PICOR Thrives for 30 Years
30 Sep 2015 by BizDESIGN in BizMILESTONE, Entrepreneurs & Leaders, FALL 2015
By David Pittman –
PICOR Thrives for 30 Years
Fiscally Conservative Approach Pays Off
Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR, a homegrown Tucson firm founded in 1985, is Southern Arizona’s leading independent commercial real estate brokerage and management company.
When Mike Hammond, the company’s founder, president and managing shareholder, opened the business 30 years ago he called it Properties for Industry Corporation.
“At first, I wanted the word ‘industry’ in there to show we were an industrial brokerage and because that has always been my background and expertise,” said Hammond. “But it didn’t take long for us to add apartments, retail, medical and office, becoming a full-service commercial real estate group. So I shortened the name to PICOR.”
Six years ago, PICOR entered into an affiliation with Cushman & Wakefield, allowing the local firm to partner with an international real estate corporation. Hammond said the affiliation gives his company “the best of both worlds – local ownership combined with global resources.”
Thirty years after Hammond planted the seeds that grew into Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR, the company continues to thrive, now exceeding revenue levels posted prior to the financial crash of 2008 that kicked off the Great Recession.
Throughout its history, PICOR’s success can always be traced to Hammond. He consistently hired talented employees, provided them with a great work environment and utilized conservative fiscal management that kept the company functioning well – even during difficult economic times.
During the savings-and-loan crisis of the late ’80s and early ’90s, the aftermath of 9/11, and the Great Recession, Hammond didn’t tap lines of credit to keep PICOR afloat. Instead he relied heavily on financial reserves that had been invested in the company during good times. “I’m a saver,” said Hammond. “I think being financially conservative is an important quality – personally and professionally. It lets me sleep at night.”
Past and present PICOR employees praise Hammond’s leadership.
“Mike is the best. He basically taught me commercial real estate,” said Art Wadlund, the first broker Hammond hired to work with him in 1985. “Mike has always assembled a great team around him, managed them well and created a great place for them to work. PICOR is Mike.”
When Wadlund started, he was one of three employees. When he left a decade later, PICOR had 15 brokers, and Wadlund was among the top apartment brokers in Southern Arizona. He became a founder of Hendricks & Partners, later acquired by Berkadia, a commercial real estate giant owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia National. Today Wadlund is a senior partner at Berkadia.
A long list of superstar brokers has represented PICOR – such as Mark Irvin, Rob Glaser, Russ Hall, Tom Knox, Tom Nieman, Richard Kleiner, Steve Cohen and the late Peter Douglas, who died last Christmas after suffering a massive stroke.
Irvin, who heads Mark Irvin Commercial Real Estate Services, learned the ropes as a commercial broker at PICOR in the mid-’80s through the early ’90s.
“I was new to Tucson and Mike took a chance on a young guy from Dallas with little experience,” said Irvin, who worked at PICOR for 10 years before starting his own firm. “My hat’s off to Mike for always gathering a great collection of talent and providing the focus and leadership that allowed PICOR to achieve consistent success. There isn’t anything they can’t handle.” Irvin called Hammond “one of the most disciplined people I’ve ever known” and one who “leads by example.”
Many others stayed with Hammond, including Glaser, Hall and Kleiner, who all built long and distinguished careers at PICOR.
“We have created a good culture,” Hammond said.
Glaser joined PICOR 30 years ago, just a few months after Hammond opened shop.
“I was attracted to the company because of Mike Hammond,” Glaser said. “I had come from a residential real estate company where I worked for eight years. At that company, RSL Red Carpet, I was challenged by the people I worked for, I learned a lot and I was very productive.
“As I transitioned into commercial real estate, I needed a similar environment. Mike set the bar very high. He was recognized as the top commercial broker in Tucson. He challenged me, he taught me a lot and he was very generous.
“As my career progressed at PICOR, Mike offered me and others a share of the company with a path to own equal shares as he. This was something he offered, as he felt this would be the best way to keep his best brokers. It has been a very successful partnership. It allows me to be a part of the company’s strategic initiatives, help other brokers, be free of stress concerning day-to-day operations and share in company profits. It’s been an ideal platform that has enabled company growth by increasing the number of partners under the same formula.”
Glaser praised Hammond for establishing an “easy” work environment.
“From the beginning, Mike created an office to maximize productivity by removing operational stresses and setting the production bar so high. He created a culture of collaboration and care for both our clients and our community that has made working at PICOR very enjoyable.”
Hammond said, “I have no control over the market. The only thing I have control over is how I treat people. I try to make things comfortable and as stress free as possible so people can think creatively. Creating a good work environment is my number one job, not just for salespeople, but for everyone who works here.”
Another longtime contributor to PICOR’s success is Barbi Reuter.
Hammond hired Reuter, then a University of Arizona student, as a part-time receptionist shortly after PICOR opened its doors. Later she interned with PICOR brokers before starting the firm’s property management division, which she grew to a leadership position in the Tucson marketplace. Today she is COO of the company.
“Mike has impeccable judgment and his integrity is beyond measure,” she said. “He attracts quality people and has created a culture that makes people want to stay. PICOR is very entrepreneurial, very flexible and dynamic – as opposed to corporate and rigid – and it is very community minded.”
Hammond said he grew up as “a military brat,” constantly moving with his family from place to place. “I was born in Panama, then we moved from Monterrey, Calif. to Norfolk, Va. to Coronado, Calif. to Virginia Beach, Va. and finally to San Diego, Calif. which is where I lived from age 8 to 18. It got to the point where even the Navy didn’t want to move us anymore.”
Hammond, 68, has called Tucson home for 39 years. A graduate of the University of Washington, he sold insurance in Tucson before shifting to commercial real estate in 1978 by taking a job with Bassett, Hayden & Ray, a local brokerage and development company. Hammond said he knew sales coming from the insurance market, but relied heavily on mentor Perry Bassett during his beginning years in commercial real estate.
Bassett refutes that version of events, saying he learned as much from Hammond as he taught him.
“Mike was a natural, a pure salesman, one of the best I’ve ever been around,” Bassett said. “He’s very smart, he works hard, he follows through and he knows every aspect of the deal.” Before leaving Bassett, Hayden & Ray to start what became PICOR, Hammond had already built a reputation as a leading industrial specialist in commercial real estate in Southern Arizona.
“Mike has done a very impressive job of building the company,” said Bassett, now president of Bassett Property Company. “He is a great manager. He hires good people, trains them well and helps them succeed. And though he has accomplished so much, he is a very unpretentious person. Success hasn’t changed him. He is still the same guy I knew 35 years ago.”
Hammond, named “Tucson Man of the Year” by Greater Tucson Leadership in 2013, has served in a plethora of leadership positions including with the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Arizona Association for Economic Development, Community Finance Corp., Arizona Town Hall, Urban Land Institute and Arizona State Transportation Board. Both PICOR and Hammond are well known for giving time and money to various charitable and philanthropic causes.
Though Hammond is not contemplating retirement, he said he does plan to step down as managing shareholder within the next year-and-a-half to concentrate on community service work and his growing industrial real estate activities in Sonora, Mexico.
“I still love the thrill of the deal – but I want to get out of the management of the company and turn it over to the young guys,” Hammond said. “I don’t have a 10- or 15-year horizon for this company. I’ve got a great crop of young shareholders coming up and they’re the ones who need to be making those decisions.”