Bootstrapping can force you to come up with solutions to business problems without assuming more cash, equity or debt, will fix a business problem, which it rarely does.
Bethany Babcock was raised oversees in Chile and moved to the United States alone at age eighteen. Her first job landed her in an administrative position at a commercial real estate investors office where she worked full time and attended college full time in the evenings. Within five years she was managing the owner’s San Antonio portfolio of office buildings and shopping centers and graduating with honors with a double major in international business and finance.
After college, Bethany left to work in investment sales with a national investment sales firm while also earning her MBA. While working, she earned the trust of investors who eventually asked that she start a management and leasing firm to serve their properties. Bethany started Foresite Commercial Real Estate in 2014 and it has doubled in size every year since its founding. The firm now employs eighteen and manages leases and sells shopping centers throughout the United States.
In 2018 Bethany was named by the San Antonio Business Journal as a “40 under 40”. She has been quoted in Forbes, Express News, and other local publications. She was also the retail expert speaker at the 2018 CCIM Symposium in San Antonio and guest lectures for the UTSA Real Estate Finance Department. Bethany is also the mother of three children ages five and under.
Where did the idea for Foresite Commercial Real Estate come from?
While selling shopping centers at Marcus & Millichap, many of our clients began to express frustration with the management and leasing firms nationally and locally. The challenges they faced with those companies were preventing them from being able to sell their assets. It became a bit of a hobby to think of innovative ways to address the complaints I was hearing. It seemed that most of the companies had a short-term focus and the decisions that were made were creating very lasting long-term negative effects on the value. The idea became to form a company that was proactive and forward thinking that put clients’ first.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Since I am the mother of young children my day starts extremely early by having children wake me up as earlier as 5am and ask for breakfast. I spend the morning balancing feeding the baby, cleaning up spilled cereal and dressing kids and looking for matching shoes while trying to brush my teeth and get everyone out the door. I usually forget 4-5 things the kids need and have to make a few trips.
After getting the kids to their classrooms and avoiding eye contact with people asking me to volunteer for things I will likely forget, I head to the office. While in commute I usually make one or two calls.
Once at the office, most everyone except the newest members of the team know to not bring me any questions until after I can get a cup of coffee and use the bathroom. Then my day is spent with a revolving door of team members walking in asking questions, needing things, and simultaneously joining client calls, sending e-mails to keep all deals moving forward. I will usually attend a few meetings to win new business with agents. I will also meet with our director of property management who updates me on new assignments while I sign checks. Then, our marketing department will ask for feedback and revisions on materials while agents text me with roadblocks in their deals. Later with an inbox of emails fuller than when I arrived that morning, my assistant will inform me of all the people who are still expecting me to call them back as I rush out the door to pick up my kids from school.
While picking up the kids I realize I forgot to eat lunch again and I find a half a box of raisins between the car seats while at a red light. I hang up from my calls and rush in to grab the kids. While with them I do homework, play and make dinner and I try to keep my cellphone in my purse. After cleaning up and putting the kids to bed I spend the next two to three hours catching up on emails that I schedule to go out the following morning.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I find that if I don’t put the ideas in motion immediately, they will never happen. If an idea comes at night I force myself to get out of bed and start the first step. I will usually engage a team member by scheduling them to work with me on it to keep me on task. If it is in the middle of the day I immediately start scheduling next steps even mid meeting. I ask for a brief moment to put a plan in place or else it just doesn’t go farther than that meeting unfortunately.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In my industry, physical retail is tied to the online world. I love seeing the integration between online traffic and brick and mortar sales. I read about new trends and patterns often and enjoy understanding what drives people to make a purchase and what keeps them away and how that changes so quickly over time.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Most of my breaks and lunches are usually working lunches and breaks. If I am grabbing coffee in the breakroom, I use it as an opportunity to walk around and check in and make sure no one is waiting on me for something. If I am taking a lunch it is usually a working lunch with a member of the office or a client to discuss things that need more focused attention.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to fail. You will. It is ok. Celebrate it. Embrace it and try again.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Avoid debt at all cost. Debt is just borrowing from your future to get something today, don’t do something that will make future you less powerful and agile.
When I was in college everyone thought I was nuts for working as hard as I did and refusing to take loans. After college everyone thought was nuts for not buying a nicer car and living at a higher standard. This was before I really had learned about the debt free movements, it just seemed like common sense to me and I was afraid of the downside. Not having debt enabled me to do so many things others could not such as work commission only during a recession and build amazing relationships and later start a business from scratch.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend bootstrapping. There is something so valuable about having to use grit and creativity instead of cash to solve business problems. With funding through debt or equity, it can become habit forming to assume the solution to each new business problem is…more debt or equity. Getting through the early stages without those, proves to future partners and stakeholders the model works and isn’t being propped up by anything temporary and you will earn better stakeholders.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Specialize. By being more niche and not an all-encompassing generalist in the real estate industry, I was able to learn more and meet the right people and it had a compounding effect. In focusing in on retail investments in commercial real estate, I was seen as an expert and a go-to person in our industry at a very young age and it created great opportunity and connections for myself and then later the whole company.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There have been several! I once heard the saying that success is just the top of a mountain of failures and I believe that is correct. If I had to choose one it would be in realizing that I was not going to be the right solution for everyone. In the beginning I was willing to take on clients that I was not the right fit for in an effort to learn and grow the business. I just ended up frustrating them and myself and hurting the relationship. I used the opportunity to identify who I am best suited for and work hard for those assignments and none of the others.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe a retailer should develop an app that enables shoppers to instantly scan and read reviews of products online while in the store handling the products. Products should also be displayed in groupings of ratings and popularity similar to online. While most people list convenience as a reason to shop online, many more state reviews as an even bigger reason. I believe retailers can begin offering consumers that transparency and capture those sales by grouping it all into a convenient app with image scan which can offer the information from multiple sources and peer groups and also offer suggestions of related purchases.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I sponsored a student at Adult and Teen Challenge of Texas. It’s a year long residential addiction recovery program I am a huge fan of. I love meeting students and reading the stories of how their lives completely transform. You can see the change in their faces and their entire disposition. The stories of students with kids really impact me. The parents are so brave to face the problems head on and it changes their family tree forever.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I recommend identifying a solid CRM. Don’t choose the cheapest, choose one that is running in the background when you forgot you even had it so your emails, calls and everything are all tied in. No one has time to update a CRM but keeping all that data can provide countless opportunities and insight.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Thought it may sound cliché, I find most of the business books best advice stems from solid advice already written in the book of Proverbs in the Bible. Each verse could be a stand-alone book.
What is your favorite quote?
“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. ”Proverbs 17:28
I love that because I have a tendency to want to speak up to feel I am adding value to a meeting, but the reality is I can be perceived as much more intelligent the less I speak.
• Avoid debt as much as possible. Debt is just borrowing from your future to get something today, don’t do something that will make future you less powerful and agile.
• There is a tendency to want to speak up to prove value in meetings but the reality is that we can be perceived as more intelligent the less we speak.
• If you have a great idea, start on it immediately, the rush of adrenaline you get from coming up with the idea is vital to putting it into action and will not be there in a half hour.
• Bootstrapping can force you to come up with solutions to business problems without assuming more cash, equity or debt, will fix a business problem, which it rarely does.