Real estate has been an important economic indicator in the business industry. With introductions of the latest trends such as co-working, data centers, pop-up rentals, and many more. Real estate serves as a guarantee for financing and as an important element of economic stability. As the industry offers several scopes for growth, real estate leaders must be aware of how to cultivate and utilize the available opportunities and possibilities.
The leaders must be agile and enterprising while leading their companies in an industry as promising as real estate. One such prime example of ingenious leadership is Stephen H Bittel (CEO and founder of Terranova) who has successfully tapped the potentials of the industry and has thrived in the competition. Guided by strong principles and a cohesive vision, Stephen has been propelling the company forward and contributing to its profound growth.
Commencing the Entrepreneurial Journey
Stephen has always been an entrepreneur at heart. Hailing from a family with a law background, he had presumed to pursue the same profession. However, after graduation, he worked abroad for a year and returned home to enroll himself at the University Of Miami School Of Law. Simultaneously, he undertook a position at a commercial real estate firm to pay bills and stay engaged in business.
A year later when the company he was working for offered to restructure his compensation, Stephen realized his caliber and realized how much more he could achieve if he were to start his own company. Despite continuing with his law studies, Stephen established Terranova by the second year of law school in 1980 and managed operations at his home-based office.
Vast Array of Services
Terranova operates a geographically diverse portfolio as a multi-strategy opportunistic real estate and private equity investor. The company is currently worth a billion dollars in assets of commercial real estate and other operating businesses. Since its inception, the company has been thriving in the real estate industry. Over the past four decades, Terranova has grown to become one of South Florida’s leading commercial real estate firms.
With a principled and passionate approach to business, the company holds a unique perspective that enables it to provide creative solutions within the real estate sector. The company offers a comprehensive array of services including leasing and property management, acquisition/joint ventures, financing and development, and construction management primarily for its own portfolio.
Comprehensive Leadership Skills
Stephen prioritizes the importance of attentiveness while expanding the company’s portfolio and believes that one needs to ‘have their finger on their pulse of the market’. He centralizes his primary duties around leading the firm’s ownership and operation of its investment portfolio.
Being at the helm of the company, Stephen carries himself with integrity and empathy, which enables him to motivate his team and ensure productivity. He believes that anticipating trends and being opportunistic in one’s approach is paramount to building a portfolio that can operate with profitability. “One can have the determination and grit to make those decisions even when the risks feel daunting,” he adds.
With comprehensive leadership skills, Stephen believes in building a strong productive business with a diverse team equipped with different perspectives. He adds, “In recognizing and seeking to understand others’ perspectives rather than discounting them, you can use that information to guide your communications and become a much better leader in the process.”
Balanced Leadership Mindset
Stephen’s dynamic leadership has been instrumental in harnessing all the available opportunities amid the crisis. Under his leadership, the team has managed to balance worksheets and actively engage in seeking distressed opportunities in real estate and corporate assets. Unlike other leaders, Stephen believes that crisis management is achieved with a balanced leadership mindset. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen maintained equilibrium between prioritizing both business and the people within it.
Throughout its journey of over four decades, the company has undergone its fair share of down-business cycles. While it was important to remain true to the bottom line, Stephen also ensured that the company maintained a strong culture during times of crisis when a loyal, enthusiastic and productive team was essential for its success. Irrespective of the unprecedented aftermath of the pandemic, the company responded with its ground morale—pivot and adjust. It also unveiled new ways to keep business intact and compensate for losses. For instance, it opened up availability for short-term leases to encourage retailers to rent the vacancies as a pop-up space.
Envisioning a Proliferative Future
Stephen envisions a proliferative future for Terranova in the upcoming years. Accounting for Terranova’s success during the past two years, Stephen quoted, “Times of distress often provide the best opportunities to grow your portfolio, which is why it is beneficial to enter those periods with the liquidity available to take advantage of such opportunities.” He recommends managing and balancing finances as it holds the key to success in the real estate industry.
Since last year, the company has been actively focused on expanding its portfolio of assets through the opportunistic acquisition of distressed debt and equity. It has an array of exclusive portfolios such as Lincoln Road Miami Beach and Coral Gables Miracle Miles retail, working on regaining its pre-pandemic strength, and the company’s Austin multi-family asset, which is making good progress in its renovation path. Other assets such as the gas station and convenience store are in various stages of redevelopment while the company plans to add new ones to its portfolio.
Thriving as a Successful Entrepreneur
As a successful entrepreneur, Stephen suggests aspiring entrepreneurs seek partnership with people having shared vision who will promote growth, irrespective of the sector. He elaborates, “Whom you hire will always play a huge role in the makeup of your business no matter what stage it is in, but partnering with hard-working, honest people when you are just starting out is crucial because these are the ones who will be playing a key role in understanding and executing your vision.”