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Columbia Business Monthly

#7 - RealOp Investments

Dec 28, 2018 09:12AM ● By Kathleen Maris
Year Founded: 2009
Founders: Reggie Bell, Paul Sparks, and Kyle Putnam
Headquarters location: Greenville
Number of other locations: 3 (Nashville, Tampa, and Raleigh)
Number of employees (start): 5
Number of employees (present): 30

RealOp Investments is a private equity firm founded in 2009 specializing in value-add and opportunistic investments. With deep roots in the Southeast, its investment strategy spans multiple asset classes and is based on a relationship-driven pursuit of value, not only in identifying off-market opportunities, but in creating value through innovative capitalization structures, management expertise, and the execution of unique strategies tailored to each asset.

What’s in store for your company?
Kyle Putnam (Co-founder): We are one of the largest owners of commercial real estate in Greenville and in the Southeast and are beginning to expand our value-add investment strategy into other types of assets. We expect to remain focused on growing our asset base through strategic acquisitions across the Southeast through 2018 and 2019.
 
What are your firm’s biggest challenges and how do you plan to overcome them?  
Reggie Bell (Co-founder): Having experienced a great deal of growth over the past 24-36 months, one challenge has been in finding the right talent. Our unique business model makes that even more challenging, but fortunately many of the attributes and amenities that Greenville has to offer has helped in recruiting. As with any business, other challenges include changing economic conditions, the cyclical nature of the various asset classes within commercial real estate, and the volatility of the U.S. capital markets. We overcome them by paying careful attention to those changes and being nimble enough to react when we need to.
 
What trends and innovations do you see down the line for your industry?
Putnam: One of the trends in commercial real estate will continue to be the disruption of the traditional models relating to investing in industrial and retail assets. We’ve seen across the country that big box stores are closing or downsizing due in part to the increase in online sales. As a result of this, as well as the growth of other business related to the baby boomer generation and overall economic growth, the demand for industrial space has increased dramatically. While that trend is unique to present times, the history of real estate shows that the patterns of how and where we work, live, and play as a society are cyclical.
   
How important is continued learning to your success and if so, what do you do to ensure that you are always learning about your industry, your company, and yourself?
Paul Sparks (Co-founder): There may be no greater key to success. If you aren’t keeping up with new trends and willing to follow through on new ideas, then you aren’t going to make it. That is one of the things that makes RealOp unique. We have a great blend of people with different backgrounds and experience. We learn from each other. We push each other to be better and to deliver a good experience for our tenants, investors, and communities.
  
What is your preferred method of communication — phone call, text message, email — and why?
Sparks: Anything but smoke signals work. Seriously, though, I can adapt across multiple platforms pretty quickly. I prefer text messages, because I usually have my phone with me and I prefer short answers.

Bell: Communication is a big part of the success of our partnership and business. I think sometimes we all rely on email too much, and I’m guilty of that. We’re trying to email less internally vs. getting out of our desk chairs and walking down the hall. But there is no question that a live conversation, either in person or on the phone, is always more productive. That’s my preference, but if that can’t happen, I prefer a quick text message because you can get straight to the point.

Putnam: Definitely direct phone calls. I tend to get inundated with hundreds of emails a day and it’s hard to keep up most the time. Phone calls to me are more efficient as long as there is a defined point and communication agenda. That said, conference calls in my opinion are one of the most inefficient forms of communication. Every time I get off a conference call, I usually think to myself that an hour-long conference call could have been summarized in an email to all parties.
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