Sun04202014

Business

From broker to ‘trusted advisor’

Following in the footsteps of his legendary grandfather, Samuels Peace, Darrell Cobbins is strong in his resolve to grow a real estate firm in a troubled market.
 
 Carlee McCullough

Following in the footsteps of his legendary grandfather, Samuels Peace of Peace Realty Company, Darrell Cobbins, founder and president of Universal Commercial Real Estate, LLC, is strong in his resolve to grow a real estate firm in a troubled market. Surrounded by his mother, brother and wife, expansion plans are underway to add more brokers and expand geographically.

Carlee McCullough, Esq.: What drew you to real estate?

Darrell Cobbins: My grandfather was a real estate entrepreneur for 50 years. I grew up in his businesses and consider real estate to be in my blood as a third generation real estate professional.

CM: While some real estate professionals work for others, why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

 
 Darrell Cobbins

DC: The freedom to establish a vision and direction for a business enterprise was always a long term ambition and pursuit of mine. In addition, building something that did not exist and making opportunities available to individuals and partners is very rewarding.

CM: How long have you been in the business?

DC: I have been in the business for 10 years now, with four as an entrepreneur.

CM: What separates you from the competition?

DC: We are unique in that we are the only African-American-owned commercial real estate firm in the Memphis region. Also, we have the flexibility to work with companies large and small, providing a high level of service and expertise in helping business owners/leaders make informed real estate decisions. We work side by side with our clients, beyond just brokering a transaction, we are trusted advisors.

CM: How do you market your product?

DC: We market through existing clients, seeking repeat business. In addition, we participate in a number of economic development fairs, and through a monthly networking breakfast that we host called the “Regional MBE Power Breakfast,” bringing together entrepreneurs in fostering stronger business relationships. We also do some direct marketing to targeted prospective clients.

CM: What has been your biggest challenge since the downturn of the real estate market the past two years?

DC: (The) commercial real estate industry is based upon business growth and expansion. So as the downturn has made companies downsize or not pursue their growth plans that creates a diminished need for space and properties. This has forced all commercial real estate professionals to pursue client relationships beyond the private sector, pursuing more clients in the government and non-profit sectors. We’ve had to be creative in sourcing business development opportunities.

CM: What has been the secret to your company’s survival while other real estate companies folded and real estate professionals left the industry totally?

DC: Building a trusting relationship with clients, offering personal quality service, and treating the needs of every client with the same priority regardless of size and stature.

CM: What advice would you provide for those interested in investing in real estate? And is now a good time to invest?

DC: Now is an excellent time because values have been depressed and it is a buyer’s market right now. My advice to investors would be to pursue income-producing properties. An existing, continuing revenue stream is of tremendous value and is much more marketable for refinancing or resale. Income-producing properties are available in office, retail, warehouse-distribution, multi-family, and even land.

CM: How would an investor get started?

DC: Partnering with experienced, active investors is the best way to learn and get your feet wet. This approach also allows for you to invest what you can, where you are now. Assuming an equity position in an investment, allows you to participate without assuming all of the risk.

CM: What are your thoughts on real estate as a part of building wealth?

DC: It is the most reliable, manageable way to achieve wealth. If you look at the investment portfolios of many wealthy individuals or pension funds, real estate is a major piece of their pie to achieve their targeted investment return. In addition, it is a tangible asset that can be improved to create even greater appreciation in value. That level of direct influence on the value of an asset is not as readily possible with stocks, bonds, or some other instruments.

CM: Any closing remarks?

DC: I appreciate the trust that every client I have served has placed in my hands. Memphis is an entrepreneurial city historically and we should continue to value that legacy to develop the next generation of business leaders that will propel Memphis to even greater heights.

(For additional information about Universal Commercial Real Estate, LLC, visit www.universalcommercial.com.)

(Please send your questions to Carlee McCullough, Esq., at 777 South Main St., Suite 202, Memphis, Tenn., or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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