Naperville, Ill.-based DynaCom Management boasts more than 25 years of experience managing, leasing and developing commercial and medical properties. Founder and owner Ali Setork, though, never envisioned a career in real estate management and development. He formerly worked as a professor at universities across Illinois, and he holds a doctorate in engineering and mathematics along with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
But there was something about commercial real estate that called Setork. And it’s since turned into a booming career for the entrepreneurial-minded resident of Naperville.
Setork recently spoke with Midwest Real Estate News about the rewards and challenges of the commercial real estate business.
Midwest Real Estate News: You launched your real estate development and management company after a successful teaching career. Why did you make this move?
Ali Setork: Before I retired from teaching, I had already owned residential properties. Then we moved into owning office buildings. We eventually sold those. But I enjoyed working with real estate and found that I had an aptitude for it. Now we own office buildings in Naperville and manage them ourselves.
MWREN: What do you enjoy about your post-teaching career?
Setork: I studied mechanical engineering during my college days. Because of that, I enjoy putting high-tech equipment in our buildings. That’s what I am good at. I design all the aspects of our buildings myself. When we first started in this business, we found a lo lot of problems in the buildings. We started to look at ways to make life better for our tenants. That’s why we started doing everything ourselves. We know get involved in the design of our buildings. We get involved in the plumbing, the HVAC and the electric. We know our buildings very well. So we have high-speed Internet access in our buildings. We control the lighting and door-lock systems remotely to help our tenants consume less energy. We can control these systems online from our office. We have seven big properties that we are managing now. The systems in those properties are controlled from within our office.
MWREN: What are the advantages to your tenants from such high-tech systems?
Setork: Consider the HVAC systems. When they call our office, we know exactly what they are talking about at all times. Most of the time we can respond to their HVAC needs very quickly just by tweaking the computer for them. If they are too hot or too cold, we can take care of that for them instantly. The fact that we control these systems means that we are not at the mercy of outside forces. The building is under a closer loop. The tenants get what they need and what they want in a shorter period of time.
MWREN: You mentioned that you are heavily involved in the design elements of your buildings. How much do you enjoy that part of the business?
Setork: I do enjoy being involved in the design, both the architectural big picture and the smaller details of the building. I select all the plumbing, HVAC, lighting and electric systems in the buildings. That is my personal expertise.
MWREN: How do you keep business flowing during these challenging economic times?
Setork: This is the toughest time that we’ve had in this industry. But we are blessed that we can still keep our heads up. Our revenue has dropped. Our expenses are higher. But we made sure from day one that we would be able to survive financially in case of tough times. You do have to prepare for these difficult times. Right now we are just continuing to provide good service and to work hard. We hope that the industry will eventually turn around. But these have been tough times.
MWREN: You only do business in Naperville, right?
Setork: We love this town. We are heavily connected with this town. We have never bought any buildings outside of Naperville. It just makes sense for us to stay extremely local. We have a construction force that can get to all of our properties easily. They go back and forth between buildings that are all located close to each other. It’s efficient to keep everything close to each other.
MWREN: How important is customer service in the management and development business?
Setork: You have to always stay focused on quality. We keep our buildings extremely clean and in top condition. We have a good team over here. They take care of our tenants when they call. We also have good communications through the Internet and through our Web site. We offer tenant surveys where we ask our tenants what they like and what they don’t like. We ask them how we can better serve them. We take care of people’s needs. If you focus on quality, the customers will stay happy.
— Dan Rafter