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Going head to head with Roger Staubach

He was born Feb. 5, 1942 in Cincinnati. Twenty-one years later, he won the Heisman Trophy, and in 1969, he began a career with the Dallas Cowboys that eventually culminated with four NFC titles, two Super Bowl victories, and a host of other all-time greats. He's been called one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but today, Roger Staubach has a new following - his customers.

In 1977, Staubach founded The Staubach Co., a real estate strategy and services firm that provides solutions for companies seeking retail, office and industrial space. Included in the services the company offers are: strategic planning, site selection and implementation, construction project management, and financial consulting and capital acquisition. Today, the company boasts more than 700 employees and its roster of clients includes Home Depot, PricewaterhouseCoopers, AMC Theatres, IBM, MCI and

NationsBank. Recently, Staubach spoke to NREI about the transition from football to real estate, the state of the industry and the successful philosophy on which his company was built.

NREI: How did you get started in the real estate business?

STAUBACH: I joined the Cowboys in 1969. Back then, they didn't pay quarterbacks what they do today. I was looking to work in the off season and I ran into someone with a real estate firm in Dallas - Henry S. Miller of the Henry S. Miller Co. I went to work that first off season in real estate, and really liked it. Once the [football] season started, I would cut myself away from real estate. I was able to work out in the afternoon and whenever I wanted to, so I really didn't distract myself from football. I just worked in the off season instead of going to golf tournaments.

NREI: Describe the transition from professional football player to professional business man.

STAUBACH: I think it would have been very difficult if I hadn't devoted a lot of energy to it while I was playing. We had success as a football team, and I had success as a player. There were a lot of alternatives that I could have pursued. But I selected real estate as my primary job, and I wanted to build a business. If I hadn't done that, I probably would have taken the easy way and done some broadcasting and speaking. The transition to go into real estate was one that I was prepared for. I wouldn't use the word, "easy," but it was something that I wanted to do.

NREI: What similarities does your current career have with your career as a professional football player? How have you used these similarities to your advantage?

STAUBACH: I was involved in a very team-driven sport. I learned that it takes a lot of hard work; it takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to get spectacular results. Things just don't come easy. I look at that time I spent in the off season and devoting the energy to our business. I found that's how I was able to participate in athletics at a high level - through a lot of hard work.

The other thing that athletics taught me was perseverance. Things aren't always going to go your way. You're going to have to improve. You're going to get knocked down, and you have to pick yourself back up. You can't quit. Business has its cycles. It has its periods of time when things are going well and you get complacent, and all of a sudden, you've got to rethink and restructure how you do things. You have to be a little bit paranoid about where your business is even when it's successful.

That old saying, 'Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it,' is really apropos in business, as well as in athletics. I guess teamwork, perseverance and hard work were things that I've taken into our business. The biggest thing is getting people to respect someone other than themselves. When you preach about the customer as the priority, do you have the infrastructure to back it up? Are your people internally structured to not only have the respect for each other but to transfer that to the customer? You have to walk your talk. That's the challenge you have in the business - to continue to develop the infrastructure to make sure you can walk your talk. It's like that in sports.

NREI: What is the Staubach culture and mission? Has it changed since the company began?

STAUBACH: I think culture is a matter of semantics. We have a major diversity program going on in the company. We've committed a lot of resources - financial as well as personnel - and we're really trying to build a culture of different people whether it's religion, gender or race. I look at culture as having a lot of smart people you can trust and believe in. There's a mutual respect that we're trying to initiate within the company that no matter who you are - whether you're the one who's bringing in the business (which, in our industry, is the one who usually got the big commission and usually got all of the credit) - it takes a lot of other people working late, putting together proposals and putting together the work that's necessary for the customer.

We have a different method of compensation; it's not just a lot of brokers making all of the money and providing few services to the customer. Fifteen years ago, that was pretty much the real estate business. You would show someone a site and a developer would pay you a big fee. Today, you are working for a customer; they understand how you are paid, and they also are asking for a lot of services and you've got to have a strong team in place to provide those services.

NREI: Why do you think diversity is so rare in the real estate industry?

STAUBACH: I think diversity needs to be improved in the real estate industry. It needs to be improved in The Staubach Co. and we're on a mission to do that. We've made tremendous strides. Personally, I think it's the right thing. I refuse to join a country club here that does not allow minority members. It's a disgrace to me in our own community here in Dallas.

As we've built our company, we've had employees hire their friends or someone who's of like gender, color and even religion, and you can hire good people that way. We've had a good experience early on as far as making sure we hire from the gender side, and we've had some extremely successful women in our company. From a religious side, I certainly want people from a mix of faiths, as well as color. I'm trying to command the respect that we communicate in our company on a very diversified basis. By making [diversity] a priority in our company, we will make strides in our industry.

NREI: What do you think is one of the biggest changes in the industry in the past 10-15 years?

STAUBACH: I was in real estate in the 1970s and there were REITs then; the REITs then went away and now they're back. This industry is a big business today, and there's a lot more outsourcing going on.

When we started people thought you couldn't exist just being a tenant/rep broker, you had to represent landlords and everyone else. Today, there's a lot more need for additional services; some companies are asking for a full scope of services, and other companies still have things in house and are asking for limited services.

They [customers] also want to use you on a national basis and an international basis. We're growing our business not just to grow it, but to meet the demands of the customer which are changing as we speak. We have a very strong financial group that gets involved with financial modeling and sale/lease-back work - things that 10 years ago, our customer wasn't asking us to do.

NREI: What is your role within the Staubach Co.? Do you see that changing in the next five years?

STAUBACH: (Laughing) My current role is to sit around and autograph footballs. That's what our competitors say.

We have an executive committee, and I have a president and chief operating officer. I am trying to devote more of my time to the customer - new customers as well as the existing customer base. I am trying to devote most of my time to our customers and also trying to convince new customers why they should hire The Staubach Co.

NREI: How has technology impacted the way you do business?

RS:We're in the middle of investing a lot of money into technology. When we made the changes necessary for a teamwork atmosphere, we also required that people share information. We were networked around the country to share information about our clients and we didn't have brokers competing against brokers. That happens in some real estate companies.

Technology has made sure that we do share our experiences and our information so we can better serve the client - whether it's in Washington, D.C. or Atlanta. We can now tell a customer the construction costs if a company wants to move to Atlanta. The information we share internally is very important.

As for our Website, we've brought someone into the company who is full-time on the creative side to improve our site and stay on the forefront of technology. We also have a full-time Webmaster. We're devoting a lot of attention and money to technology.

NREI: I understand you recently opened offices in Canada. Are there plans to further expand the Staubach Co. internationally?

STAUBACH: We have a really strong presence in both Canada and Mexico. We have a total of 34 offices in the United States. We're very involved in every major market. There's still some coverage in the United States that we're looking at. For example, we're looking to get deeper into southern Florida. We have an international group that travels with our customers in Europe and Asia who has experience in South America and Asia also. Technology and expansion internationally are two of our biggest priorities in the company as far as investing.

NREI: What specific practice areas and full-service capabilities make The Staubach Co. different from other service providers?

STAUBACH: I really feel that we're competing with a lot of smart people. They understand our business. However, I feel we have a much stronger team effort as a company; that we're using our resources and experiences and we're sharing those because of the way we're structured. We also guarantee our service. Some people have looked at that as a marketing ploy. We've had problems with a couple of customers over the years, and they've taken advantage of our guarantee - we've never had any litigation with a customer whatsoever. So the guarantee is imperative in gaining the trust of the customer. And if we're not performing, our customer has recourse on us to make sure we're giving that trust.

We have talented people, we have smart people, we have great financial people, we have engineers, we have architects and we have the resources that other companies have. But I really believe that the way we're structured. It's really the people side, the behavior and how we interact with the customer that differentiates us as a company.

When I talk about behavior, it's getting people who are looking at the value as far as what is the right solution for the customer given the customer's flexibility and creativity. You as an agent, might not benefit as much from the commission side. That's the difference - to get behavior that's trusted by the customer. I feel that's where our company's emphasis is. Our differentiating factor is that our customer is going to be able to get a consistent quality of trust.

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