Lee Stellakis finished graduate school in 2007 and had a lot of choices to make: Where to live and what field to go into. In his travels, Stellakis caught up with Brad Dannegger, who had started a shop here in Chicago a couple of years prior. More so than anything, the challenge to help a small company grow within the context of one of the largest CRE markets in the country excited Stellakis.
“It’s been a great ride,” Stellakis said, Principal, Director of Operations- BTS/National Accounts, ARCO/Murray. “There are two rewarding things about my job. First, as a contractor, when our job is done we have a monument to memorialize all of our efforts, the building. Secondly, it’s getting to know our customers, what is important to them, what makes their business successful, and ultimately taking part in solutions to help them optimize their businesses though real estate solutions.”
With nearly a decade under his belt working in commercial real estate, Stellakis has remained in the industry not only because he enjoys it, but because of the “toys”!
“Most contractors at heart have a childhood fascination with all of the big heavy equipment; the cranes, the big earthmoving equipment, etc.,” he said. “Our industry is filled with great people and great opportunity, but at the end of the day, what can I say—I just love working with all of the big toys.”
At ARCO/Murray Stellakis is responsible for overseeing training, safety, and project managers and superintendents for all of the company’s out of the ground work and National customers. According to Stellakis, what sets the company a part from the rest is very simple: Their employees.
“We hire the best people the industry has to offer and as leaders of the business we view it as our most important responsibility,” he said. “We are just providing some bumpers and general direction to our associates. It’s the interests and ambitions of our people that sustain the growth and success of our business.”
“We recently celebrated our 10th year of having an office in Chicago,” Stellakis added. “Chicago is a mature market where long standing relationships and excellent competition make it hard to gain momentum and achieve success year after year. To be here, and have the opportunity to continue growing our business, feels like a success in itself. We are fortunate to have customers that believe in the value of our team and continue to award us repeat business.”
According to Stellakis, with the current land prices, cap rates, lease rates, and shortage of new inventory, developers are able to justify building speculatively—a trend he’s currently seeing in today’s market.
“Restored confidence and years of increased earnings in private and public companies is fueling construction build to suit projects,” he said. “Without being an expert in finance, it seems that the interest rates remaining low are providing opportunity for the pent up demand in the market to be satisfied with new construction. It’s good to be a contractor.”
A challenge he’s facing today is operating within a recovering market.
“Surprisingly enough, the supply chain still has not gotten comfortable with the fact that we are no longer in a down market,” Stellakis noted. “Suppliers are still carrying minimal inventory levels, the number of people that left our supply chain still have not all yet come back, and vendors are still a little sheepish (understandably so) to re-grow their companies to pre-2007 levels.”
“It all presents a very unique and very fun challenge to solve on a project by project basis,” he added. “On a micro-level, the fourth quarter of 2014 has been especially challenging for the entire industry considering how cold last winter was, and how wet of a year it has been. So much work has gotten compressed into such a small timeframe and it is really trying the capacity of the limited supply chain.”
When Stellakis isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his loved ones. “I have a one-year old daughter and the best wife anyone could ask for. Spending time with them is my #1 extracurricular. I took up running a couple of years ago and I still enjoy that. When the seasons allow, I enjoy fishing and hunting.”
His biggest mentor has been his father, “He is an immigrant with no formal education and was determined to create great opportunity for his kids. By example he has helped me to realize that hard-work overcomes all. If you are dedicated and willing to put in the time, nothing can hold you back from your goals.”
One thing Stellakis would like to do, that he hasn’t already: Pay it forward. “I have so much respect for my parents and all of the opportunities that they created for me and my siblings. If my kids say the same thing about my wife and me someday, I’ll consider it all a success.”
Stellakis’ favorite movie? “I like all of the old gangster/mafia movies. Goodfellas and Casino stick out most in my mind. What do you want from me? I grew up in New Jersey.”
Although he isn’t a huge music guy, Stellakis doesn’t have a favorite musician—but he does enjoy it nonetheless! “I enjoy listening to country music, and most of my radio time is in the car—I’m a talk radio guy.”