Just in time for its 50th anniversary, Kidder Mathews was recently named a Fastest-Growing Private Company in the United States by Inc. 5000 Magazine. That prestigious recognition means the commercial real estate firm is now a five-time Inc. 5000 honoree since it had also earned the distinction in 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2013. In celebration of the firm’s rich heritage and meteoric growth, it has also launched a new website and brand campaign that depicts the firm’s innovative culture.
Inc. Magazine tracks private company growth and ranks it against national peers. The fact that Kidder Mathews holds a spot on the list is not surprising. The company’s high standards are well reflected in its enduring record of achievement, both from a transactional performance that now stands at $9 billion annually, as well as industry and business recognition.
The firm and its CEO are also the recipients of more than 380 awards and recognitions from West Coast and national publications including CEO of The Year, and Ernst & Young’s NW Entrepreneur of the Year. The host of accolades includes 46 Hall of Fame and Best Places to Work awards in multiple West Coast publications, six awards for Fastest Growing Company in Washington, the firm’s HQ, and multiple rankings for largest and best commercial real estate firm.
All of those honors simply indicate the work ethic and approach to business on which the company was founded 50 years ago in Seattle. Kidder Mathews continues to grow, largely as a result of its entrepreneurial business model and unique platform that rewards top performance, which helps attract high-caliber professionals.
Jeffrey Lyon, Chairman and CEO of Kidder Mathews, a well-known commercial real estate veteran who entered the business in 1972, states, “As I’ve traveled up and down the West Coast the past three to four years, I’ve told the Kidder Mathews story that starts and ends with the longevity of our people. All of the awards are nice and we are competitive, so that helps get us in the door to have a further conversation about why a top performer should come join Kidder Mathews.”
But Lyon notes a key selling point is the fact that Kidder Mathews’ platform is built on a flat and efficient management structure with commission splits that are significantly more favorable to its brokers. The company offers sophisticated marketing support, and the opportunity for every employee to become a shareholder. As a result, Kidder Mathews stands in stark contrast to the trend of commercial brokerages consolidating into larger publicly-held firms.
“We attract great talent because we’re a privately-held independent firm where brokers get to be themselves,” said Lyon. “We’ve built and fostered a workplace that people enjoy coming to and that’s helped us grow over the years. Talent doesn’t want to work at a top-down, publicly held firm where they are just a number, they want to work at a quality firm where they are highly valued and they have a say in the direction of the firm.”
The Kidder Mathews business model hinges on an entrepreneurial environment where the professionals have control and flexibility in how they manage their business, points out Lyon. All shareholders own the entire company, not just the market where they are located, as some firms do, and they all hold a shared controlling interest. “We are a unique company in the commercial real estate world, and no one is doing it like we are,” said Lyon.
The Kidder Mathews approach can appeal to a strong regional brokerage firm seeking to expand to the next level without getting taken over by a large multinational organization or one where the founders are ready to establish a succession plan. That’s because Kidder Mathews’ leaders truly understand it is about people. “We care about and take care of our people here,” said Lyon, who notes he focuses on respecting people.
Lyon shares that when he joined the firm 27 years ago, it was largely borne out of a desire to be part of something bigger than he and his father had created. They retained the commercial part of their business but sold the residential component in 1985. The move to join with Jerry Mathews, who was known for doing industrial, was a natural one for Lyon, who became CEO of Kidder Mathews in 2000. “When we sat down with Jerry Mathews’ team, they sounded just like me and what I was doing in Tacoma,” he said.
The firm has grown from four offices and 65 brokers generating $22 million in revenue to become the largest independently owned commercial real estate firm on the West Coast with a robust menu of services including brokerage, property management, valuation advisory, and debt and equity financing. Kidder Mathews now has 800 real estate professionals and staff in 22 offices in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Lyon believes Kidder Mathews will reach revenues of over $205 million this year.
That growth will be achieved by remaining true to its founding principles. “Our approach is about the quality of the individual and the talent,” said Lyon, who notes Kidder Mathews appeals to brokers in a boutique or regional firm who may have gotten swept up in an acquisition into a larger firm and realize the company they were with before is now gone.
They no longer have a clear vision or a voice in decisions being made at a corporate level. At Kidder Mathews, the broad-based structure of 218 owners and principals serves to ensure the entrepreneurial spirit remains intact. “We are not a top-down company, though we have great leadership, and that’s not changed since I joined the firm,” said Lyon.
The challenge, he notes, is ensuring that the culture continues as Kidder Mathews expands. The goal is to maintain that entrepreneur’s approach rather than become a big corporate culture.
“We are not building to sell the company. We like who are today and we want to keep who we are today, tomorrow,” said Lyon, who points out that there’s still plenty of opportunity for growth on the West Coast for Kidder Mathews. “We want to attract likeminded people who want to come in, go after business, and understand they are not just a number at a big company. We’ll provide them with the tools to achieve whatever their next level is, and they can still have fun doing what they do best, close deals and help clients succeed.”
As the firm has expanded into other markets beyond its Seattle foundation, Lyon notes it is more challenging if a broker is unfamiliar with Kidder Mathews. But when the introduction is warm, the right initial addition can lead to significant growth. In the case of Kidder Mathews’ move into Southern California, what started with three brokers in San Diego has mushroomed into 155 people in eight offices in the SoCal region as word spread.
That similar growth model gives Lyon confidence that Kidder Mathews will reach $205 million in top-line revenue for the West Coast market by 2020 and he sees no reason why that number won’t reach $500 million eventually.
Lyon said that local market expertise is key in commercial real estate. “One of the things that has really helped us become successful is focusing on local talent in local markets,” he said. Since real estate assignments may spread across a wide geographic scope today, individuals who are doing the work may not even meet. “We approach assignments with a single point of contact and find the right partner from Kidder Mathews. We want to be known for having the best of class talent and local expertise inside or outside the company and for delivering the highest level of services,” said Lyon.
He believes the company’s current growth up down the West Coast will continue to benefit by using the same methodology. “That sets us apart when we bring local talent in,” said Lyon. “That expertise makes a difference to clients when they try to make a decision.”
About Kidder Mathews
Kidder Mathews is the largest independently owned commercial real estate firm on the West Coast, with 800 real estate professionals and staff in 22 offices in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Kidder Mathews offers a complete range of brokerage, appraisal, property management, consulting, project & construction management, and debt & equity finance services for all property types. The firm performs $9 billion in transactions, manages over 53 million square feet of space, and conducts over 1,600 appraisals annually. For more information, visit kidder.com.