Learning From Experience: Brandon Birtcher Talks to CMC Students

The following article is from our Spring, 2008 newsletter:

Brandon Birtcher ‘76This semester we were privileged to have Rose Institute Board of Governors member Brandon Birtcher come to the College to talk with students as part of the President’s Leadership Forum. Mr. Birtcher is the President and sole owner of Birtcher Development and Investments, LLC, which is a large, family-owned real estate developer. Mr. Birtcher is on the University of California Irvine Graduate School of Management’s Board of Advisors, a member of the Young President’s Organization-California Coast Chapter (Chairman 2003/2004) and on the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate Board of Directors Executive Committee.

Mr. Birtcher spoke about the development industry in general and about the specific philosophy his company holds. There are two main types of development companies: specialists (retail, office, industrial, etc.) and generalists. In addition, development companies can have a variety of organizational structures. These include institutional, private partnership, corporation, or family-owned. Although there is much diversity in the type and area of development corporations, still most are relatively small family-owned businesses. Because of this, networking is crucial. Some good sources for networking are the Urban Land Institute, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, International Council of Shopping Centers, and events through USC.

Mr. Birtcher also spoke about ways young persons could get into the development industry. He stated that there are two general ways to get into the industry. You have to either be able to create value as a specialist or as a generalist. Usually you start out as a specialist and stay a specialist or you start out as a specialist and become a generalist. It is both difficult and unlikely to start out having the skills and experience to be a generalist. It is for that reason that he suggests that students start off in a field related to development and then market those skills to development companies. These fields include sales, brokerage, finance, construction, design and governmental relations. An example he provided was that a student could come out of college, become a finance expert, and then be a finance expert for a development company or transition into becoming a generalist for that company.

A common saying about the development and real estate industry is that it is all about “Location-Location-Location.” Mr. Birtcher does not disagree with that assessment but thinks that location is not nearly as important as timing. He believes the saying should instead be “Timing-Timing-Timing.” You could buy a great piece of property and develop it the right way, but if the market is going south, then you are not going to make money.

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