From tax return specialist at PwC to Chief Financial Officer at SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler, Tyler Davis has a wide range of expertise that has served at the forefront of the company’s exponential growth. In this episode, Tyler discusses industry trends and what they mean for the future of SVN | SRD and Florida’s commercial real estate market as a whole.
Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.
Tyler Davis, CFO. I have been in this role for a little over a year now and it's been a whirlwind, but in a good way. It's been a fun year to be here. We've had a lot of exciting things happen and it has been a real learning opportunity. I've helped the company in a number of different ways. It's fun to be part of a company that's growing at the rate we are, both from a transaction perspective but also a geographic perspective. It also creates a lot of opportunity for growth within the company and it's been a joy to be a part of.
Career history. I went to Samford University for college and then did my Master’s in Tax Accounting from The University of Alabama. Then, I moved back to Birmingham and started working for PwC after I got my CPA license. I did a lot more audit type tax work than your typical tax return preparer. I did a lot of traveling and learned a lot about organization structure and efficiency and how to implement technology tools in financial work.
How did you get started at SVN | SRD? We were kind of ready to lay down some roots and have that sense of community that my wife and I had growing up. So I started talking to Dean Saunders, my father in law, and realized the company kind of had a need for somebody with my background. There were also a couple of other things that we wanted to do that we didn't necessarily have somebody to spearhead. It's taken a little while to get some of these ventures off the ground, but now things are really moving on a number of fronts.
It's been really fun to work in a family environment. If you have the opportunity to work for a family-owned business and be a part of a family legacy, it’s really fun. The neat part about it is when I'm with family, I can also talk business, but that line is hard to draw in the sand. “Where does business intersect with family?” Sometimes my wife will shoot me “the eye” if I'm around Dean like: “cut it out”. But also, there are a lot of times where Dean and I are in the car together for hours and I can pick his brain about a million different things related to real estate. So for me, it's really helped me expedite my real estate knowledge. I had a lot of accounting knowledge, tax knowledge, and financial knowledge, but I didn't have the real estate part. That's been one of the big blessings of working with a family-owned business.
Starting a fund. One of the reasons that I joined the company was to start an investment arm of the company and we had all the pieces in place to do it. If you're going to buy commercial properties, it's important that you have a great relationship with a property management company; we had that. It's important that you have good leasing agents in place; we had that. It's also important that you have a lot of real estate knowledge and years of experience. Personally, I didn't have that, but Dean Saunders has it and Gary Ralston definitely has it.
We started about a year ago, capitalized the general partnership, and have now acquired two properties. One is on Highway 27, near the Davenport area and the other is here in Lakeland. So we're raising limited partner dollars at each property and right now it's been kind of a collection of local investors, friends, and family. That's kind of how you have to start this and then it grows from there. There's different ways to scale it, but we definitely have growth on the mindset on that front.
Scarcity. There's so much cash that people are sitting on which makes it a lot easier to raise money, but it also makes it that much more difficult to find properties to buy. People are looking at commercial real estate as a way to hedge against inflation, because a lot of these leases have CPI related adjustments. So, investors now look at commercial real estate as an alternative to investing in the stock market or in the bond market.
Because there's so much capital and there's so much equity out there, it's really driven up the price of properties and people don't want to sell them right now. So part of the challenge is sourcing deals and finding deals. Thankfully, we have an office full of agents and a couple people on staff that are helping us try to source more properties, but it's still a challenge.
Connections. Successful people often surround themselves with successful people, right? High achievers don't like people who don't who aren't high achievers. People who aren't high achievers don't like high achievers. So, if you surround yourself with the right people, those people are going to surround themselves with the right people too. So it's really been a good growth mechanism for us to hire the right people, both in staffing and in terms of bringing on agents. If you bring on the right people, you're going to be successful.
Why Florida? Part of that is because we think we're in the right place at the right time. Florida is growing at a ridiculous rate and we're right in the heart of it on the I4 corridor. We're looking at Tampa, Orlando, and then Highway 27 - anywhere from Sebring to Clermont.
With all this growth, it's really interesting because preconceived notions about an area oftentimes aren't true. If you're not up to date on what's happening around you and look at things with a fresh set of lenses, you might miss an opportunity. It's like Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills, and Brooksville. Those are places that in the past, developers wouldn't have been looking at. Now, there's a lot happening in those areas.
Why create a podcast? I think this is a fun initiative in what we're doing with the podcast. There's a great opportunity for us to tell our story and each person has their own story. Each story combines into one big story of who we are, what we do, and where we're going. The ability to do it in this new office building of ours, I think is really fun.