VOL. 10 | NO. 19 | Saturday, May 6, 2017
After More Than 70 Years, Colliers Continues to Pay it Forward
By Patrick Lantrip
In 1946, a small real estate company called Wilkinson & Snowden Inc. took root in Memphis as many of the city’s post-war expansion projects were just getting started. And though the names and faces have changed several times over the years, the culture of the company largely has remained intact for more than 70 years.
Founded by Robert Snowden and Russell Wilkinson in the years following World War II, the company made its first generational switch in the 1970s, when Robert’s son Bayard, Russell’s nephew Dan and their partner Gene Woods took the reins of the company.
In 1991, the company partnered with Colliers International and went through several name changes before settling on the current incarnation.
Snowden, Wilkinson and Woods eventually brought on Andy Cates and Brad Kornegay, who would eventually provide the next generation of leadership within the company when they became partners in 2015.
Cates, who joined Colliers’ Memphis office in 1998, now serves as its CEO and president of brokerage services. Kornegay, who came on board in 2004, is the CEO and president of asset services.
“It’s never been lost on me personally the amount of gratitude I have for what Dan, Gene and Bayard did when they took a risk in hiring me,” said Cates. “As long as I’m alive, I’ll never lose that gratitude. So I feel like it’s my job, in the position I’m in today, to share that gratitude with others.”
Which is why Kornegay and Cates recently decided to bring on another trio of brokers – Preston Thomas, Tim Mashburn and Andrew Phillips – as partners in order to extend the company’s culture to yet another generation.
“Dan, Gene and Bayard helped me learn how to become a professional in Memphis, and Preston, Tim and Andrew are already professionals, but I still want to help mold their careers and their futures because it’s the way it was taught to me,” Cates said. “That’s how our company is built, looking out for each other and helping each other not just figure out real estate, but figure out life.”
Though Woods passed away two years ago, Cates said that Snowden and Wilkinson are still very much active within the company and just as influential on the newest generation of partners as they were to him.
“I’m fortunate enough that Dan and Bayard are still in the office most days, so I’m able to go to them and ask them questions,” Cates said. “Dan is 79 years old and he’s still closing deals. It’s just crazy how unique of a scenario it is.”
Chairman emeritus of the board of directors
Wilkinson says he has been privileged to watch the commercial real estate market in Memphis evolve over the past 55 years, but feels like the current crop of men and women younger than 40 in his office have the potential to be the best yet.
“Our office recognized that gray hair may provide wisdom and experience, but it does not reflect the future. Colliers International in Memphis has been fortunate to attract the aggressive leadership necessary to attract new blood that will serve our community civically and for years to come.”
CEO & president – asset services
Kornegay, who came to Colliers Memphis from Trammell Crow Co., said that when he and Cates took over in 2015, the plan all along was to eventually bring in more partners.
“We want our employees to be able to grow with us and be able to share in our successes.”
Kornegay, a former collegiate baseball player, said the concept of operating as a team still remains extremely important to him and that, just like in sports, one’s actions off the field are just as important.
“I want people who are producers, not producers who have to work to be people.”
Senior vice president & principal
“It’s been extremely important to have people with that sort of history and tenure in Memphis commercial real estate. To be able to ask them questions and for them to know not only the recent history of a property, but also when it was developed, who the original developers were and all that went along with that. To see how they operate and how they do business has certainly made me a better commercial real estate broker.”
Senior vice president & principal
“Andy and I have been on a team together basically 11 years now. So between Andy and Bayard, Dan and Gene – who have literally been around since some of the first warehouses were built in Memphis, I’ve been able to get some of the best advice and experiences without leaving my office for my whole career.”
Vice president, industrial division
“Those guys literally wrote the book on commercial real estate in Memphis, so it was invaluable experience to have their knowledge. It was an unbelievable experience to grow as a young real estate broker with Memphis visionaries like that in the office with you. It gave me the tools to be successful, and the last 15 years have been an amazing experience.”