50 Most Trustworthy Companies of the Year 2018

An Interview with Shawn Marcell, Welfont CEO ‘We Provide Exceptional Real Estate Services across the United States’

thesiliconreview-shawn-marcell-ceo-welfont-2018“Our core success factors were part of who we were as a leadership team. As we worked together, the factors that were making a difference became evident and are now part of our deliberate operating strategy.”

The real estate brokerage business has been around a long time, but for the most part there have been very few innovations that would create the opportunity and success experienced by Welfont. They are a national commercial and residential real estate company specializing in providing real estate investors and the non-profit sector with a wide range of services, including brokerage representation, advisory, marketing, underwriting, due diligence, financial services, asset management, and dispositions.

Launched in 2014 out of Tampa, Florida, Welfont manages each investment from deal sourcing to underwriting to acquisition and disposition while helping its clients maximize their return-on-investment.

Shawn Marcell, Welfont CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Rewind: Taking Flight

Welfont built its business on the belief that ‘you can do well, by doing good’. Every transaction we did, created multiple wins (sellers, brokers, non-profits, and even society at large). The sellers won because they were able to sell real estate assets and receive more cash benefit than they were expecting, but more importantly, they helped a non-profit organization as part of the transaction.

Sellers that were quick to see the potential of working with Welfont’s clients included Energizer, Wells Fargo Bank, Tenneco, Standex, Airgas, Motor Coach Industries, Century Link, Trident Seafoods and many others. Some of them have done multiple transactions.

Initially, some commercial real estate brokers were a little gun shy to bring their client an offer from a non-profit, especially because it utilized some unique tax provisions set forth in Section 170 of the IRS Code over 100 years ago that some were not familiar with.

However, once they learned that many universities and non-profits of note rely on that same transaction to raise millions for their ongoing needs, they became very comfortable with it. Whether it’s Harvard, Yale and Stanford Universities, or organizations like the Red Cross and American Cancer Society; this type of transaction is standard fare for them, and is done more than 20,000 times annually. Yet, no real estate brokerage and services organization ever specialized in helping them, at least until Welfont came along.

In the end analysis, all parties win, and perhaps more importantly, and unlike other real estate brokerage models, when Welfont creates a win for their non-profit clients; it creates a win for the communities those clients serve.

According to Marcell, “Rather than ask someone to trust us, we simply align our interests with theirs, and demonstrate with our actions that their needs come first. That, and having a 100% success track record for our clients has helped us earn the highest level of trust.”

“It took a lot of focus. We hired good people and kept them focused on executing basic real estate activities, but directed towards the unique niche of nonprofits. They’re a huge untapped market, and we just focused in on them. It was never easy, but if it was, everyone would do it.”

“Our core success factors were part of who we were as a leadership team. As we worked together, the factors that were making a difference became evident and are now part of our deliberate operating strategy.”

“By branding the vision on the minds and hearts of our team, and deliberately reinforcing the vision and values of our company, our team’s behavior naturally came into alignment with our value proposition. Everyone saw the value and self-regulated their behavior because not only was it best for the client but by design, it was best for everyone on the team.”

To solve liquidity issues due to their fast growth, Welfont had to become really good at underwriting, negotiating, financing, asset management, and so forth. Additionally, Welfont structured their relationship with its non-profit clients so their interests were fully aligned. It was this heightened level of engagement that not only gave its clients greater confidence and higher trust, but it tied Welfont’s ultimate success to its own. By aligning interests in the literally hundreds of deals Welfont has done since inception, it has never had a client that lost funds on a deal. As a result, both Welfont and its clients have done very well.

Amy Stevenson, Welfont’s VP of Brokerage and Broker of Record, has worked closely with Welfont’s non-profit clients, cultivating the relationships, earning their trust, and serving them from the beginning. Although the non-profit sector is massive, they tend to be risk averse on an individual level.

“I love helping non-profits because they do so much good. Our role was to come alongside them, listen to their goals and their fears, then lay out a path for them to get where they wanted financially, while significantly mitigating their risks. They responded by placing their trust in our expertise, and we made history!”

Whether it’s helping families with children who are fighting cancer or providing groceries on wheels to low income and disabled seniors, Welfont’s non-profit clients end up much better funded to carry on the important work they do for our society, while leaving the heavy lifting of generating better returns to the Welfont team.

To sum up the sentiment typical of the non-profits Welfont works with, one of their clients recently said, “A great group of people to work with. Top drawer! Looking forward to great work in the coming days! Applause! Applause!”

Welfont: Fastest Growing Real Estate Brokerage in Inc. 5000 History

Welfont made Inc. 5000 history by having the fastest 3-year growth rate for a real estate brokerage since the inception of the Inc. 5000, which is published by Inc. Magazine each year. But it was no cakewalk for the upstart brokerage. Creating a new model for real estate investing on behalf of the non-profit community was fraught with challenges, from helping non-profit clients obtain financing in non-owner occupied real estate in tertiary markets, to managing demanding growth capital.

As each new challenge surfaced, Welfont suffered some setbacks in this unchartered territory for the industry. There were no prescribed manuals or industry people with prior experience in this unique model. So, they had to figure out how to meet these challenges, innovate, and bring the solutions into the mainstream.

Over the last three years, Welfont transformed its image from an “unproven upstart” full of challenges to a trustworthy “market innovator”. But nobody expected a 3-year growth rate of 11,359 percent (the fastest growing real estate brokerage in the Inc. 5000 history).

All the previous winners of the Inc. 5000 real estate brokerage category grew at a rate ranging from 876 percent to 8,829 percent, over a 3-year period, but the average winner each year grew at 2,824 percent out of over 86,000 real estate brokerages. As impressive as that was, Welfont’s 3-year growth rate was just over four times faster.

Welfont Leadership: A Brief Background

Dr. Joe Johnson: Welfont’s original founder and business architect.

Shawn Marcell: Shawn Marcell is the Chief Executive Officer of Welfont.

Amy Stevenson: Amy Stevenson is Welfont’s Vice President of Brokerage and Broker of Record.

Dr. Michael Surowiec: Dr. Michael Surowiec is the Chief Financial Officer of Welfont.

Mike Mehaffey: Mike Mehaffey is Welfont’s Executive VP of Sales & Marketing.

Mattias Graff: Mattias Graff is the Senior VP of Asset Management.

Pat Blount: Pat Blount is the Executive VP of New Business Development.

thesiliconreview-dr-joe-johnson-founder-welfont-2018

“Specialization is key, but if you specialize where everyone else is specializing, there’s nothing special about that. We specialized in serving nonprofits’ real estate needs, a field that was overlooked and underestimated. Now, Welfont is turning a lot of heads in this direction.” – Dr. Joe Johnson

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