Interview: Jeffrey Rogers, President, Integra Realty Resources

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Jeffrey Rogers, President, Integra Realty Resources

Jeffrey Rogers, President, Integra Realty Resources

This week’s interview features Jeffrey Rogers, President and COO, of Integra Realty Resources (IRR). Jeffrey is the senior operating executive and a board member of IRR, the nation’s largest commercial valuation firm with more than 55 offices and 750 employees. I had the pleasure of first meeting Jeffrey several years ago at an industry conference and developed an immediate respect for his intellectual acuity and business acumen. Jeffrey is a phenomenal leader with one of the most well rounded executive backgrounds you’ll find in the commercial real estate space. On with the interview…

Mike Myatt: Jeffrey, for our readers who may not be familiar with your background, would you please share a brief summary of your career history?

Jeffrey Rogers: I have had the fortune of approaching real estate from a number of different disciplines. My background includes Investment Banking, Technology and Law. In my past positions, I was charged with assessing risk, deploying capital to its highest use, and significantly increasing shareholder value. Integra has been a great fit for me because it has allowed me to combine all of my skills to assist in doubling the size of Integra over a 5 year span. In addition to Integra, I sit on various boards including TNP Strategic Retail Trust, Inc., which is a non-traded public REIT.

Mike Myatt: As President of the nation’s largest valuation firm, you’re at ground zero on one of the industry’s biggest issues…what are assets really worth? Please describe where you see cap rates and values trending in 2010.

Jeffrey Rogers: We are still in a declining market. More than $2 trillion in commercial mortgages are expected to come due between now and 2013. However, due to the declining values and lack of financing, many property owners will have a very difficult time refinancing. Even the money sitting on the sidelines, which is about $300 billion, will not be enough to bridge the gap. In such an environment, values will continue to fall and cap rates will continue to rise in 2010.

Compounding the problem, foreclosures of commercial properties carrying mortgages are starting to surge. The CMBS sector is experiencing delinquency rates of more than six times the level a year ago. The economy continues to sag with increasing unemployment, falling income and consumer pessimism. Without the demand for commercial real estate increasing anytime soon, it will take us a while to recover.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as your primary role as IRR’s President?

Jeffrey Rogers: My primary role is to provide the overall strategic vision and direction for the company and oversee its implementation. During my tenure at Integra, we have made shifts in strategic direction in line with the external environment and stage of the company’s growth. So the process of strategic visioning is iterative and a job that is never done. At the same time, we have had significant accomplishments on the operational side. We have built processes and technology to capture the best data in the industry so that our employees can do their job better and faster than our competitors. We also expanded our product offerings such as valuation for financial reporting and distressed asset analysis.

Mike Myatt: Do you have a mentor, and how important was that person to you in term of your professional development?

Jeffrey Rogers: I have been very fortunate to have many mentors in my life, including pioneers in the real estate industry. I cannot mention them all, but would like to mention one, our late Chairman Kevin Nunnink, who passed away unexpectedly in August. Kevin’s professional life touched every aspect of real estate. Kevin saw the industry changing and the need for a large national valuation firm and, thus, formulated the vision to found Integra. He was key to my development as we experienced rapid growth. I encourage everyone to seek a mentor. In many cases, a mentor has already seen the challenges ahead of you and can assist you in making the best decisions while learning in the process.

Mike Myatt: What books are you currently reading?

Jeffrey Rogers: For balance, I always read a non-fiction and fiction book simultaneously. On the fiction side, I am close to finishing The Black Swan which theorizes that it is impossible to predict rare events outside of the realm of normal expectations. I love this book considering the times we are in now. The book also discussed how we attempt to rationalize black swan events as if we could have expected them.

On the fiction side, I am reading The Road which is a post-apocalyptic novel about the journey of a man and his son after the US was devastated by an unnamed cataclysm. Although the novel leaves you with hope, it is a warning of how bad the human condition can become if we do not change some critical aspects of our world.

Mike Myatt: What would you say was your “defining moment” as an executive?

Jeffrey Rogers: When Integra experienced a spike in assignments from the CMBS industry a few years ago, it was tempting to direct a disporportionate amount of company resources to that sector of the market. However, I made sure we remained diversified and invested in building our Litigation, Valuation for Financial Reporting and Government practice groups. At the same time, I took our brand international resulting in assignments which originated abroad. We never had that before to the levels we are seeing today. When the CMBS work dried up, our competitors experienced severe downturns resulting in layoffs. Integra is still growing today with our employee count now at 750, which has increased every year.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as your greatest leadership strength?

Jeffrey Rogers: My greatest strength is to analyze an industry and formulate a vision to become a market leader. I accomplish this by clearly communicating the vision and inspiring other leaders in the organization to take action. The ability to move seamlessly between strategy and execution, and knowing when to focus on which, has been key to my success.

Mike Myatt: What is the toughest leadership decision you have had to make thus far in 2009?

Jeffrey Rogers: In this environment, most companies are slashing budgets and cutting investment. We made the decision to invest heavily in enhancing our technology and product offerings. I went against the convention because not only do I see opportunity in this downturn, but because we are a value-added player in the type of turmoil.

Mike Myatt: If you could give one piece of advice to our readers what would that be?

Jeffrey Rogers: Everyone is going through a very difficult time right now. However, in difficulty there is opportunity. One should spend time searching for the opportunity and not worrying about the past. This is a time to stay positive, get creative, and make an impact. Our industry and the economy run in cycles. This period will end and we will get through this. When this cycle is over, think about how you want to answer the question, “What did you do?”

Conclusion
After reading this interview it should be no wonder as to why IRR has become the nation’s leading commercial real estate valuation firm. Jeffrey’s integrity, leadership ability, and intellect even have the firm growing in the worst commercial real estate market this generation.

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