Bryan is the owner/operator of McLain Companies (http://www.mclaincompanies.net/) where they build communities & neighborhoods. Bryan is behind several of Lafayette’s luxurious subdivisions such as Grand Pointe, The Reserve, Vintage Park, Plantation Oaks, and more. Bryan is also the innovator of The Cottage developments (http://www.thecottagestour.com/).
Bryan is also the man behind the St. Jude Dream Home every year, so we know he loves contributing to our community. Bryan was generous to sit down with us to contribute something else to the Acadiana Community: Advice on Growing your Real Estate Business.
How did you get started in real estate?
My initial start in real estate was with my dad back in Covington, Louisiana. I would say, back in the late 70’s early 80’s. My dad was a real estate broker and had his own company. I joined him as an agent and then a co-broker before I moved to Lafayette.
Why real estate vs. other industries or markets?
Even though I started early with real estate, I left the field for a while and tried to start up other businesses. Some of them successful, some of them a very big learning curve, but eventually I moved back to real estate and construction because I’m very comfortable with that. It has long term growth, it’s very steady, it’s not volatile except when interest rates rise, which we can’t control. I have always loved finding unique pieces of land and creating family homes.
When did you start McLain Companies? Would you say that your company has been successful? If yes, how would you define “success” (profitable, helping Acadiana, etc.)?
I got back into the real estate business full-fledged in 2002. It was right after I put together a concept Louisiana market and bakery, which we ended up turning into Zea, and I got back into what I was more comfortable with which was construction and real estate. So, we’re looking at 16 years ago. We have had our ups and downs like every company, but I would say that we have been very successful. We’ve been profitable, we’ve been able to help young families come on board and be a part of our team and grow with us. We’ve really learned that giving back is one of the key ingredients in our business and in life. We were involved with the local arts, creating the Symphony Decorators ShowHouse concept and Second Harvest, but predominantly our big fundraiser has been the St. Jude Dream Home. We’ve been involved with that for 9 years and are very proud to be a partner with St. Jude and have sent over 10 million dollars to the hospital!
What do you feel contributed to your success?
I try to measure what has contributed to our success, but there’s not one thing in particular. I think that we’ve been very blessed for our ability to give back. Since we’ve gotten involved with St. Jude 9 years ago our business has not only grown, but skyrocketed. In addition to that, you have good people that work for you, that work with you, that have your back out there in our company. We’re a small company, we have grown from just Sylvia and I to 13 people in the company. It’s really fun to watch those people come in and learn different things and grow as we grow, and adapt to what’s going on out in the real estate business. We have fun at work. We play Monopoly for a living!
Since you started out in real estate, I’m sure you’ve learned a lot. What advice would you give to those who are striving to be where you are in 10-20 years?
I guess any advice that I would give to someone who is wanting to get in the field of real estate and construction and wanting to do what we’ve done the last 10 to 20 years would be to stay diligent. Don’t get too high or too low. Some years there’s going to be some things you can’t understand and you’re going to have some clients you can’t understand. But all in all, it’s just staying steady on your course. Taking care of business, taking care of details, and having faith.
If you could go back to younger Bryan, would you do anything differently? If so, what?
I know a lot of people say this, but I have to say it and I really mean it with conviction. I have no regrets whatsoever with the path I’ve gone through. We’ve had some turbulence in my family life and personal life that I think everyone has. Surely, I’ve had it in my business. Ups and downs and good years and not so good years, but all in all, I’m the type of person I think that especially when it’s tougher and things don’t go your way, that’s when you learn the most. If you can pick yourself up and get going again and stay very very diligent to the course, it just makes you stronger.
How did you grow your business over the years?
Our business has grown over the years through, I guess the keyword is diversification. When I got back into real estate in 2002 it was strictly construction and then very quickly I was able to meet Sylvia. We partnered on a development deal because I had developed other neighborhoods before and have been around it my entire life. This was right after 9/11, at the end of 2001. We met and from there we went into the development business with neighborhoods not knowing that it would be the first of now 12 or 13 neighborhoods that we have put together over the last 15 years. Then we came up with a concept for rental income, The Cottage. We have two of those neighborhoods in town, and we’re about to break ground on a retail shopping plaza called McLain Marketplace over on E Broussard near one of our developments, Grand Pointe. I think the key has been trying to stay ahead a little bit of the curve and making sure we don’t have all our eggs in one basket as far as our growth.
Is there a plan for continued growth in 2018?
Our continued growth plan has a lot of diversification mix. We’re looking at cottage rentals. We have a location in Lake Charles that we’re about to embark on this year in 2018. The new shopping center, McLain Marketplace in 2018, and just trying to put together neighborhoods that we feel will be successful where people will be proud to come home and call home. If we continue to do that and keep our ears open and listen to what our clients are looking for, I think that we will continue to chart forward in nice steady growth.
Who has contributed to your company’s success that may not be seen?
The answer is simple, that’s my wife Sylvia. People know her as Sylvia McLain, Realtor, and she’s a great Realtor. Out in the marketplace, probably about half of her business comes from our company but the other half is from people that know Sylvia and want her to work with them. She’s been here her entire life, born and raised. She has so much diversification of talent and it’s all been really behind the scenes helping push McLain Companies up. It’s just been amazing. She does marketing, she does Facebook, she sits down with our Teamwork marketing group. We now have hired a company so that she can have more time to ride horses and do other things, which has been a blessing because that’s her real passion. Just to sum it up, she’s been behind the scenes doing so many things that have helped us become successful. I can go on and on.
For those that want to get started in real estate but don’t have the capital, what advice would you give them?
If that was a question in the dictionary, it would have my picture by it. When the Louisiana market and bakery concept did not go so well, I was the man who didn’t have any capital. But I started over and I started over one house at a time. I had to find someone who believed in me and that was Sylvia. She put up the land so that we could borrow the construction money to build one house at a time. We grew it to be able to borrow enough to build two houses at a time and now we can build quite a few more than that at a time. So, don’t let anything deter you, especially the lack of money. If you have the drive, the willpower, and the passion to get something done, you can get it done. We did.
For those who are looking to expand their real estate business (could be Realtors, lenders, home-flippers, wholesalers, etc.), is there one or two components that you feel help accelerate growth?
I think the most important component to have accelerated growth in real estate is being in a good location. It’s always been location, location, location and guess what guys, over these last 100 years plus, it has not changed. You must be careful where you pick to either build if you’re in the construction business or anything related to homes and lots because that’s going to always win out. I think the other thing is something you can’t control and that’s timing. Sometimes you hit the market right on an uptick and sometimes just when you think you have it, you don’t. I had one of the most beautiful neighborhoods I think that we ever put together, Vintage Park off Pinhook Road. It had a little league baseball field, jogging trails, a 1600 square foot treehouse, beautiful specimen live oak trees and it was right in the middle of 2008 and 2009 when the market crashed, and no one really saw it coming.
Is there a question you wished I had asked? If so, what is that question? And what is the answer?
A question that I get asked a lot, especially at 60 years old, is what drives you to work so hard and so many hours a week? I think the answer might surprise everyone. It’s not about the money at all. It’s not about the possessions at all. As a young man, I was always fueled by the fear of not winning and not doing quite enough. I wake up every day the same way I have for the last 40 years, and I’m looking over my shoulder thinking someone’s chasing me and it’s very important that they don’t catch me. It just fuels me. I like to treat someone like I’d like to be treated. I’m very competitive. I don’t like to lose and that’s I think the biggest contributor to our success at McLain Companies. I have people around me that have that same attitude. There’s something hanging in my office and I think it’s very appropriate. It says, “Don’t wait for opportunity, create it!” I think that’s what we do here, and we do it in a good way. We’re handling people’s money and we’re helping them invest their money into a home, probably for most people, the largest purchase they will ever make, and we take it seriously. We really want to do a good job and if it’s not just right we fix it because we’re disappointed we didn’t have it right the first time. We realize it’s a lot of moving parts and it’s something that we have compassion for and that’s what drives us. We’re very proud to be a part of Acadiana and a part of its growth.