Caspar Chou is Vice President of Investments of the Pacific Plaza Premier Group, a real estate development company that operates out of Los Angeles, California. His current professional specialty is overseeing mixed-use real estate developments located in the San Gabriel Valley as well as overseeing real investments in Texas.
Caspar is also a lifelong entrepreneur. He first caught the entrepreneurial bug as a child, having watched his father work and listened to the stories he told about operating his real estate business. Caspar was an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Club at Columbia University in New York, before moving on to found his first company, Ocen Communications, in 1996. After his early success at Ocen Communications, he moved on to found Q-East Broadband in 1998, which he led to over $600,000 per month in revenue in under nine months.
It was then when Caspar felt a need to switch industries and honor his father’s legacy by joining the real estate business. First, he worked as a real estate agent, developing marketing strategies and crafting successful customer outreach programs that resulted in over $150 million in residential and commercial sales over four years. Then in 2007, he joined the Green Tree Inn Hotel Management Group in Shanghai, China as their Vice President of Corporate Finance, before accepting his current position as Vice President at the Pacific Plaza Premier Group in 2010. In this position, he handles upwards of $100 million in acquisitions per year, with a focus on emerging US markets.
Caspar Chou currently lives in Arcadia, California, where he enjoys running, snowboarding, skiing, and cooking, traveling among other hobbies in his free time.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
It’s a family business. My father got into it in 1979, and just by listening to him talk about deals at the family dinner table and watching him work as I was growing up, I started to develop a natural feel for it. I’ve worked in a few different industries throughout my career, in China and in the US, but real estate has always been the best fit.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wouldn’t say that my work provides me with any one sort of ‘typical day.’ Each day brings its own perks and its own challenges. I will say that my more difficult days involve getting up at 4AM, getting on a plane, and traveling to some far-away city to meet with clients that same morning. On days like those, you’ve still got to project that enthusiasm and energy, and avoid burdening the clients with your grogginess or fatigue from the travel and lack of sleep. No matter what the day brings, you’ve got to stay in gear no matter how you’re feeling.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, you have to dare to dream. Then, you need to have the focus and the ability to see how to execute the details in that dream. Finally, you have to allow that initial vision to manifest as it’s unfolding before you, and you have to recognize it and understand it as it does.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that excites me the most right now is the mass migration of tech giants to the city of Austin, Texas. This migration presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for companies to relocate to a brand new market as it’s growing exponentially, and to genuinely be a part of that growth. You get to be on the boat as it rises with the tide. My company has been in Austin for maybe five years now, and we’ve already seen our investments double to triple in that short amount of time. It’s only just beginning, and I fully expect this trend to continue accelerating over the next five years. We’re continuing to make investments in the Austin market, and it’s all very exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I cannot overemphasize the importance of sleeping well—but it doesn’t start there. In order to sleep well, you have to eat and exercise well, and you have to do so consistently. It may take some effort to establish these habits, but if you can integrate them into your schedule on a daily basis, it’ll help you to sleep much better. And if you sleep well, you will wake up every day with boundless energy, ready to tackle whatever tasks are before you.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be more patient, and be more open to suggestions from others. Trust in your intuition when it comes to people. When you see an opportunity, you’ve got to jump on it. There’s no room for hesitation, because good opportunities are often gone in a split second. Be decisive, and take fear out of the equation, because the worst thing that can happen when you fail is that you gain a learning experience. Trust your instincts and trust your hard work and research.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Many of us can’t see it, but it’s a simple fact that a lot of human activities are detrimental to this planet. We tend to look at things from our own perspective—the perspective of the human race. But we must learn to shift our perspectives, and learn to look at things not only from other peoples’ point of view, but also from the Earth’s perspective as well. When we learn to see things from the Earth’s perspective, from the perspective of the animals and the trees, we will see that we’re not in harmony with the planet that we inhabit. And we’ll see that we’re the ones that need to change. It’s difficult to look at oneself in the mirror and recognize that we are causing problems and that we need to change our behavior. But as long as we, as human beings, remain unable to see our own selfishness and faults for what they are, we will never be in harmony with all that we coexist with in nature.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
There are many ways I could try to answer that question. One thing I would recommend is to learn how to still yourself. Learn how to be still and calm your mind. Find that sort of meditative state, because when you’re in that state, you will begin to see and realize the answers to all of your own questions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The main thing you need to learn when trying to grow your business is how to share the pie with everybody. When you have other successful people join you at the table, you gain access to their brain power, their contacts, their energy, and their know-how. If you can harness the strengths of that collective group, they’ll help you grow and expand. And, of course, you bring those people on board as well by sharing your successes with them.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge you might face as an entrepreneur—and the one that comes with the highest chance of failure—is when you have the wrong people working in your group. I mean the sort of people who will work against you, undermine you, and generally act to limit your opportunities and get in the way of your success. To overcome that, you simply have to be willing and able to cut those people out. You have to be on guard for people like that and not allow them to come into your life. The people that you work with and the energy they bring to the table is everything. It has a tremendous impact on your momentum and on your ability to make deals.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Look into doing business in the Austin market. The boat rises with the tide, and the tide is rising quickly in Austin! The United States is built on the middle class, but the cost of living in many places around the country is rising far too high and causing the middle class to dwindle and die out in those areas. But the middle class is still thriving in places with a lower cost of living, and where the middle class thrives, the economy thrives with them. Some states are working hard to create competitive advantages through lower cost structures in order to regain the economic momentum that the US has lost to other nations over the years. Texas is one of those states, and in Texas, the cost of living is 40% lower than it is in competing states like California and New York. The Texas economy is thriving, and in a thriving economy, you can be successful in anything.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently spent a bit more than $100 on a celebratory meal with some friends at a nice restaurant after closing a deal. Every once in a while, it is not only appropriate but right and proper to treat yourself.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use Google for everything. Information and big data are important for any modern workflow, and to be able to conjure up the information you need with just a few keystrokes and the right search words is critical.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend The Romance of the 3 Kingdoms. It is a 14th-century historical novel set in the turbulent years towards the end of the Han dynasty. The story–part historical, part legend, and part mythical–romanticizes and dramatizes the lives of feudal lords and their retainers, who tried to replace the dwindling Han dynasty or restore it. The novel deals with personal and military battles and the drama between three feudal lords. This book gives you an inside peek into human nature, military strategies and lessons on how to build a lasting empire.
What is your favorite quote?
“Buy land. They’re not making it anymore.” — Mark Twain
- Find your way into doing business in thriving economies. When you see a rising tide, get on a boat and ride it up.
- In business, few things are as important as the people you collaborate with. Bring in smart and experienced people, treat them well, and learn to identify and distance yourself from those who are jealous of you and would work against you.
- Make sure to always present your best self to your clients, even if you’re not feeling it. Project enthusiasm and energy in all of your client interactions.
- A sharp mind relies on a healthy body. Eat well, exercise well, and sleep well to set yourself up for success.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.