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Levin Reflects on the Leap He Took with ECR

02/27/2020 ECR News

Matt Levin is hesitant to call himself successful.

He insists he’s not a perfectionist. He just has high expectations for Equitable Commercial Realty, the real estate services company he founded 10 years ago at only 27.

“I hope that what we are today is different than what we are in 10 years,” Levin said. “Not that I’m not proud of it, but I just hope that we can make an even bigger impact.”

After working for a few firms following college, Levin said he started ECR because he saw a need in the market for a true third-party real estate services firm that solely serves the needs of clients. ECR doesn’t own or develop commercial property, and Levin has no plans to do that in the future.

Admitting that this may sound contrived to those who don’t know him, Levin said he founded ECR with the intent of being truly equitable, like the company’s name suggests, and doing business the right way.

“We aren’t perfect, and we make mistakes regularly,” Levin said. “But whether that’s within our own team, or that’s with a client or another broker in the market … we try to do things in a fair and equitable manner.”

ECR has hit many milestones in its 10 years of providing property management, landlord and tenant leasing and investment sales in Austin. Patrick Ley and Jason Steinberg — two brokers who have been with ECR since nearly the beginning — were promoted to partners last year. Levin said Ley and Steinberg earned ownership in the company based on their record.

ECR has grown into a medium-sized firm with nearly 40 employees by adding a few team members every year, Levin said. The firm’s property management arm has grown exponentially and now manages more than 1.2 million square feet.

The firm also made a huge leap last year, opening a San Antonio office with five employees in the third quarter. That deal had been in the works for about three years, Levin said.

“We hope it can grow by multiples each year for several years,” he added.
Levin said more growth outside of Austin could be possible in the future. He said Houston would be a logical choice because they already have clients there. But, they would consider that when it made sense for the team, and when it would be a fun challenge rather than a chore.

Besides having a big party, ECR is celebrating 10 years with a rebranding — it will embrace the acronym and do business simply as ECR — and a relaunch of its website.

How often are you approached about selling your firm?

We get approached multiple times a year with some sort of consideration on that whether it’s an acquisition, merger or partnership. Our team has felt that we are not an infant anymore, but we are in our teenage years of our journey. We are still going. We are still growing up and figuring out who exactly we are and maturing. We are just too early in our journey to pursue that as our journey or as our exit. We are very motivated to continue becoming a better version of ourselves.

Would you ever consider selling the company down the road?

Whenever people will call, I’m always happy to have a conversation with them because I feel like, at a minimum, we can build a relationship and I can learn something from it — and they can learn something from it. If there is something that makes so much sense and hits all of the boxes, it’s good for our team, it’s fun and it’s a smart business move … then yeah, we would, and I would absolutely be open to considering it. Even if that was tomorrow, by the way. However, I just don’t believe that to be the case right now, being aware of what those opportunities would look like and being aware of the growth potential for ECR in our structure.

Outside of the office, what are your personal goals for this year?

I’m trying to have more of a focus on having a healthier lifestyle. I’m trying to exercise more. I’m trying to prioritize that in my life. I’m trying to be very present with my family and my children. I have two little boys who are wild, fun little guys. This time is a really special time.

What are your professional goals this year?

We want to get stronger in every area, whether that’s property management, whether that’s San Antonio, whether that’s sales brokerage or leasing brokerage — we want to strengthen every arm and train in line with that. I would say our goal, I know it seems really simple, is to be a better version of what we are today. We don’t have any big initiative [like opening a new office] on the horizon right now. We want to grow our client base and serve our clients better.

What’s the secret to hiring the right people?

We have learned to slow down on the hiring process. Sometimes reality doesn’t allow you to do that as much as you want because if someone is in the middle of making a decision, and you really want them, you have to move a little faster. When able, we slow down the process and we try to be thoughtful. We try to include multiple people [from the firm] in the interview process. That allows for more perspectives and that’s a helpful thing. We have to hire for skillset, but even more important than skillset is hiring for personality and attitude. We are a service company, so everyone has to be service-oriented. Once you create a culture … it weeds out those people that don’t fit.

Is there a personality trait that you think it critical to being a successful entrepreneur?

Grit is critical because with grit comes drive. But even beyond drive, with grit comes perseverance, which I believe is critical because there are going to be failures along the way. And there should be. If there aren’t, then you are not trying hard enough or trying new things or pushing the limits. If you allow those failures to take you down, then you can’t get there.

What do you like to read?

I am always reading CIA spy thrillers. Right now, I am reading a series about the Gray Man by Mark Greaney. It’s amazing. There’s nothing better than a book to clear your mind.

Matt Levin

Title: Managing principal, Equitable Commercial Realty

Age: 37

Hometown: Houston

Family: Wife, Lindsey; sons, Bryant, 6, and Bowen, 4

Education: Bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and real estate, Baylor University; master’s in finance, St. Edward’s University

Phone: (512) 505-0001


Original Source: Austin Business Journal
Header image courtesy of Arnold Wells

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