Elyse: Hi, I’m Elyse Evans and this is The BusinessMakers Show. Today our guest is Ric Campo, thank you so much for being with us today.
Ric: Thanks, I’m glad to be here.
Elyse: And I want to share to share with people some of the impressive titles which are associated with your name; so CEO of Camden Property Trust, Chairman of Houston First, Chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and honored recently with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Houston Business Journal. Pretty incredible things to be associated with your name and with all of that remarkable sort of, those titles, I also want to address the elephant in the room where people may be wondering what’s this guy wearing? You have a workman’s shirt on for Camden and I think that this – this shirt really sort exemplifies sort of your humor and the type of business leader that you are; explain to us why you’re wearing this.
Ric: Well sure, I wear this shirt to show respect to people at Camden who work in the field. We have about 1,800 employees 900 of them deal with customers everyday and they wear this shirt. So the idea is to make sure we recognize the people that make it work. So I’m Chairman of all the entities, right? And the reason I can be Chairman of all these entities is the chairman doesn’t really do any work and doesn’t take care of the customer. What the chairman does is sort of deal with overall kind of direction and vision, but has to then motivate the team to actually do the work.
So this is all about making sure that people understand that there are people that actually do the work and they’re great people and we need to take care of them. And whenever I speak to my teams I wear this shirt and I do it in public as well to big groups just to remind them that they’re – the people in the field that are taking care of their customers everyday are the really most important people out there. The ones that – and if you put smiles on their faces you’ll have smiles on the customers faces which is, you know, what we’re all about.
Elyse: And it’s really great because I think it really gives a sense of your humility and just knowing that you can kind of have a little fun and not everything has to be so – so serious all the time.
Ric: Fun is a big part of our culture at Camden. It’s one of our core values; gotta have fun.
Elyse: Well it’s great to see and I know that you’ve had a lot of fun in your past and before we get to Camden I sort of want to talk a little bit about your background. I know it’s very entrepreneurial and I sort of want people to understand sort of how you got here, um, and also share with – with people – with our viewers – about a little great story about your sort of business acumen in college.
Ric: Well I think my entrepreneurial sort of spirit if you will sort of came from my family. My grandmother was an immigrant from Spain and worked in the fields, second grade education. She became an entrepreneur and started businesses and owned motels and duplexes and things like that. And my father, we call him a serial entrepreneur because started lots and lots of businesses. So I sort of had it in my blood I think by that kind of background. When I was in college, um, I had a challenge where there was – I saw this demand in college and the demand was driven by me being 18 years old and not being able to buy beer and a lot of my cohorts there who, or students who couldn’t buy beer either so I bought a Coke machine and I put beer in it and I had to have somebody 21 buy the beer and I sold it for 25 cents a beer. So I was creating a, you know, solving a demand-related related situation by doing the beer machine and it worked out pretty well for me financially.
Elyse: I would think so. That’s a pretty good demand and I think it’s just a great example of sort of that creative genius thinking and sort of what you need to succeed in business which you really have done so well in the city. So now let’s sort of switch in to Camden and I want to share with people if they don’t know that Camden is a huge developer nationwide; you’re also a public company which is rare for a developer and of course the big thing for everyone here has been this drop in oil prices and we’ve seen sort of this flag everywhere. And as an insider to this Houston market explain to us how this has affected your properties here in Houston.
Ric: Well Camden is a big developer nationwide; we have about 12% of our properties in Houston. The interesting about Houston is Houston was probably the best market in America from 2011 to 2014 and what we did there is we increased our cash flow, which is how you measure real estate by 41% during that period of time. And 2015 it sort of flattened – it was about 3% – and 2016 we think is going to be sort of flat to down a little. So I think the key thing to remember about Houston is that it’s really a dynamic city; last year we had 15,000 jobs and we’re building too many apartments for those jobs. And so we’re definitely going to have a renter’s market.
We had 15,000 jobs yet we the energy industry lost 30,000 and we added 45,000 from other sectors, right? So our slow down and the energy prices being down is definitely a problem and it’s slowing us down; it feels like we were going 80 miles an hour, now we’re going 30 and it feels slow. Even though we’re still going, we’re just not going as fast. I think the challenge that people need to remember is that during these times you can’t get too, uh, people get whiny and they get oh, gee, the business is not as good as it was and what’s going to happen in the future? And what that does is it creates competitors that whine and that worry and that makes them really bad competitors and I really enjoy, you know, being, uh, in the same field with poor competitors when we’re really a good competitor.
And so to me Houston’s going to be around for a long time; we started our company in the depths of the oil crisis in the 80s without any capital and today we’re a $10 billion company. So if you have a great idea, if you work hard, you’re honest, trustworthy you can do great in Houston and even in times like this; this is when the cream rises to the top and people smile and can figure out ways to solve demand issues.
Elyse: And I know you mentioned that this year you’re sort of predicting sort of a flat market; what other predictions can you share with us that you may foresee for our city?
Ric: Well I think from a development perspective we have too many apartments, too many office buildings and the good news is that lenders have red-lined Houston and you’re not able to get a construction loan for a new building, so that’s good. So supply will be taken up by the demand, it’ll take a couple of years to do that so it’s a great renters markets. So if you’re renting or renting an office building you’re going to be happy that prices are going to go down – which is fine for those renters, which is great. But I think we all have to recognize that Houston is the energy capital of the world and this whole energy prices being down is an interesting thing because we all – in Houston – worry about it and read about it all the time, but what you have to think about what happened. It wasn’t a geopolitical thing that created this issue with prices going down, it had to do with the innovation that Houston has.
The oil companies with their technology doubled oil production in the U.S. from 4.5 million barrels a day to almost 10 million barrels a day in 3 years. And so with that we’ve created this incredible opportunity for America with very, very cheap gasoline. So on the one had oil prices are down in Houston our job growth is slowing, but on the other had everyone else in America is getting a massive pay raise because their cost of gasoline is down, Houston is a resilient city and will do really well long term.
Elyse: And now I want to switch into something else long term that we know Houston is going to excel at which is, you know, that minor event which is taking place on February 5th at NRG, not sure if you’ve heard about it, but of course I’m referring to Super Bowl LI, Houston’s going to be host to this incredible event. Now Bob McNair, the owner of the Texans, referred to you as a real champion for Houston and frankly a big part of how we won this bid; so how were you selected to head up the Super Bowl recruiting initiative?
Ric: Well Bob McNair first of all is the champion for Houston. He brought the Texans to Houston after we lost our team, for 10 years we were without an NFL team, and he’s well-respected by the NFL owners; so Bob was the principal reason we got the Super Bowl. So when he called me in late 2012 and he said so Ric, what are you doing in May of 2013? I was like well, I don’t know, I’m working and doing stuff. So he gave me a date and he said can you go to Boston with me and pitch the owners of the NFL to, you know, bring the Super Bowl to Houston in 2017?
And I was like well why – you know, it sounds fun but why do you want me to do it? And he goes well, these are business people and you know, the NFL is a business nd you’re going to be making a presentation to 32 billionaires and I think that you’re pretty good at that in terms of being able to communicate ideas to business people that they can relate to and so, you know, I think you’d be good at it. And I’m like yeah, that might be fun and I’d been to a couple of Super Bowls and I watched it on TV like everybody else and – but I never really understood the – the inner workings of the business or how the NFL versus the teams related and all that so I looked at it as a really interesting challenge and sort of a new way to learn about something new.
So what I found was is the NFL is all about their brand, right? And it’s all about expanding their brand and expanding their business. And so one of the things that made Houston so attractive, at least in our opinion was the fact that we were an incredible sort of future view of the U.S. because of our diversity and we’re the most diverse city in America. And with that said they, uh, we – we convinced them that if they came to Houston they could expand their customer base both through Hispanics and through women and when you think about Houston fundamentally we’re a football city – Texas is football. So we sold the idea that this is about football, this is about expanding the brand. Houston’s the city of the future; we have all this technology that created the doubling of oil production and we need to sell that and that’s what we did.
Elyse: So what did it feel like when it was announced that Houston got the bid knowing that you were a part of making that happen?
Ric: Oh it was great. I mean, you know, we did high fives, they – and it was the first time that I had been on ESPN and I did a few, you know, other news channels and that sort of thing businesswise but not sports. And it was great because the Super Bowl really is about celebrating Houston and celebrating, you know, we’re going to be the city of the future and it’s really more about the energy that it creates locally that really gets me excited. It’s part of the give-back that I do in the community. You know, Houston’s been really, really good to me and my family and our Camden family and I think you have to give back, you know, as much as you take and that means that we have to give back a lot.
Elyse: So tell us how preparations are going and what we can sort of expect.
Ric: Sure, so preparations are really going fast and furious. We did the handoff from San Francisco the day after the Super Bowl so we are now officially 313 days out. We have a countdown clock in my – in the front of our office which is sort of, um, I thought it would be kind of fun, now it like freaks me out every time I go in there and see it, you know. And so we have a staff of 30 full time people that are focused on making the game the best it can be in Houston and gauging the community. We’re going to have some really, really fun things for the community.
We’ll start with a – we’re going to do tailgate parties around the state, our first one is in San Antonio in a few weeks, just to remind people that Houston’s here, we have the Super Bowl coming and they need to come and visit. As we get closer to the game when we get, uh, to the Texans season we’ll start doing local – local, uh, tailgaters over at – we’ll do them probably in The Woodlands and Sugar Land and some of the other – other community areas like – like, uh, Fourth Ward, uh, you know, Sunnyside, places like that just to get people energized about that it’s coming.
And once we get to the actual Super Bowl we’ll have a 10 day FanFest free for all Houstonians. We think we’ll get a million to a million 2 or 3 million people that will come down to Discovery Green. Concerts every night, you know, a wow factor that NASA’s involved in producing with us and fireworks every night. So it will be a way for Houstonians that don’t have a ticket to actually experience Houston and the Super Bowl the way they probably haven’t experienced it in the past. So, it’s all about getting people really energized in Houston about the Super Bowl.
Elyse: And it’s definitely going to be a very exciting time and I know that there’s also going to be a need for volunteers and Houstonians who kind of want to be more a part of it; so is there going to be a way for Houstonians to volunteer and how do they sort of get involved?
Ric: Absolutely. We need at least 10,000 volunteers. A lot of volunteers and the volunteers are really our ambassadors, the ones that greet the people at the airports and hotels and help them way find and that sort of thing and the volunteers are the ones that are really going to have a good time. I think it’s sort of like the rodeo; the rodeo has 32,000 volunteers, you know, every year here and when you talk to those folks they get more out of the rodeo than the visitors, right? And I think that’s going to be the same thing with the Super Bowl. People can go on our website, HOUSuperBowl,com, and sign up. We definitely need a lot of people and it should be a great event.
Elyse: Really looking forward to it. And before we wrap up I just want to ask you your best advice for people who may be starting a business or young people starting out and thinking how am I going to make this happen? You did it, so what’s your best advice for those people?
Ric: So I think it’s a couple things. First would be take risk; you know, a lot of folks just are risk averse and they won’t take risks. Risk doesn’t mean that you bet all of your money on one thing, but what it means is you put yourself in a risk position; you think out of the box, you do something that isn’t comfortable for you and I think that’s important number one. Number two is constantly learn. So many folks focus on their job, they learn their job and they don’t learn somebody else’s job that’s sitting next to them. Now for me, what’s helped me, I’ve had to reinvent myself every 2 to 3 years; if you don’t the world passes you by and all of a sudden you’re going well where am I, where – why am I not going with the world? Because you’re not learning.
So it’s risk, learning and then the third thing I think is really important and that’s just being able to recognize opportunity, right? So a lot of people – and you can – there’s another word which I use for that which is luck, all right? So I’ve had a lot of luck, I was born in America and not somewhere else, you know? I have a great family, great friends, a lot of luck, all right? That put me – positioned me to do well in business and I think that people maybe need to look for their luck and they’re opportunity every single day and they have got to maximize the value of that. So to give you a small example, you walk down the street and you look straight ahead all the time, you never look down. Well there’s a hundred dollar bill on the group and you step on it and you don’t pick it up; you missed your opportunity you missed your luck. So you have to be looking all around, you have to learn, you have to take risk; pick up the money and create the luck for yourself. And that’s where people I think get blinded by sort of life.
Elyse: Thank you for sharing that and for sharing who you are and all about the Super Bowl; a lot to look forward to in this city and we really appreciate you joining us today.
Ric: Well thanks, I appreciate it.
Elyse: And that wraps my interview with Ric Campo, this is The BusinessMakers Show.
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