Because people are at the core of Stream’s success, we’ve learned to identify the most talented individuals that contribute to our unique culture of service and leadership. As Stream continues to grow its business and people, we are taking this opportunity to spotlight our talented employees from all service lines, cities, and departments. These individuals are selected because they have had a significant impact on Stream, the commercial real estate industry and the local community.
For those that don’t already know him, we would like to shine a spotlight on:
Kyle Valentine, Regional Managing Partner, joined Stream in 2003 and is one of the founding members of the Houston office. He has strategically grown the Houston team to over 130 professionals and a portfolio of over 45 million square feet. Why did he leave a comfortable gig for the risk of starting something new? And for those entrepreneurs out there, how did he create a successful, profit-generating office from the ground-up in a highly competitive market? Those questions and more are answered below. Enjoy!
How did you get into commercial real estate (CRE)?
When I graduated from Texas A&M, I knew I wanted to get into a commission-based opportunity and CRE was a great fit because there was no cap on what I could make – it was entirely in my hands.
How did you find your way to Stream?
I started at Trammell Crow in the summer of 2000 and was there a little over three years. It was during that time that Chris Jackson and I worked together on Crow’s industrial leasing team. Chris was subsequently recruited by Stream’s founders, Mike and Lee, to join to Stream to launch an industrial division for the firm. Since Chris is married to my sister, I was naturally his first call to launch Stream into the industrial space.
You worked in Dallas a few years, grew a very successful industrial business, and then was offered the opportunity to start a new office in Houston. Why take it? Why leave a comfortable gig for something new?
Frankly, I was over-confident in my abilities. Chris and I had a lot of fun and success together in Dallas. We started with some really interesting assignments (ask Tara Elmasri for details), but we quickly built great relationships with clients and established Stream as a legitimate player in the industrial market in DFW. When you get into this business, you realize that it is more about the relationships and trust you can earn with your customers as a person. We were confident that we could win our fair share of business and we did.
My wife is from Houston and at that time, it was still just the two of us. If there was ever a right time to take a chance, it was then. Additionally, having completed a number of deals in the Houston market we (Preston Young, the other founding partner of Houston) believed we could bring something better to the table in Houston.
What is your greatest advice for starting a new office?
Work EXTREMLY hard. We worked all the time in the early days. We worked double the hours of our competition, which resulted in twice as many calls, deals and relationships. It was not easy, especially since I was beginning to start a family, but it was those early sacrifices that really laid the foundation for our culture and success. While there were some really hard days, weeks and months, many our best stories come from those early days.
Can you share one of those stories?
Well, being new to Houston and a start-up office, we were hard pressed for revenue. Our original office was in an executive suite. Pretty quickly after being there, we came to the realization that we were sitting on a goldmine. We put together a very compelling marketing piece and slid it under every tenant’s door in the executive suite. The owner was not enthused. We got a cease and desist letter the next day, and absolutely no prospects from our efforts. Got to love the hustle though!
What is the most rewarding part about transitioning from brokerage to a Regional Managing Partner, and what is the most difficult part?
It is one in the same – the people. If you look back on when we started in Houston and told me we were going to have over 130+ employees, that they were all going to have families and Stream was the source of their livelihood, I wouldn’t have believed you. That is something we’re all extremely proud of and view as our biggest achievement. But a lot of challenges come with that many people. As a broker, it can be hard to put on your people hat. Most brokers… well, most brokers are selfish. You can’t be selfish and build a successful office.
Finding strong talent is challenging and that’s part of your responsibilities as head of the office. You’ve had to hire and fire many people, which I’m sure you’ve learned a thing or two at this point in your career. How do you know when someone will be an all-star hire? How do you know when someone will not be a fit?
I’ve interviewed so many people at this point in my career that typically within a couple of minutes, I have a pretty good feeling if someone is a good candidate or not. Intuition and experience are invaluable tools for evaluating talent. Anyone can say the “right things” in an interview. To me, what you say certainly matters, but your presence and how you communicate matter more. If you are genuine and sincere in your delivery, I know immediately. That is hard to fake – and that is what I consistently find in all of our all-stars.
What keeps you motivated?
Our people. It is essential to provide them with great opportunities that they can’t replace at other firms in our industry.
Talk to us about client success.
In the early days, you had to ask and fight for it. I remember we received a phenomenal office leasing assignment with a customer due to the previous work we had done with them in Dallas. How did we get it? We set up a lunch meeting with the asset manager in Houston. The conversation went well but was generally a surface-level conversation with no real buying signs from our prospect. Before we wrapped things up, I bluntly asked the asset manager, “what is it going to take for us to win your business?” The look of terror on Preston’s face was priceless, but I had nothing to lose. I was not going to leave until she said, “it’s yours.” And she did. Our first assignment in Houston was a brand new, Class A+, 500,000 square foot tower in downtown Houston. Quite an entry into the market!
How about losing a client?
Everyone loses assignments. The key is to learn something each time that happens and try to understand what got you to that point. I’ve only been terminated on one listing in my career; I won’t name the person or the client, but needless to say, that only happened once.
With a background as a broker, what is your million-dollar advice for a young broker in their career?
I would figure out a unique angle for yourself. There are so many resources at Stream. We have great market intel. We have great marketing resources. We have great access to deal flow and comps. All the information you could ever need is at your fingertips – much more so than it was for us old guys like me, Preston or Chris. My advice is to tap into all the data and find creative ways to mine the information to provide your customers with a unique take on the market that they can’t get anywhere else.
How about advice for a more seasoned broker?
Do not get complacent. For every year that passes by, there are three up-and-comers who are willing and able to take your business. Make sure that you do not lose sight of the things you did to earn that business and keep up with them. That is how you continue to move forward in your career.
You have been at Stream for almost 18 years. What do you love about it?
The culture. And to me, that means the people I work with genuinely love what they do, and they love the people they work with. It makes it fun to come to work.