By Rony Shir
Butters Construction & Development is a privately held real estate firm, engaged in the construction, development, investment, property management and leasing of industrial, office, and retail properties. The Butters organization has ranked among the most active commercial contractors, developers, and real estate brokerage companies in South Florida more than a decade. The company has won the National Association of Industrial and Office Property’s South Florida Chapter “Developer of the Year” award six times. Malcolm Butters (BBA’82), president of Butters Construction & Development, has been active in South Florida Real Estate for more than 30 years.
What were some of the biggest drivers behind creating the company?
My brother Mark and I had a goal of building a vertically integrated company, similar to Stiles Corporation (Full Service Real Estate Development and Construction Company). Our vision was to be a great company with a multitude of platforms including construction development, property management, and leasing acquisition. What started out as just the two of us in a one-room office (in the early 90s) turned into a huge opportunity. The reason was timing; there was a recession taking place in the early 1990s that eliminated a lot of the large real estate development firms. This helped clear the path for younger entrepreneurial companies. We were very fortunate. Over the years, we have expanded our portfolio from industrial to include office, retail, hotels, and now even apartment complexes.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the Real Estate Market?
One of the biggest changes so far is the amount of leverage (meaning debt) placed in real estate deals. Going back to the 1990’s, banks were loaning close to 100% of the cost on many developments. In 2001 there was a bit of a correction and this loan to cost ratio went down to 75-80%. Then in 2008 when the recession hit, lenders were limited to 50-70% loan to cost which is comparable to today. The decrease in leverage is remarkable.
What is one thing you would like our readers to know regarding Butters Construction?
We are local players in the community and are very engaged with all of our partners and tenants. Our differentiation lies in the personal relationships we create. Delivering excellent customer service is integral to our success. We also know our real estate market very well. I think our ability to react quickly is a big advantage in comparison to other firms.
Can you share your relationship and viewpoint on Miami Herbert Business School?
My brother Mark (AB’86), sister Shawn (BBA’87, JD’90) and myself (BBA’82) all have degrees from the University of Miami. Our experience in particular with Miami Herbert Business School has been tremendously memorable. I think the quality of the education is as good as any Ivy League school. The added ability to meet and work in your field while attending the university is a huge advantage. When you look at colleges located in small towns, you are with people limited to just the college experience and probably not given the opportunity to work in your field until after you graduate. Miami Herbert Business School is located in the heart of an international city with a diverse culture and growing economy; you can experience both the educational and professional benefits of the university at the same time.
What are your thoughts on our dean, John Quelch, who has been leading the school since July 2017?
I think Dean Quelch is a tremendous asset for the school. He brings a high level of standards in how we should operate as a school and has a lot of energy, which is really infectious when you are around him. He brings an international perspective as well and has a tremendous reputation, especially coming from Harvard. When you put all of this together, for me, out of all the Deans I have seen over the years affiliated with the school- he is the best. This makes me very excited for the future.
You are also a prominent member of the Real Estate Advisory Board; why did you decide to become a member?
They say that from those who have much, much is expected- in other words it is our duty to give back. I think the best way to help others is by volunteering your time and education. If you look at successful economies, one of the big reasons they proposer is because they have a deep culture in education. It is a fundamental value to help people grow and succeed. You can enrich people’s lives through investing your time as well as through philanthropy in the form of scholarships and internships.
Can you tell us about the Samuel and Phyllis Butters Scholarship in Real Estate that was created in honor of your parents?
My sister Shawn and I decided to create this scholarship in order to give financial assistance for students enrolled in the Real Estate Program at Miami Herbert Business School. We want to strengthen each student’s commitment and opportunity to work in the real estate field. We also want to put Miami Herbert on the radar of students who are only considering Ivy League schools. Miami is an exceptional choice, especially in this field as real estate investment / development in South Florida is really a transformative part of the economy.
How do you think the job market has changed from when you were in School?
Today’s environment is a lot different than when I began working. It is much more competitive. Having an advanced degree, obtaining internships, and getting involved in organizations such as the Urban Land Institute (ULI) or Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) is paramount to being successful. It is all about making connections – starting early and marketing yourself is key!