “When you try to explain it to them, it’s much like if you’re trying to buy a house, you can go stumble around yourself looking for properties and read the paper. But it behooves you to have an agent who has access to a database of available properties and understands the market.
“Having grown up here, and being in this business for close to 25 years now, I’ve got a good handle on what the market rates are; what you can expect to pay, rent-wise; what kind of concessions and incentives are available out there; and what the competition is offering, as well as awareness of where the heavy traffic counts are for retail.”
Despite the difficulties presented by the current economic downturn, Robison said he remains bullish on the Bluff City and its commercial real estate market, thanks in part to the arrival of a new interstate looping the metropolitan area.
“We face some income and demographic challenges,” Robison said. “Memphis doesn’t have a lot of disposable income. So there are a lot of parts of this town that are going through a renaissance of re-tenanting. But it’s a great city. I’ve lived here most of my life. I feel like there’s a lot of potential for growth here, especially with the coming of I-69. I think it’s going to be a great boon to the vicinity and spur a lot of growth.”