“No matter how hard it gets, there is always a solution to the problem, and it…
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
Thank you for having me! I grew up in a military family. My dad was in the Coast Guard and I spent most of my childhood living in Annapolis near the United States Naval Academy, with most of my friends also having parents in the military or working for other government agencies in Washington, DC. The military really was part of all facets of my life.
I was very involved in sports, playing basketball, football and lacrosse — and spending every second I could on the bay or near the ocean. Eventually I went on to play varsity lacrosse at the Naval Academy before earning my MBA from Duke.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
I am currently the head of business development and loan production for Sabal Capital Partners LLC, a financial services firm specializing in commercial real estate, lending and investing. I’m responsible for growing all areas of the company’s lending business and hiring great people to help the company flawlessly execute and build relationships.
We have always been nimble in adapting to changing market and economic conditions. During Sabal’s early years, the company’s focus was on buying distressed loans. As we continued our work and evaluated the marketplace, we saw an opportunity to offer a variety of commercial real estate lending products to fill underserved areas in the market. Today, we offer a suite of lending products all aimed at underserved niches, including small balance lending and affordable housing finance, among others. We continue to evaluate the CRE economy and our own deal pipelines to discover opportunities for other lending solutions that the market may need.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I attended the United States Naval Academy and from there was accepted into Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. After successfully completing BUD/S training, I served as a platoon officer on SEAL Team Three during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
When I went to SEAL training, I had to quickly become comfortable with a host of complex underwater tasks. I’ve always loved the water, but completing long-distance transit dives and underwater explosives training was something else entirely. The underwater component of SEAL training was the most intimidating facet of training that I had to overcome. I was forced to push myself outside of my comfort zone into a zone that was farther than I thought humanly possible. After successfully completing a few tough events, I was able to continually push through my fears until it became second nature.
When I started at Sabal, although seasoned in the world of real estate operations, work-outs and acquisitions, I similarly had very little experience in the commercial real estate lending space. I had no choice to but to put everything into educating myself in the industry. This continual drive to learn, grow and never feel like I knew enough helped me to achieve an impactful role as a partner at one of the leading commercial real estate lenders nationwide. In both of these cases, I had to overcome my fear and put the time and effort into becoming an expert in something that was initially completely unknown to me.
I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
I saw acts of heroism nearly every day when I was in the military. From the helicopter pilots extracting teams from combat zones to the aircraft carrier flight deck crew, I don’t think you have to be in the combat battlefield to be considered a hero.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
To me, a hero is someone who is selfless and goes above and beyond to help others.
Going above and beyond what is expected of you is something you can also incorporate into your everyday life and career. For example, Sabal prides itself on extending superior customer service to our brokers and borrowers every day. We want to make their experience working with us seamless and worry-free, and we do everything in our power to make that the case.
Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?
I do not think you have to put your life on the line to be considered heroic. You can be a hero in your own community by volunteering at a local domestic violence shelter, hosting a donation drive for the homeless or accompanying a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment. To me, these everyday heroes are making a difference in the world.
Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be calm in the face of adversity: In Iraq, we were landing in combat zones without knowing what was going to happen or what intelligence we might not have regarding the situation on the ground. It’s very important to stay calm and set the example for the team so you can make the right decisions regardless of what surprises come your way.
- Selflessness: From looking after your swim buddy to supporting your teammate on a mission, in the military it’s critical to think about others before yourself. This applies in the civilian world, as well. Training and supporting others will only benefit your team in the end. Both in the military and at Sabal, my team truly has become a second family and there is an implicit level of trust and selflessness as we work together toward a common goal.
- Surround yourself with great people: Know what you’re good at and in which areas you need help. Hire people who are better than you at certain aspects of the job and with different core skillsets to ensure you have a well-rounded team. I may be great at developing relationships and driving revenue, but we also need team members who are experts in due diligence and operations. Everyone has been carefully selected for their role in the organization and we work hard to grow the team with individuals who have different skill sets to enable us to excel and learn together.
- Be prepared: Know your equipment, know the plan and don’t second guess yourself in the heat of the moment. When you’re under water in the middle of the night, it’s easy to second guess your plan and let fear kick in, but you must follow through. The same is true in the business world. Don’t let distractions or curveballs deter from the ultimate strategy.
- Perseverance and hard work are essential: Getting through SEAL training and what followed in the SEAL Teams was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It taught me the value of persevering no matter how difficult the task at hand.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
My experience in the SEALs gave me the mindset that no matter how hard it gets, there is always a solution to the problem, and it will end. It gave me the drive to push through when situations seem unbearable and to accomplish what I never thought possible. In both the military realm and in civilian life, trust is so important. At Sabal, my clients and colleagues trust that the team and I have the work ethic to persevere and find solutions to all kinds of challenges and opportunities. Whether it’s helping a borrower secure reliable financing for a workforce housing project or launching a new debt solution for core commercial real estate properties nationwide, my SEAL training has prepared me to navigate all aspects of the business world.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
After my deployment was over, I essentially had to take five steps back in order to take 20 steps forward. I knew I wanted to work in real estate, and that I needed to start from the ground up in order to truly learn the business and be successful. I went from being an officer in the SEALs to working as a real estate analyst surrounded by people much younger than me. At the same time, I started attending business school on the weekends in order to get up to speed.
In the military it’s all about execution, physical ability and endurance, while in business my day-to-day is focused on how grow the business and drive revenue. Yet despite the differences, many of the underlying qualities that made me successful as a SEAL — hard work, a shared purpose, calmness under pressure — have also helped me succeed in the commercial real estate lending industry.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In 2019 alone, Sabal has launched two new lending programs to help finance commercial real estate projects nationwide. Our Commercial Real Estate Loan Program is an expansion of our existing suite of multifamily offerings, allowing us to serve as a the single-source lender for properties spanning student housing, self-storage, multi-tenant office, multi-tenant retail, mobile home communities, mixed-use and more. Our single-source model is key because it means that we have more skin in the game for the entire life of the loan and thus we are ultimately committed to the success of the loan. This benefits our borrowers tremendously.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
The first step is finding the right people for the right positions. From there, you must learn to delegate. It’s a challenge for many leaders, but it’s key for your team’s growth and for the scalability of your business. Give your team the resources they need to thrive, and don’t be afraid to push them outside of their comfort zone.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
The most effective way to manage a large team is to set short- and long-term goals. For the Sabal team, that means clearly defined monthly and yearly goals for outreach, client meetings and new deal creation across each of our loan programs. I have individual meetings with each member of my team every other week to check in, as well as team meetings every Monday. These individual and group touch-points help ensure everyone’s roles and responsibilities are clear and fosters a collective sense of purpose toward our common goal of serving our customers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mom and dad helped me get where I am today. They always pushed me to work hard and do things the right way. Every weekend instead of sleeping in and watching cartoons, we would get up early to mow the yard, rake the leaves and do other chores. This discipline helped me succeed at everything from hell week to closing a major deal at Sabal.
My parents also imparted the importance of family. All of our vacations and holidays were spent surrounded by family, and we never missed a chance to spend time with my aunts and uncles when we had a day off. This taught me the importance prioritizing the meaningful relationships in your life, from family and friends to coworkers and clients.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As Tom Peters said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” I like to think that I’ve helped my team at Sabal work toward a common goal of being more effective, efficient and profitable while at the same time fostering their independent development as leaders.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would inspire a movement of gratitude. People aren’t always thankful for what they have and those in their lives who have helped them get where they are today. Being thankful opens so many doors in your professional and personal life and inspires selflessness, which we certainly need more of in this world.
A small act of expressing gratitude each day, whether it’s telling a colleague how much you appreciate their help or providing a referral for a friend, can do wonders for your happiness and long-term success.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The SEALs have a saying that “The only easy day was yesterday.” It’s important to give everything you have to what you’re doing each day. When you work hard to continuously improve, every day will bring challenges but also so many opportunities.
“You’re always moving in one direction — forwards or backwards” is another valuable quote that has informed my way of approaching life.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to sit down with Warren Buffet or Bill Gates and pick their brain about how they’ve grown such successful companies and gotten where they are today. How do they maintain success in the face of adversity and continually evolve their business to win in a constantly challenging universe?