In 2007, as the real estate and financial markets began to plunge, Steven Bean (’85 BSBA) was leading a new initiative to outsource commercial real estate financial services in his hometown of Robbins, in rural North Carolina.
“It turned out not to be a great time to start an outsourcing business, but we stayed focused and put North Carolinians to work by teaching them new skills,” Bean said.
Bean is principal/managing director for The Situs Companies, a Houston-based global commercial real estate consulting firm that provides consulting solutions to prominent financial institutions. In his role of overseeing the outsourcing solutions division, Bean directs the due diligence services provided by the company’s North Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas offices, and co-directs due diligence services at the company’s New York office.
The initiative in rural North Carolina brings outsourcing onshore. He notes that doing business in Robbins is a cost-effective alternative to maintaining operations in another country. “We’re taking cultural differences out of the equation and strengthening the local economy by teaching new skills to a highly capable, motivated but under-employed workforce. This approach enables us to offer a viable, compelling, competitive alternative to our clients,” he said. To date, Situs has hired more than 60 people in North Carolina as well as contractors and interns.
Before joining Situs in 2006, Bean managed an offshore initiative in India during his tenure as senior vice president of Global Realty Outsourcing in Stamford, Conn. This first successful attempt at commercial real estate analysis in India “enhanced my understanding of scaling a large operation via training and processing excellence,” Bean said. Situs’ rural North Carolina initiative uses similar mechanisms, such as hiring and training in groups and developing rigorous quality control processes, but performs higher-level knowledge processing and interacts more with clients.
Bean’s transition from “country boy” to college student was dramatic. “I came from a rural environment, so everything about college was a new experience for me,” he said.
Bean credits UNC Kenan-Flagler with teaching him the basics of leadership. The school’s reputation and rigorous business curriculum helped him obtain and succeed at his first job – as a federal bank examiner he cinched during an on-campus interview – shortly before the height of the savings-and-loan crisis. “I walked out of college and into an opportunity that immersed me in the finance industry. UNC Kenan-Flagler gave me the foundation to get my career off to a great start,” Bean said.
He continues the tradition by offering internships and employment opportunities to new graduates entering commercial real estate finance.
Two of Bean’s greatest challenges – and successes – have been the outsourcing initiatives in India and Robbins. Both experiences have taught him that the most effective managers lead by example.
“Leaders must set the vision for the entire company; then they must model the way, enable others to act, encourage the heart and challenge the process,” Bean said. “When you create a service-based operation from scratch and it grows, there is a balance of mutual trust that exists between a company’s leaders and the employees. You’re only as good as your last deal, and you are constantly judged on your ability to deliver high-quality services. The best service providers give the client more than they ask for and communicate, communicate, communicate.”
In reflecting upon his 25-year career, Bean said he owes a tremendous amount of gratitude to UNC Kenan-Flagler. “I’ve worked at four companies, and each one has been a stepping stone, culminating in what I am doing today, but it all started at UNC Kenan-Flagler,” he said. “Without that education, I would not be where I am today.”