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J. Steven Martin, CCIM, CPM

J Steven Martin_HeadshotEach month, ICBR honors one of its members as Member of the Month. This month, we recognize ICBR’s 2013 REALTOR® of the Year, J. Steven Martin, CCIM, CPM. Steven is a Managing Director and owner of Sperry Van Ness / Martin Commercial Group with offices in Evansville and Indianapolis, Ind. Steven is also the President of The Martin Group, Inc. and Managing Member of The Promenade, a 215 acre mixed-use development in Evansville. Steven currently serves as the 2013 ICBR Vice President.

ICBR: Why are you an ICBR member? What do you look to gain out of your membership?

Martin: I believe in the mission of the ICBR and my membership in ICBR is very important to me because it provides our profession with some great educational opportunities, great networking opportunities, many tools like ICREX, ZipForms, Lisa Hotline and much more. It serves as an interactive organization between other members in our industry, and it sets standards for our industry ethics and appropriate conduct that we can depend on between members. ICBR provides market information and relevant education. One of our strongest and fastest-growing areas that we own as a group is ICREX. It provides good data to our members to help them do a better job for their clients, and at the same time protect the broker and developer compensation by having a great deal of information at his fingertips. Our legislative activity is very important, as it has resulted in things such as the Broker Lien Law to help us collect our fees, our established processes to resolve issues between members, and the information that is getting out to us via electronic media.  It is all extremely valuable to me.

ICBR: What designations/awards/recognition have you received?

Martin: I have been a certified Property Manager (CPM) for 33 years; I have been a CCIM for 18 years, and I have had a variety of other designations and certifications with special emphasis in multi-family housing throughout my career. Our firm has been involved in all aspects of investment real estate from property management, asset management brokerage, sales, leasing, development, construction, consulting and syndication.  We have received numerous local, state and national awards for our various projects and activities.  I believe in being active in the industry via various organizations and involvement with the organizations that provide my designations of relevance.

ICBR: How did you start your career in commercial real estate?

Martin: My father was a Public Accountant the first half of his career and had a private practice.  He became involved with a new HUD experiment that ended up becoming the Section 8 program and developed the first Section 8 property in Indiana (a 30 unit Senior Citizen project in Huntingburg, Ind.).  I had recently graduated from the University of Evansville and was working at Jasper Engines & Transmissions in Advertising & PR.  We were talking and he needed someone to lease up the property, as he had an accounting practice to run, and he was interested in doing more development.  I was young and cheap with no responsibilities.  We decided that we would try working together, as I had the energy and he had the experience.  If it didn’t work out, we would stop after one project and I could go to work elsewhere and we could own that one together.  My father is now 81 years old and works 40 hours per week and loves the business.  We both agree that we are blessed that we do something we love and get to go out and “play” everyday.  After 36 years of working together, we are starting to think this is going to work out ok!  My younger brother, David, worked with us for 18 years and is now a Medical Office Developer for Duke Healthcare and is also extremely passionate about the real estate business. My sons, Alex and Andy have joined our company in our new Indianapolis Office for a third generation in the business.  We are also blessed by 25 great team members who we also feel are family members.  We are truly a family-based business in every aspect.

ICBR: Do you have any mentors? If so, who? How has he/she inspired you?

Martin: I have several mentors.  First are my parents.  Both are great examples of outstanding individuals that put family first, and their actions reflect that philosophy. My mom always worked to keep me focused and inspired.  My dad is one of the best business people I have ever met, and is entrepreneurial and strategic in his thinking.  My brother, David, is a great developer and organizer.  He and my youngest sister, Bethanne, have great hearts and are creative in how they give back to their community and faith. I have several other family members that I learn a lot from, including my wife who keeps me focused, my  children and their spouses who inspire me, and my grand-daughters (the two most brilliant young ladies that I have ever met) who give me hope for everyone in the future.  They all challenge me, keep me focused and question my thought process which is all extremely good.  I don’t like “yes” people – I want people to give me feedback so I do the right thing – not the easiest.

Outside my family I have several as well:

Alvin C. Ruxer – my first and only boss is someone that I admire a great deal.  He told me once that in whatever I did, I needed to be passionate about it and it needs to be something that is not work to me.  He taught me a great deal in that short time I was with him and I had a lot of experiences in such a small time span.  He used to have a motto that I still use today, “work a little bit harder and think a little bit differently.”  That saying is published in our company handbooks as well.  He also stressed giving back to the community, and we have always tried to do that as a matter of our corporate culture.

I have a Mastermind Group of friends that are all similar business situations but in different industries.  We meet monthly, and it is our own private board of directors.  All of them are very successful in their own businesses and are leaders in their respective industries and in the community.  We all pledge that what we talk about in that monthly meeting stays in that monthly meeting.  As a result, we are very honest and give each other uninhibited feedback.  That group is indeed a group of mentors to me as well.

Not to be cliché but I am a “Mac Head” and have been a supporter of Steve Jobs since my first Apple II+ before the Mac was invented.  I think Steve Jobs brought a new level of innovation and tenacity to his marketplace and I found him to be an outstanding role model.

There are many others including many of my close friends and several team members within our organization;  but needless to say I look at the people around me and try to learn from them, gain knowledge from them and likewise give back to them.  I love watching human behavior and love to inspire and be inspired by friends, family, colleagues and people I encounter as I play in the world around me.

ICBR: What is the most important thing you have learned by working in commercial real estate?

Martin: Creativity while maintaining discipline.  As brokers and developers, we eat what we kill and it is the purest form of free market capitalism.  It is important that we are always in business development mode while at the same time we provide outstanding service to our existing clients.  Real estate is a contact sport, and we must all make the calls because it is indeed a belly to belly business.  My favorite business books are the 4 Disiplines of Execution and ­Good to Great. They help in learning how to measure ourselves, motivate an organization, and achieve greatness which are challenges to us all.   I have also learned that there is no substitute for having intrinsic knowledge of your market and your product type.  One of the biggest failings of our industry is keeping our clients informed regularly.  This is one of the most important things a broker can do but one that we all fail at from time to time.

ICBR: Current professional goal(s)?

Martin: I have several professional goals.  I want to see our company, and our industry, return to the sales levels of pre-2008. I look anxiously anticipating developing our 215 acre mixed-use development, The Promenade, over the next 5 – 7 years.  I sincerely want to locate the IU School of Medicine (Evansville Campus) at The Promenade because we are the right location for it.  I look forward to creating a better flywheel (Good to Great term) within our organization.

ICBR: What is your most recent accomplishment?

Martin: My most recent accomplishment is hard to identify, as it is in the eye of the beholder.  I am moving our organization to paperless and mobile, and we recently took our servers mobile and are well on our way to becoming paperless.  This will help us reach other goals and opportunities via organizational flexibility and responsiveness.

ICBR: What special skills do you have? Special interests/hobbies?

Martin: My special skills are my ability to enjoy and read people and their behavior.  I love to sing, though I don’t do it much any more except at church.  I also absolutely love technology and can easily find myself spending too much time on it (especially if it is Apple-based).

GOLF – I am an avid golfer and have hosted an annual golf trip called, “Ironman Golf” each year for the past 20 years and open it up to anyone that knows someone on the trip.

BASS FISHING – We have a partner that is one of the top bass fishermen in the country and we love to bass fish.

MUSIC– I love music and started my college career as a Music major.  I credit that training with my creative and disciplined approach to real estate and business.

BOATING –  I love to boat and take my kids water skiing and boating.

FAMILY – I fully enjoy spending time with my family whether it is fishing, golfing, boating, BBQing, etc.  Most of all laughing with them and helping each of them grow and reach their goals and happiness.

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