The company includes a large client base and has been involved in some of the largest real estate transactions in Indiana. Harris, president of Meridian, attributes their success to their ability to adapt to a changing marketplace.
“Since it is just me and my partner, we can make decisions quickly. If we need to do something differently, we can basically do it overnight,” says Harris. “We’ve been very adaptable to generating revenue in many varying types of markets. That has been a big part of our success, and I think it always will be.”
Smart Business talked with Harris about Meridian’s road to success, competing against national companies and the challenges of finding good employees.
What are the challenges of being a local company competing against national companies?
The big challenge is a lot of the national companies will basically get a phone call that one of their national clients has an office here in town. There is not much or any selling or having to pitch for the business. It just has already been acquired at the national level.
It makes our jobs much more difficult because in many instances, they’re not getting the best adviser in town or the person who would be best-suited to their particular situation. If it were more of a free market, where you went to interviews and picked the best fit, I think that the company would get better service and better results because of it.
And it makes it more difficult on our business because we don’t get a chance to go over there and tell them about us and how we have been able to help other companies. But at the same point in time, we have done work for national companies that don’t have alliances or national accounts, and we have had to win the business, and many, many times we have had to compete against everyone in town.
We have got a strong market share, as well as a strong group of brokers, and we win more than our fair share of business.
What obstacles did you have to overcome as Meridian grew?
You have to put systems into place and organizations into place because if not, your entire day just gets chewed up with making sure things get done right. You have to put capable people in responsible positions that can handle things, so that you can oversee things and get out there and develop relationships and pitch business.
I really haven’t had a lot of obstacles. It is hard to find good, productive people. We have added people and let people go, because frankly, they were not productive. You have to be willing to tell people who aren’t productive that they are not in an appropriate way.
The best thing you can do for them is to let them know that they need to do something different, because it is not good for them, let alone good for the company. The biggest obstacle for us is to find quality people who mesh well with the existing personality structure and who are also productive.
We would add a lot more people if those three things could be met, but they are very difficult to find.
How do you attract and retain quality employees?
There are two ways to do it. You can attract existing people from other companies who are producers or you can train new people. We have done a little bit of both. We have three or four young guys who came over after college, and we are teaching them the business.
We also have a number of guys who were producers in other shops who we attracted over here. Trammell Crow had an office here in town and closed it in 2001. We did not have an industrial division at that point, and the Trammell Crow office was basically just industrial. We grabbed their entire industrial team and brought them over here.
That was a good revenue source for us, and they are doing extremely well right now. We were fortunate to be able to put that together.
What skills are essential for leading a fast-growing company?
You have to have patience. You have to be willing to see others’ point of view and merge those points into your opinion. You have to be able to deal with multiple personalities. You have a diverse group of people working under you that react differently.
I also think you have to be consistent with your message. You have to be organized. If you put those things together, people will respond. People want to know that what you say is what you mean, and that you are going to do what you say you are going to do. And that you follow through with things.
We all share the same database. We all work together. We all have different skills and different relations. We are not a typical company where everyone is protecting their business and not sharing any of it.
We are just the opposite. I think that makes us different.
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