by Dan Rafter
L. Mason Capitani CORFAC International is truly a family business.
Liberty Mason Capitani founded the company in 1965. That makes this year a big one for the Troy, Mich.-based firm: 2015 is its 50th anniversary.
Mason ran the firm as a one-man operation in its earliest days. But his son, Mason E. Capitani, an industrial specialist, helped grow the company into what it is today, a full-service brokerage and property management firm.
Today, Mason E. is still involved in the company, serving as its chairman. But the third generation of Capitani family members is making its mark on the firm, too. Jason Capitani today leads L. Mason Capitani’s industrial properties division, while Mason L. Capitani heads its office properties division.
The Capitani family has managed to build a business with a geographic reach that extends beyond the borders of its home state of Michigan, closing deals both across the nation and the globe.
So what is the secret to L. Mason Capitani’s success? Mason E. Capitani points to a simple formula: The brokers, agents and staffers here provide the best possible customer service without sacrificing their ethics, integrity or dignity. They work hard. They study their market.
There’s something else, too: A fear of failure.
“Tenacity has been important. We don’t want to fail,” Mason E. told Midwest Real Estate News. “That is a big part of it. We have always been very careful in our approach to building this company. I’ve watched a lot of other companies do very well very quickly in this market. But they are no longer here. They grew too quickly or made too many mistakes. We avoided that. We were careful.”
Mason E. points to a list he has of 40-some brokers who ranked as the largest commercial brokers in the Detroit-area market in 1982. Of that list? Only two are still active in the business.
One of them, of course, is him.
“We weren’t the largest brokerage in 1982,” Mason E. said. “We did things quickly, but not too quickly. We were focused on growing naturally, by proving that we could be trusted. It all revolves around hard work and dedication. When it’s a family business, your name is involved. So you always want to maintain that integrity.”
The hard work, and commitment to customer service, has paid off.
Today, L. Mason Capitani CORFAC International maintains an active portfolio of more than 600 exclusively listed and/or managed properties in excess of 15 million square feet.
Five decades is a long time. And plenty has changed in the commercial real estate business since L. Mason Capitani founded the company 50 years ago. During his own career, Mason E. has often been struck by how quickly things change.
There’s technology, for instance. He’s seen tech rise to prominence only to quickly become obsolete. And he’s seen it often.
“I remember first coming across the electronic typewriter, the one with the IBM ball,” he said. “I remember thinking how amazing that typewriter was. Then it became passé’ in a moment. The technology has changed. But the honesty and integrity that you need in this business never changes. The way we deal with our clients has been one constant in this business.”
Many of the changes that Mason E. has seen have been positive ones. For instance, today’s commercial real estate professionals tend to come to the business with more business education behind them.
“The talent in our business is more educated today,” he said. “Back when I started, if you were a college graduate in this business you were a rarity. Today, that college degree is almost essential. The general sophistication and the education of the brokers has gotten a lot better.”
Mason E. does have goals for the future: The younger generation of Capitani family members – Jason and Mason L. – are doing much of the heavy lifting in running the company today. And they are doing well, continuing to grow the business’ reach and reputation.
Mason E. wants to see this continue, especially as Detroit continues its recovery from its historic bankruptcy filing.
“We think the future is a positive one in Detroit,” he said. “Once we got over the bad press that Detroit was receiving, the city took on the task of rebuilding. Today, a lot of people are investing in downtown Detroit. That is good to see. And we are looking forward to playing a part in this.”