Chad Stafford brought a tapestry of experience to Occidental Management when he joined the company as its president in August 2010.
The 39-year-old Overland Park native and father of five children started his career with a financial advisory firm in the Kansas City area after graduating in 1992 from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in business communications.
From there he moved to Denver, where he worked as a senior vice president of strategic initiatives and acquisitions for Affordable Residential Communities. After ARC’s board ousted founder and then-CEO Scott Jackson more than six years ago, Stafford followed Jackson and became chief operating officer for Mountain Pacific Partners, a property management company Jackson started, also in the Denver area. When the recession hit, and the real estate business suffered, Stafford decided to work as a consultant, including for nine months helping a friend get a Denver-based software and Web development business, Ceylon Solutions, off the ground.
Then his wife, Andrea, learned she was pregnant, and Stafford’s life — and residence — changed.
What brought you to Wichita?
At the time, Andrea and I knew we were going to have a baby and we really wanted to be near family. We had been coming back here forever (because Andrea grew up in Wichita). And I always liked Wichita because I had spent time here when I was with ARC. We had some properties here. So we decided to come here.
So the president’s job at Occidental came after you were living here?
Just out of happenstance my resume was on Career Builder or whatever. I had a few out-of-the-blue queries. And I just got a call. I met with (Occidental Management founder and owner) Gary (Oborny) and we really hit it off. We talked a lot about real estate and value creation, finding an asset that either has hidden value, has been improperly managed … or needs to be repositioned in the market. So philosophically Gary and I were on the same page. Gary and I met probably four or five times before I took the position.
You grew up in Overland Park but you didn’t live there the whole time. Tell me about that.
I lived in London between the fourth and eighth grade. My dad worked for Trans World Airlines … and he was director of internal audit. And he got promoted to be head of TWA’s international accounting and finance, which was headquartered in London. It was a great experience from a cultural point of view, traveling, seeing things. It really kind of expands your horizons.
What is one thing you have learned from working in this position?
One of the things that is really omni-important in a small business likes ours, to make sure the lines of communication are open to everybody, and everybody is on the same page and understands the process. That is critical to running a smooth operation. … Gary and I both have open door policy. … Come in and interrupt us at anytime and we’ll help you. And I think that’s the best way to manage.
What facets of the job at Occidental do you enjoy the most?
Fast-paced and outside-the-box thinking. You’ve got to come here ready to light your hair on fire and run like crazy. And there’s not one project we’ve done that doesn’t have a very unique and creative story to it. And I like that because it is not cookie-cutter; it is come in and put your thinking cap on.
Likewise, what is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I think probably just finding enough hours in the day to get everything on my plate done.
Are you a workaholic?
I like to work hard, and it doesn’t bother me to have to come in (the office) for a couple of hours on the weekend. But when I get home from work, there’s a prolonged period of time where it’s kids … and a prolonged period of time with Andrea. I think that’s critically important at this stage of my life. And that’s my relaxing time, too.
What projects do you have coming next year?
The first two buildings (of the Offices at Cranbrook near 21st and Webb) should be done. And Northrock 14, converting that into office space.
What are your expectations for the area’s commercial real estate and development industry in 2013?
I think it will be similar to what you’ve seen this year. I think at some point people say, “I’ve waited, waited and waited and I’ve just got to go, I’ve got to move my business plan forward.” I think we feel like it’s steadily getting better, slowly but surely. And I think we’ll continue to get some of that. I just think a slower, chugging pace as opposed to a fast ramp-up.