Connections: Q&A with Ron Wheeler, CEO, The Sembler Company
Where did you start your real estate career? My real estate career started many years ago at NCNB (North Carolina National Bank) where I served as a banker who focused exclusively on commercial real estate.
Name one person that has been influential in your career. My dad, a great businessman, has been my mentor for work and for life. He has taught me many things, but maybe the most important one is how to treat people and how to build relationships.
What is your biggest accomplishment to date? Being named CEO of Sembler, a 55-year old company, has been an amazing experience and honor.
What tools or resources do you engage to help you grow as a professional? I interact with everyone —from successful, experienced business leaders to students just starting their careers — and I always learn something interesting and useful from each interaction.
Who do you admire most in the industry and why? I admire Craig Sher, a former CEO of Sembler, who hired and mentored me and taught me the value of doing things the right way.
How did you land at The Sembler Company? I was Sembler’s banker, and they hired me in 1997 to handle the company’s loans and property sales.
What is Sembler’s primary business focus? We develop, acquire, lease and manage retail real estate in the Southeastern US, Texas and Puerto Rico, both for our own account and for third parties.
Describe your job. My job is to hire smart, honest people. Through our culture of teamwork and respect, I work with them to develop a strategy for success, give them the resources they need and then set them loose to do their jobs.
Share a bit of insight into the company’s culture. Our culture focuses on teamwork, respect, honesty and fulfillment for each person within our firm. Those guiding principles are the key to our company’s performance and success in the industry.
What is on the firm’s horizon in 2019? We will continue to identify opportunities to create value for ourselves and our clients. Our goal is to acquire centers and apply our expertise to improve value and to develop best-in-class grocery-anchored shopping centers and other retail assets.
Are you currently looking for talent? If so, what position & what skills are important for that position? While we don’t have many immediate needs, we are always looking for the right people who fit our culture, so when we do have a specific need, we can readily access our list of talent.
What characteristics do you look for in a potential employee? We seek smart, dedicated and ethical people who work well with others. It is critical that they align with our culture and possess the specific skill sets that our positions require.
Do you conduct most interviews in person or over the phone or video? What do you look/listen for during the interview? We believe that in-person interviews are the only true way to evaluate someone. Specifically, you want know he or she has a grasp of our industry and an energy that will translate into success.
Do you review social media profiles of candidates? If so, do you rule out candidates based on their online profile? We do review social media profiles but have been lucky so far in that we have not felt the need to eliminate a candidate based upon that review.
What advice would you give someone who is just entering the CRE industry? I always advise people entering the industry to be as flexible as possible when it comes to geography and even what job you initially take. However, be very sure that the company you work for is one that you respect both for their performance as well as their culture, reputation and how they conduct themselves to ensure it aligns with your own beliefs.
What general comments can you say about the talent within the CRE industry? There are a great number of really talented people out there, both industry vets and young people entering the business.
How does Poline Associates support your talent needs? Poline has placed a significant number of qualified people at Sembler over many years. They do a great job of providing a wide variety of really good people for us to interview. We trust them with one of our most important tasks—finding the right people for us.
How do you spend your free time? I love to travel to remote places and explore nature.
Favorite drink? Lately, Manhattans with a good rye whiskey.
Best vacation you have ever taken? I had a great trip hiking in Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands last year that was really amazing.
Favorite city? St. Pete and London.
Where is once place you’d like to go, but have never been? Australia and New Zealand are on the list.