Editor's note: This story has been changed to correct a quote from George Laham, regarding thinking big.
Three longtime developers who are part of a local group that call themselves the Dirty Dozen discussed their careers and experiences at a breakfast Thursday morning at the Wichita Country Club.
The breakfast, organized by Wichita State University’s Center for Real Estate and attended by more than 100 commercial real estate brokers and agents, was part of the Kansas chapter of Certified Commercial Investment Member’s Commercial Real Estate Week events.
George Laham, Bill Farha and Herb Krumsick spent most of an hour reflecting on their careers and things they have learned about investing, brokering and developing commercial properties. Those are among the topics that the Dirty Dozen discuss when they meet informally each month.
Laham, whose retail developments include Bradley Fair and Regency Lakes, said he’s the youngest member of the group.
“I was 7 years old when I joined,” Laham said, prompting laughter in the audience. “Actually I was 32. I always thought I was the greatest beneficiary of the group.”
One of the lessons Laham said he has learned from Krumsick is to think big. “He’s really good at reminding me I never think big enough,” Laham said.
What he’s also learned as a developer is to be patient. “If you’re going to buy land for speculation, don’t sell your tractor because you’re going to be farming it (for awhile).”
Laham said he also took Krumsick’s advice early on to live below his means.
“When I got in the development business, instead of raising my standard of living I took most everything I had and invested it in 13th and Greenwich (the Plazzio development), 21st and Greenwich (Regency Lakes) and 21st and Andover,” Laham said, later adding that 21st and Andover “is coming. I still have my tractor out there.”
Farha said he’s learned that it’s best to develop in markets he knows, such as Wichita and in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which he came to know pursuing his master’s degree in business at Southern Methodist University.
Farha also cautioned the audience not to over-leverage themselves because it’s “the kiss of death in bad economic times.”
“The bad economic times eventually come,” he said. “If you don’t owe money, you can survive those economic situations.”
Farha also advised the audience to consider the worst-case scenario going into each real estate deal, “so you can live with” the decision to invest or not.
“This is a great business,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Krumsick told the audience that growing up poor in Pittsburg, he was determined to change his economic status as an adult.
“I decided I was going to be a millionaire at a very young age,” he said. “It wasn’t a question … I was going to do it.”
Krumsick said setting career goals and reviewing them quarterly leads to achieving success. “How do you know where you’re going if you don’t have goals?” he said.
He also advised the audience to pick something in the real estate business and become a specialist in it. For example, he said Laham is known as a specialist in retail development, while Colby Sandlian is known for his expertise in the self-storage industry.
“Name the generalists you know that are successes,” Krumsick said. “When somebody says your name … you should be known for what you are.”