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Columbia Business Monthly

#2 - Sands Investment Group

Nov 01, 2017 12:43PM ● By Emily Stevenson
#2 Sands Investment Group
Charleston, S.C. 
Chris and Liz Sands, Co-Owners

Founded in 2010 by Chris Sands, Sands Investment Group is a commercial real estate firm that specializes in the buying and selling of net lease properties for private investors and institutions across the United States. The company is headquartered in Charleston, with offices across the country.

What are the keys to your company’s rapid growth?
It may seem like SIG has had rapid growth on the surface but to us, we’ve been working day and night for over 10 years to build our business. That doesn’t feel very fast to us! However, regardless of the time it’s taken to grow, the keys have been consistency and tenacity. Consistently staying focused on our goals and tenaciously pursuing them. There have been times where we’ve had growing pains and really not known how we were going to get through them but we come in everyday, stay focused and keep moving forward no matter what.  

What do you see as your company’s greatest opportunities in the future?
While we’re happy with the growth trajectory we’ve had, we also have so much more we want to accomplish. In the near term, we think our greatest opportunities lie in expansion, in all avenues of the business. We’ll be looking to grow our broker count in all our current offices, we plan on opening additional offices across the country and we also will be diversifying our product-type focus outside of just investment sales brokerage services in net lease investments.  

What are your biggest challenges and how do you plan to overcome them?
The biggest challenge in running a brokerage company is that the real estate industry is cyclical. When things are good everyone is happy, when things are down it’s a lot more challenging in all aspects. We cut our teeth during the Great Recession in ’08 and ’09 and while it was a scary time to be building a business, we also learned so much more than we would have if we had started during an upcycle. Because of that experience we know how to run things lean and mean. If we ever find ourselves in that position again, we’re confident in not only weathering the storm but expanding while others may be contracting.  

What advice can you offer someone just starting a business?
Always make forward progress. It can be overwhelming at times and easy to get paralyzed. A tactic that has always worked for us has been to work off a clear set of goals (no more than 3-5) for the year and break those down into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily action steps. Be relentless in pursuing your vision regardless of roadblocks or setbacks. You have to be willing to do the things no one else is willing to do in order to make your business a reality.  

What is your strategy for innovation?
As owners of the business, we have a very specific skill-set and objective we’re trying to achieve. Our strategy for innovation comes from surrounding ourselves with others who are specialists in what they do and much smarter than us in those specialties.  

Who do you consider to be your mentor/mentors in business?
First and foremost, my biggest mentor is God. The more I listen to Him and let go, the more success our business has had. I have also worked with a business coach for the last seven years who has helped me tremendously to stay accountable and who I give a lot of credit to for our growth. Additionally, I have a handful of clients who have become mentors to me over the years who I look up to and go to for guidance at times.  

Does your company’s geographic location offer any specific advantages?
Having offices in some of the greatest cities around (Charleston, Atlanta, Austin, Santa Monica) has been an advantage in terms of recruiting. Who doesn’t want to live in one of those places?

How many employees do you have and do you plan to add any in the coming year?
Currently we have 36 employees and we’re planning to add more in the coming year. We’re actively looking to increase the number of brokers we have in each of our offices and we’ll also hire additional back-office staff based out of our Charleston office to support growth.  

How is your company legally structured?
We have a Limited Liability Parent Company which provides the platform and services for our branch offices which are also LLCs (with the exception of our Santa Monica, Ca. location given California’s requirement of brokerage firms being corporations rather that LLCs).  

What is the hardest thing about being a founder?
The hardest thing about being a founder is taking time to enjoy successes. We have so much we want to accomplish that sometimes we forget to celebrate the wins along the way before moving on to the next thing. We constantly have to remind ourselves that it’s about the journey and not the destination. The destination will always be a moving target at the end of the day. 

What is the best thing about being a founder?
The best thing about being a founder is getting to make a difference in people’s lives. We’ve gotten to watch employees be able to propose to their wives or buy their first house because they’ve chosen to work at SIG. On the client side, we get to help them make financial decisions that can impact their families for generations to come. And through SIGives (our charitable arm) we get to do work in the community and give to organizations that mean so much to us and make a difference outside of the world of real estate.   

A close second is that we get to work together every day as co-owners. A lot of people say they couldn’t run a business as a married couple but our skill sets complement each other and we work extremely well together. To be building this as a team and know that everything we do impacts the betterment of our employees and our family is extremely gratifying. 

If you are a founder, at what point did you start paying yourself?  
After our first year of inception

How much money did you use to start your business?

Commends from Chris and Liz