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Emmitt Smith and Partners Rushing the CRE Industry

Founders of E Smith Realty Partners Discuss Formation and Future of Dallas-based CRE Firm
May 23, 2014
What began as an investment interest in commercial real estate has grown into a second career for all-time NFL leading rusher Emmitt Smith, who joined with with several established brokers to form E Smith Realty Partners in Dallas.
What began as an investment interest in commercial real estate has grown into a second career for all-time NFL leading rusher Emmitt Smith, who joined with with several established brokers to form E Smith Realty Partners in Dallas.
Emmitt Smith is of course best known for his Hall of Fame career in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. Today, #22’s goal is to become equally well known in the field of commercial real estate, where the all-time NFL leading rusher has teamed-up with several established names in the market to form E Smith Realty Partners.

The latest in a series of companies under the Emmitt Smith Enterprises brand, E Smith Realty Partners opened in August 2013. In just under a year, Smith and his partners - Brant Landry and Sharon Morrison, have held their own version of a draft, acquiring well established CRE professionals within the metroplex. The executive trio joined CoStar Group to discuss the early success of the new firm, their business philosophy, and future goals.

Smith was quick to mention that he’s far from a rookie when it comes to the commercial real estate industry. He’s been involved in the industry since 1995 when he invested in Cypress Equities, a company that initially launched as the development affiliate of The Staubach Company, founded by another famous former Dallas Cowboy, Roger Staubach.

It wasn’t long before Smith's interests grew.

"I started following commercial real estate more closely to keep my eyes on my investments," said Smith. "As time evolved, my interest increased, and I knew I had to get the background knowledge of the business itself. While in Arizona, I began taking real estate classes and completed my courses before retiring."

Real estate quickly expanded from an investment interest into a career ambition when Smith later joined Cypress Equities in 2005 after hanging up his cleats. The relationships forged during this time, and the entrepreneurial inspiration from Roger Staubach’s example led Smith to launch his own firm following the sale of The Staubach Company to JLL.

Smith is well-aware that his name recognition from his success in the highly competitive world of professional sports was a valuable asset in forming his own brand.

"A lot of athletes get involved due to the name value, and the ability to make and establish relationships," said Smith. "But I don’t want people to think I’m just a figurehead or someone who just opens doors. I’ve taken the time to learn the business from A-to-Z: site selection, demographics, tenant-mixes and land uses."

The three-time Super Bowl champion acquired the CCIM designation, and draws on his full-range of real estate investment knowledge at E Smith Realty Partners. And as Smith readily acknowledged during our interview, knowledge alone isn’t enough to succeed -- in sports or in business.

"Execution is the most important thing that we can do as a company, or as an athlete. I don’t see it any different from what I’ve done on the football field. It’s one thing to have the knowledge of the game, but if you can’t execute, your knowledge is almost neutralized. When you have knowledge and you can execute, then you have a chance to be the all-time leading rusher," said Smith.

Execution and knowledge was evident in the strategic way that Smith and partners Brant Landry and Sharon Morrison are building E Smith Realty Partners. While a young company, the office is staffed by industry veterans.

"The company itself is young, but if you look around our office, the experience is really deep," said Morrison. E Smith Realty Partner’s team of experienced professionals has grown quickly in a short period of time, and the Hall of Famer has a firm criteria.

"We want people who truly believe in themselves; who see not only the brand, but believe in themselves, and believe in the vision of the company. We want folks who are hungry," said Smith.

"We’re committed to being a full-service national company. Our primary focus has been to get Dallas right, and then look to expand. We don’t have to hurry, but we do want to grow," said Morrison. "We hope to be in Austin and Houston by the end of 2014, or mid-2015 if we find the right people," Landry added.

From left to right: Brant Landry, Tamela Thornton, Sharon Morrison, Emmitt Smith.

The partners see national expansion potential in such major markets as New York, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Chicago, and Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia. Expansion locally and nationally is part of a selective process based on a specific culture and direction that the team says they set from the beginning.

"The ultimate deciding factor is we were very clear on the culture we wanted for the direction of the company," explained Landry. "We had a very specific and thought-out game plan that took us a year and a half to put together. Emmitt was a part of that plan from day one. We wanted to create a special place for not only ourselves, and our future generations, but for all of our employees, and their generations as well. The biggest fulfillment we’ve received in a short time period is seeing the progression in terms of the solid, quality people we have brought on."

Smith can certainly draw from 15 years in the NFL and real estate experience in creating a team environment in his second career as investor and business owner. Smith and his partners appear poised to tackle the CRE industry with the same commitment, leadership and resilience that he demonstrated during his football career.

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