Shortly after graduating from college Brian Gedvilas was networking with people in various industries, and was told that he should speak with Brian Liston (who was then a principal Darwin Realty) as he was looking for someone to work on leasing for his Value Industrial Partners growing investment portfolio. After interviewing with Liston, and other principals at Darwin, Gedvilas was offered the options of either working with Liston on the leasing of Value Industrial Partners’ portfolio or training as a broker in a particular submarket. Suffice it to say, even with other offers on the table, Gedvilas chose to work for Liston and hasn’t looked back since!
“Working on the ownership side of the business and being trained by Brian Liston appealed to me,” Gedvilas said, principal and director of leasing at Value Industrial Partners LLC. “But I was also entertaining opportunities in other industries. I had an offer from a large financial institution, as well as the offer from Brian Liston that had a starting salary 20% less than the offer from the bank—I went to work with Brian.”
For Gedvilas, the real estate industry is constantly changing and a lot of fun, which is why he has remained in the industry after all of this time.
“When I have found myself a little bored, I realize that there is always something more that I can be doing and I need to work a little harder to find the next deal to keep things interesting,” he said. “I really don’t think that I have found myself bored for more than a few minutes for at least a few years. The recovery in the market ramped up quickly and we are now quite busy with leasing our portfolio and pursuing acquisitions.”
Of course the challenges that Gedvilas faces today are different than the ones when he first entered the business, as he noted, on the acquisition side today there seems to be a dearth of compelling deals and a lot of capital chasing the deals that are out there.
“We’re now also seeing more out of town buyers coming into the market looking for better yields with less-than-core product,” Gedvilas said. “Value Industrial Partners doesn’t necessarily have a firm investment criterion, and we like to say that we’ll buy anything that is good real estate and makes sense, which allows us to pursue deals that might be too small or management intensive for other investors, and pursue larger packages with partners.”
“We acquired 6 buildings over the last 18 months and we are currently pursuing opportunities to further grow our portfolio which is currently at 4 million SF,” he added. “Some of the out town buyers I mentioned are bidding up the pricing for packages or larger deal sizes for the B-buildings that we like to buy, but there are still opportunities out there and our local knowledge allows us to find value that others may not see.”
Those challenges that Gedvilas faces aren’t so bad because he enjoys his job very much!
“Having fun while making a decent living is a great part of our industry,” he said. “I think the Chicago market is a little different from others in that we are friendly competitors for the most part. I have many great friendships that have come from people I have worked with or done deals with; friendships I know that I will have for the rest of my life, and being friendly with people throughout the industry helps in identifying deals and overcoming problems that may come up.”
“We’ve seen deals from friendly competitors that may have seen a deal that didn’t work for them, so they let us know about it,” Gedvilas continued. “Good relationships with brokers helps get lease deals done and see new acquisition opportunities. Problems are easier to overcome when I can pick up the phone and talk to someone that’s on the other side of the deal that I’ve known for years, and have done a few deals with. Work takes up more than a third of one’s time daily, so it’s great to have fun while doing it, and it’s great to be in an industry that includes golf, sports games and after-work beers as part of the job.”
According to Gedvilas, what sets Value Industrial Partners a part from other companies is that they try to be as easy as possible to work with, and make quick decisions for both leasing and acquisitions.
“The history of Value Industrial Partners is that VIP has been an investment group since 1996, but we started a management and leasing platform in 2010 to manage and lease our own buildings. I don’t want it to seem that we’ve only been around since 2010.”
“We have completed several leases because we responded within hours instead of days,” he noted. “We’re always eager to get out and look at acquisition opportunities as soon as we see the opportunity. We are one of the only investment groups that have a sizeable portfolio with smaller unit sizes, which offers prospective or current tenants the ability to lease a smaller unit within a professionally owned and managed building. There is some comfort for tenants knowing that there is a professional manager that they can call if there is a problem, instead of trying to track down a retiree in Florida.”
“We try to take advantage of this position and be the go to option for brokers that have a small requirement,” Gedvilas continued. “Our average unit size is about 9,000 SF which isn’t a deal that will make brokers much money, and it might be a lot of brain damage, so we try to make it as easy as possible for the broker to help the client quickly find a well-managed and functional building with a great owner and then move on to the next deal. We are different with acquisitions in that we don’t have a “box” that we keep ourselves in. We’ll buy a value-add, 40-year old multi-tenant building, with 14′ ceilings in Elk Grove Village, but would also purchase a package of buildings and have groups that would like to partner with us on larger product.”
Things have been good for the company, as Gedvilas noted that the occupancy level in Value Industrial’s portfolio is in the low 90 percentile range.
“That is decent for a portfolio that isn’t made up of core product, but we still have a lot of work to do, to get to where we would like to be,” he said. “We’re continuing to grow the occupancy level by having vacant units lease –ready, reacting quickly and being broker friendly. We’re also seeing some decent rent growth in several submarkets, but others have been a little slower to recover. Some of the slower submarkets such as Alsip, and Gurnee, are where we have our largest vacancies, but these buildings are ready for tenants and they are great options for 10-30,000 SF users.”
So how does Gedvilas find the balance between work and the things that keep him sane? He hasn’t!
“I’m happy to take advice if anyone has it,” he said. “But it’s important to me to check out and spend time with family, and it’s easy to put work on the back burner when I’m chasing my 2-year old daughter around the park.”
“Deal making is addictive and I do have to remind myself to leave work for Monday or the return from a vacation,” he added. “It’s not that easy and I’m still learning that importance of checking out from time-to-time. Thankfully I have a very understanding wife that puts up with me checking emails or making calls on vacation.”
One thing Gedvilas would like to do, that he hasn’t already? “I’m a long-suffering Cubs fan so I’m looking forward to a World Series, and it’s nice to see the organization making moves to make it happen. I already have the reserve fund to buy tickets at any price.”
Gedvilas’s favorite movie is any James Bond movie. “Even the bad ones,” he said. “As for my favorite music, my daughter is in the car with me for half of my commute each day so it’s whatever music she wants—which is usually a Disney soundtrack. Yes, I am the guy in his 30s jamming to the “Frozen” soundtrack in the Eisenhower traffic. I’ll happily do whatever I can to keep my daughter happy on our commutes because she deals with traffic even worse than I do.”
With the upcoming holidays around the corner, Gedvilas looks forward to spending time with friends and family, as well as having some downtime.
“I’ll be hosting for Christmas Day and then heading to Michigan for a couple of days,” he said. “I also will have friends in town that I typically only see this time of year, so I’m sure I’ll be having a few play dates with friends and their kids. I look forward to the end of the year when our industry typically takes a deep breath, but I have a feeling that there will a lot of people working to wrap up deals the last few days of the year which is a good sign for our industry.”