The past several years saw many commercial real estate service firms retrenching. Yet while its counterparts were cutting costs and announcing mass layoffs, Transwestern found itself doing just the opposite. The Houston-based commercial real estate services, investment and development firm took advantage of the dislocation in the market to embark on an aggressive growth plan that, according to company officials, has positioned it well for the upturn.

While the private company doesn’t report earnings, president and CEO Larry Heard reveals last year was a record-breaking one for Transwestern in terms of profits, and “I believe in 2012 we will report our highest gross revenue earnings in the company’s history. That is with significant investment tied to it, but it’s indicative of the kind of growth we’ve signed up for and the quality that we’ve continued to insist upon from a service delivery standpoint for our clients.”

Today, Transwestern boasts over 1,800 team members in offices in 33 cities nationally. Through the second quarter, the firm has 271 million square feet under lease and management; 1,312 projects completed or under way; and a track record of 19.9 million square feet of leasing transactions closed, with $2 billion in investment sales and financing transactions. It counts some of the biggest names in the institutional investment world among its client base, and Transwestern professionals are on a first-name basis with decision-makers at many of the largest and most sophisticated commercial real estate owners in the world.

But the numbers tell only part of the story. The bigger part, any Transwestern executive will tell you, is about the firm’s relationships—with its clients, with its partners and within the team itself. In an industry that thrives on relationships, it’s critical for a service firm to remain cognizant of the importance of those relationships.

“We’ve always described our vision for Transwestern more in terms of the character of our organization than in growth metrics,” says founder and chairman Robert Duncan. “We’re more focused on creating a working environment that brings out the best in our people, and we measure our success more by what we call the smiles on our clients’ faces than by statistics. Like any company, we have our areas of improvement and we’re always working to become better, but we’re always about the people, culture and the teamwork.”

Duncan relates that Transwestern’s mantra, “Bold Vision/Noble Mission” is repeated often within the company. “Our methodology is empowerment and the bottom line is performance. We believe that by doing the top-line things really well, we’ll consistently deliver bottom-line results. We have an ambitious vision for the company, to be the number-one real estate value creator in America. And our vision is to set the standard in the industry for quality service by bringing out the best in our people. In short, as long as the firm works to fulfill its mission, the growth will take care of itself…


…To read the rest of the story, please visit the October 2012 issue of Real Estate Forum.