Anderson Smith | Crain's Houston

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Anderson Smith


Capital Retail Properties specializes in developing, marketing and selling retail properties. It has one of the top landlord and tenant representation teams in the Houston area and currently has 220,000 square feet of retail under construction. Partner and co-owner Anderson Smith has been responsible for facilitating the marketing of more than 4 million square feet in the area in the past year. He specializes in the leasing of shopping centers anchored by Target, grocery and home improvement stores. Most of his work comes from the leasing of ground-up developments. His clients have included Olive Garden, Starbucks, Potbelly, Carl’s Jr., Panera Bread, Kay’s Jewelers and McDonald’s. He previously was an associate at Houston commercial real estate firm NewQuest Properties. The Austin native graduated from Texas A&M University in 2004 and was a two-time captain for the Aggie track and field team.

The Mistake:

I had the expectation that I would go to college, get good grades and then get a career job, following the American dream. I thought I would get out of school and be successful. But that’s the American dream of the ‘50s. That’s not reality.

I made $30,000 per year in my first job out of school, working in the back office of a real estate firm. It was a small company and I thought I could move up. Then I got my first paycheck. I thought, "How am I going to live on that, by eating ramen?"

All my friends were accountants and engineers and had traditional jobs with salaries. Some friends had pharmaceutical jobs that paid them $100,000 per year. But that wasn’t interesting to me.

You have to be a chameleon to deal with different facets of a project.

The Lesson:

I realized that this was not going to be my career path. This was not going to be my life. I read, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” and learned to be more entrepreneurial. And I started looking into commercial real estate.

I took a job making $10 an hour to get into the brokerage industry. I took a couple of steps back to get into the industry and the career path I wanted to be in and had to work my way up. After that, it was commission-based only, and I’ve been doing that since 2005 or 2006.

There’s not a degree program for what we do. You have to take the basics of accounting, finance and marketing and apply that to your daily work. A lot of it is self-motivating and you go in without a salary. It’s not an 8-to-5 job. You don’t have someone standing over you, telling you what to type into your computer.

I do a lot of lunches with young people trying to get into the industry. They all say, “How can I make a lot of money?” They don’t understand that you have to earn it; they think it’s just going to happen. That’s just not reality.

A lot of people say, “I want to be a developer” and don’t think about what that means. It can mean anything, from where post office boxes go to unglamorous stuff on the construction site. 

You have to be a quarterback of a lot of different industries, dealing with attorneys, brokers and general contractors. You have to show up in cowboy boots in the morning and meet with contractors and then you have to put on a suit in the afternoon to meet with your bankers to ask for a loan. You have to be a chameleon to deal with different facets of a project.

I don’t have any regrets. Houston has one of the best economies in the country. As people say, “It’s never groundhog day.”

Follow Capital Retail Properties on Twitter at @CapitalRetailTX.

Photo courtesy of Anderson Smith

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