Sharon Morrison woke from a deep sleep with a start, thinking: Emmitt Smith. The longtime real estate executive had become familiar with the burgeoning real estate career of the former National Football League Hall of Fame player and realized the pair would make a great team.
“I knew he had worked hard to get his CCIM industry designation and he was doing development and construction,” said Morrison, CEO and co-founder of Dallas-based E Smith Realty Partners. “My business plan on the service and brokerage side would be very complementary to it and hopefully vice versa, and he had a brand.
“I woke up the next day with conviction, knowing there was no reason it shouldn’t be the winning formula,” she added.
The dream turned in a yearlong conversation about the finer details of launching a new multifaceted commercial real estate firm, which ultimately began operations in August 2013.
So far, the firm has been successful, with E Smith Realty becoming debt-free in fall 2015, as the team continues to grow with key hires, such as Steve Jarvie (who is now the firm’s president), Susan Arledge and Sarah Catherine Norris.
E Smith Realty has doubled or tripled its operations each year since opening, with the firm currently employing 42 workers and brokers.
Morrison, 47, said she attributes the rapid growth of E Smith Realty to her team, which she and Smith have carefully cobbled together over the past few years.
“We have been focused on putting together a team focused on excellence and having great teammates,” she said. “It’s also been a great market, but we’ve been able to build a great company and take advantage of that market at the same time.”
We recently sat down with Morrison to discuss her team’s winning strategies and plans for the future:
How did you get into the real estate industry? I stumbled into it. I needed a job and a friend of mine was working as an intern at the Henry S. Miller Cos. and I asked if they needed any more interns. They did and the rest was history. I was originally thinking I might go into international business or be an attorney, but real estate just stuck with me.
What was the appeal of the industry for you? It’s a people business, and I also wanted to get out and make money and not go to law school. I was anxious to make a living. It’s lucrative, fun, risky and all those crazy things.
How has that risky nature of the business impacted E Smith Realty? Our business is inherently risky, with most people in real estate being commission-based, but when it comes to starting a new company or making a change, I think the majority of people are risk adverse. It’s an interesting dynamic I found over the years. For E Smith Realty, you have to be prudent about your expenses and how you grow. This business is cyclical and a real estate downturn is inevitable. It will happen. If you know something is going to happen, you should prepare for it. If you are prepared for it, you can actually take advantage of a down cycle.
Did you have any concerns as it related to starting E Smith Realty? There were no sleepless nights because of the idea – everyone knew it could work – but there were sleepless nights in starting a new company because you are taking a risk in that regard.
What’s been your proudest moment, so far, as CEO? Today we are debt free and we have doubled our revenue every year. I’m proud of my three daughters. I told them what I was doing and they said, ‘Mom, that’s a big deal. Way to go, I know you’ll do a great job.’ They knew we were taking a risk and leaving our comfort zone, but — even if everything failed — I would never look back because they got to see that you can have an idea and you can do it. I’m also proud we are a debt-free company, which allows us to grow the way we want to grow and be prudent. I’m also proud of our team.
What sets E Smith Realty apart from other real estate firms? Our culture. It’s about taking care of your teammates and fostering that culture of excellence. It’s not just about being good people and doing things in the community, but coming from a culture of excellence that is fostered internally and results come by the nature of that. We hire on culture. If you are hiring someone aligned in that culture of excellence than the production will come as a result of that. We are also a minority-owned company. We have a unique advantage of working with companies that have diversity initiatives and minority spend and they can do it on real estate, which typically they haven’t because either the initiatives weren’t there for the company, or they didn’t know where to go to achieve that.
SHARON MORRISON CEO and co-founder of E Smith Realty Partners
Resides: North Dallas
Years in the business: 25
Education: BBA in political science, Spanish; University of Texas
Family: Husband, Kevin, and three daughters
How she balances life and leadership:“Surround yourself with great people. It’s not that it’s been easy, but it’s achievable when you make the things that are important a priority. I hope no one at my funeral says, ‘She was great at real estate.’ My priorities are faith, family, friends and then work.”