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Running with Values

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Ethics underpin growth for CrestCore Realty

In their nearly two decades of working with one another, CrestCore Realty co-founders Dan Butler and Douglas Skipworth have run halfway around the world together — literally. 

A year after they became neighbors in 2003, Butler and Skipworth embarked upon a morning running routine that has honed not only the duo’s values of perseverance, but also their perspectives on operating CrestCore.

In spite of snow, rain, fatigue or some other excuse, the two have run five miles, four times a week for nearly 16 years. In running more than 16,000 miles together — which tops more than half of the earth’s 24,901-mile circumference — Butler and Skipworth have deepened their friendship through accountability, support, and determination.

Pounding the pavement each dawn also has helped solidify a cornerstone value that helps the two founders guide their businesses through consistent growth. 

“There’s that old African proverb that says ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,’” said Skipworth, who serves as CrestCore’s principal broker. “I think running has helped us forge a friendship, and respect for one another to build this business together. We’re able to watch each other in how we handle commitments and accountability to one another.”

With eight-minute mile splits, Butler notes that the two runners aren’t lollygagging on their morning treks. The idea behind the brisk pace is to not only create a healthy lifestyle but to also further sharpen their discipline. 

“Rain, snow, whatever — there are always excuses. But we know that the other one is going to be out there at 6 a.m.” said Butler, who serves as CEO of CrestCore. “There’s not many people in our circles that are as consistent as we are year-round, and that plays into our business. We know that being consistent is kind of like the tortoise and the hare. We’ll outlast other people in this business because we just don’t stop. We just keep doing what we do.”

Founded in 2012, Memphis-based CrestCore helps clients in the greater Memphis metro area and North Mississippi buy, sell, and manage real estate investment properties. With offices in Memphis, Jackson, and Dyersburg, Tennessee, CrestCore also takes pride in helping educate its clients on deals and the nuances of real estate investing.

“We help people succeed through real estate,” Butler said. “We help individual investors — people like you and me — that are looking for financial freedom or to build wealth. Our clients are more like mom and pops, not institutional investors, hedge funds, or private equity groups.” 

Now with more than 750 clients and 75 employees, the co-founders have grown thanks to their methodical, deliberate approach that was in part cultivated through their running program, Skipworth said. 

“The consistency you need as a long-distance runner is the same for our business — it’s a long-term mindset,” he said. “Buying a home isn’t a get-rich-quick thing like fix-and-flip or wholesale. We want to put in the work and we both have a delayed gratification and invest-for-the-future mindset where you sacrifice today in order to get more down the road.”

CrestCore_CORE_Values_Poster_WebA Foundation of Values

In September, Butler and Skipworth were both recognized with Think Realty Magazine’s Master Investor award. The commendation recognizes real estate investment professionals with a proven track record of success, integrity, and service in the real estate industry.

Integrity is, in fact, a central tenet of CrestCore’s philosophy, Skipworth said. The word “Core” serves as an acrostic that relays the firm’s values of character, ownership, respect, relationships, evolution, and keeping the end in mind.

“I would say our six core values are pretty much the essence of who Dan and I are,” Skipworth said. “These values are what we aspire to. Sometimes we might slip or might not live out the values or standards we have for ourselves, but it’s what we encourage each other to do and they’re the standards that we hold for each other.”

CrestCore— which is one of a handful of real estate businesses under Butler’s and Skipworth’s parent firm, 6AM Core Collective — has a passion to partner with others to develop thriving real estate businesses that bring fulfillment to people, benefit to society, and glory to God.

Both ardent Christians, Butler and Skipworth attribute the cultivation of their values to their families, friends, and faith. The two view their friendship as “iron sharpening iron” and are thankful for the good people that have enriched their faiths and determination to make an impact for their families, employees, and clients. 

Such values have undoubtedly helped their company grow from what was helping friends and family with real estate deals to now serving hundreds of people with properties in Tennessee and Mississippi. 

“When talking about success, it makes me think what is real success?” Skipworth asked rhetorically. “For Dan and me, real success is people using the talents ambitions, and opportunities to serve others and glorify God. What we’re trying to do is to encourage our employees and colleagues to do the same.”

A native of Dallas, Texas, Butler agreed, noting that CrestCore has helped at least 10 of its employees go on to launch real estate investment businesses of their own. By helping to instill their values in others, Butler believes that it will not only help their community and the real estate industry, but the world.   

“To me, that’s a big deal,” Butler said. “We want others to succeed — whether it be with us, or starting their own thing or going on to the next level of another company, we want to see the best use of their skills … Putting that footprint in other businesses and industries is just as good as them continuing to build with us.”

The two also work to help better the real estate industry.   

“We love helping people, and our peers in the industry in Memphis and across the country,” Skipworth said. “Whether it’s a Think Realty conference, other conferences, or Mastermind groups, we love sharing best practices and resources … We’re just constantly wanting to see everybody get better.” 

With a stronger real estate industry, everyone wins, Butler said. Just recently, Butler said he had lunch with a Memphis competitor with the purpose of helping connect them with a quality virtual assistant. “When we make them stronger, they’re a stronger competitor — but that’s OK,” he said. “We’re all trying to win together.”

By rejecting a scarcity mentality and embracing an abundance mindset, Skipworth believes that the company is opening itself up to more opportunities to connect with others. Ultimately, CrestCore’s values are what set the business apart from its competitors, Skipworth said. 

“Some of those core values, the way we operate and who we are sets us apart over the long term — even if others use the same tools,” he said. “Somebody can lace up with the same sneakers and use the same equipment, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to get the same results.”

Place in the Market

While there’s still room for improvement, Skipworth believes that the real estate investment world has become more collaborative in recent years. In general, Skipworth added that that the buy-and-hold landlord business has become more professionalized — particularly from third-party management groups.

Aided in part by a growing library of public resources, a more collaborative environment and more inexpensive tech tools to help manage portfolios, more people are seeing entry ways to become real estate investors or launch real estate businesses. Skipworth added that renters and landlords have greatly benefited from improved insight into the world of real estate.

“The technology improvements that have happened in the last 15 years have really upped the game,” he said. “And the transparency for residents and clients  has been really great for the business as a whole. They all benefit from that.” 

While there hasn’t always been the best reputation for property management firms, Butler thinks such efforts to encourage transparency have helped weed out bad actors and generate more trust among brokers, investors, and renters. 

In addition to its other strong values, Skipworth said that CrestCore’s culture of constant improvement and evolution set it apart from its competitors. CrestCore’s leadership acknowledges that the real estate industry can change quickly, and that to keep up, it must be willing to adapt. 

“We are constantly evolving,” Butler said. “We are constantly trying to build systems, processes, and foundational tools to scale the business to take it to other markets, and into other segments.”

Over the years, Skipworth said that CrestCore’s biggest obstacle is finding people that deeply connect with their values so they can also live them out in the course of their business relationship. When employees, clients or others identify with and exemplify their values, CrestCore can optimally operate knowing that everyone strives for the greater good. When there are disconnects, however, it can create not just operational challenges, but also ethical and moral obstacles that can create difficult situations. 

At times, CrestCore has found itself extending grace to clients when it should’ve likely cut ties with the person. As a result, it prolonged and intensified the damage, Skipworth said. It’s especially challenging because CrestCore so highly values personal relationships and trust, he added. 

“Our biggest challenge has been finding like-minded people,” Skipworth said. “Whether it be employees, clients, or prospective clients, learning how to communicate our values appropriately and vividly such that they can come in and get aligned with these values has been [challenging]. If someone isn’t a long-term relationship type of person or they’re more of a ‘what’s in it for me’ type of person as opposed to a service-oriented person, or if they lack personal accountability, that can be hard for us.”

Think Realty Crestcore Edited Final-11

Finding employees that strive for excellence and keep the company’s values top of mind was also a challenge, Butler said. 

“Once we decided that we weren’t going to be the only team members, we’ve been fighting hard and putting in long hours over weeks and months to get those values at a high organizational level,” he said. “Excellent customer service and performance is what we want and expect from ourselves, which exactly ties to values and finding the right people.”

Coaching clients and developing their skills is one of Butler’s most cherished duties with CrestCore. In particular, he loves to find opportunities for students and to cultivate their professional skills to help advance their careers.

For Skipworth, supporting CrestCore’s team is what deepens his passion for this work. Skipworth’s drive to help others succeed reminded him of high school basketball, wherein he relished any opportunity to help the team win. 

“In high school, I played point guard and just loved that position for so many reasons,” he said. “In that role, it’s mainly how the other players do and how that point guard can help those team members succeed and do well. That’s how the point guard wins. For me, seeing our team members win, get better, and put that ‘W’ in the win column is important to me. Everybody getting to shine is what makes me happy.”

With its expansion into Dyersburg, Tennessee, CrestCore recently entered its third market in The Volunteer State, which checks off a 2019 goal for the company to reach more people and real estate in west Tennessee, Skipworth said. Skipworth said the company’s goal is to integrate the new market into its operations and get its team focused on providing world-class experience with that opportunity.

In addition to capitalizing on its new Tennessee market, Skipworth said that the company is looking to expand its regional footprint and look for other metro areas that might benefit from its services. CrestCore is also looking to grow its business within its existing markets and is exploring other offerings that might augment its buying, selling, and managing services. 

“We want to be opportunistic as well as look for new opportunities to grow our business,” he said. “We’re not looking to do things totally different but rather find things that complement what we’re doing now.”

Seeing CrestCore grow from a small business that helped only its friends and family to a team of 75 helping hundreds of clients has been incredibly gratifying, Skipworth said. Experiencing the company’s steady growth energizes him for the future and makes the “It’s been very fulfilling and rewarding to see where things are now,” he said. “Being able to provide for our families and to make people look at the industry differently has been a blessing. There’s definitely pent-up excitement about what the future holds … We often say to each other that we feel like we’re just getting started.”