Business Q & A

A conversation with Trent Banister

Trent Banister, vice president and general manager of Hutton Development, a residential developer, stands in front of the new Frontgate development on Central between Greenwich and 127th Street East on Wednesday. (Jan. 22, 2014)
Trent Banister, vice president and general manager of Hutton Development, a residential developer, stands in front of the new Frontgate development on Central between Greenwich and 127th Street East on Wednesday. (Jan. 22, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

Douglass native Trent Banister was a mere 17-year-old when he left home for Wichita and a real estate career he wasn’t sure would be right for him.

“My grandpa was a builder, and my dad always built new homes for us, so I always lived in a new home,” Banister said. “It was not on my radar of career choices … because I only saw the real manual labor side of it, which I wasn’t too interested in.”

Then a family friend helped him land a job as an assistant with Ritchie Development, which was building homes at Wilson Estates.

“I went out and met with them and loved what I saw,” Banister said. “(I) saw the business side of it. At that point, a whole new light was shed on the business.”

Banister’s career has taken him to some of the biggest real estate companies in Wichita, including J.P. Weigand & Sons, Slawson Cos., Keller Williams and what’s now called Coldwell Banker Plaza Real Estate.

A year ago, though, Banister took a leap and started Hutton Development with his longtime acquaintance Ben Hutton and Hutton’s father, Mark, who owns Hutton Construction. Banister is vice president and general manager of the division, which focuses on residential development. So far, Hutton Development has started a patio home development called Frontgate on Central between 127th and Greenwich where 22 of 38 homes are in the design or construction phase. Next is another patio home development that’s in the planning stages near the northeast corner of 21st and 127th streets.

“What I really want to do is really create a totally different building experience for buyers and really help them get the home they want,” Banister said.

Even though he began his career as a teenager, Banister returned to school and became a licensed real estate agent. He went through about three years at Wichita State University as a marketing major before deciding to focus on his career full time.

“Everything I did was so heavily engrossed in new home construction, I knew that was really what I wanted to do.”

You’ve always liked design and architecture, right?

“When I was a little boy, I would design my bedrooms. (I would) create all the color palettes and furniture since I was about 8. It was just something I was passionate about.”

That now translates to your job?

“I love putting together the design. … I loved working with people and helping them achieve some of their personal dreams in the homes we were building.”

How was your time at Plaza especially instrumental in your career?

“I started to design homes then. I started to really learn all the mechanics of building a home and how it goes together and pieced that with what I already knew … which was working with a homeowner to get them what they wanted.”

Did you consider doing a development company on your own, without Hutton involvement?

“Absolutely I thought of doing it on my own and developed business plans … and strategic plans to see if that would be a good fit for my family and I.”

You decided teaming with Hutton was a better idea, though?

“They’re just such a world-class operation with great leadership. The opportunity was just on a much larger scale than I was going to be able to create for myself.”

Why is your plan to do smaller, more boutique developments?

“So we can shift as the market shifts and grow with the trends and change with the trends.”

Do you have other plans for the company?

“There’s always things we want to expand into. … It won’t always be patio homes necessarily.”

What have been some of your toughest lessons this first year?

“Just to make sure that we are sticking to our business model, and we’re not trying to grow too fast. I think I have a tendency to want to go straight to the top. I know we’ll get there. … Incremental growth is what I have to stick to. … You want to get to the finish line quickly. … We’re trying to make really calculated decisions.”

Anything keep you up at night?

“More excitement than nerves by far. We’ve already in a short amount of time accomplished a great deal. When you love what you do, the lines between work and play are kind of blurred. … You kind of lay awake at night excited about what tomorrow brings.”

What’s one thing few people know about you?

“I played piano at several piano bars and restaurants to help put me through college.”

Do you still play?

“I do, yeah. I’ve been playing since I was 8.”

Is it your fallback career?

“I wouldn’t call it that, no. It’s just … kind of a stress reliever and just something I can always turn to to escape a little bit.”