Cassidy Turley: Banking on Culture of Consistency

Cassidy Turley was launched by former member firms with Colliers International who chose to go a separate path once Colliers merged with FirstService.

January 29, 2010
By Allison Landa, News Editor

When Cassidy Turley launches on March 1, there will be one change: the name on the door.

“We’re a 165-year-old company that is absolutely concerned about customer service – that comes first,” Colliers Houston and Co. president David Houston told CPE. “We’re a family-owned company that espouses the values of basically being very, very centered on our clients’ needs and very centered on developing and career development for our employees, and we’re an almost paternalistic company in some ways.”

This consistency came into play during the formation of Cassidy Turley, which is comprised of partner firms Colliers Turley Martin Tucker, Colliers Pinkard, Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers, Colliers ABR, Colliers Houston, BT Commercial, BRE Commercial San Diego, BRE Commercial Phoenix, and CPS CORFAC International. The companies’ combined portfolio encompasses 420 million square feet of managed space in 58 locations and $16 billion in completed transactions for 2008.

Houston said that the genesis of Cassidy Turley came four years ago as the firms began to consider how to take their business to the next level.

“We liked the vision of an employee-owned company as it was privately held,” he said. “It’s just two different models and the model that worked best for us in terms of our culture was the Cassidy Turley model.”

That model differs from the newly combined Colliers and FirstService, which is publicly held. When Colliers and FirstService decided to join forces, the firms that ultimately launched Cassidy Turley decided not to join the new network.

Houston said that in part the decision came from a desire to maintain what had long been in play.

“We’ve had a profit-sharing plan for 42 years, so everybody’s always had a share of the profits, even the receptionists,” he said. “So being employee-owned made more sense than being owned by a public company who could buy us and sell us in a heartbeat.”

Colliers chief executive Doug Frye told the Wall Street Journal that he wasn’t concerned about the companies that had seceded, saying it was “nickel-and-dime stuff.” Houston shrugged off the assertion, saying he thought that both companies were competent and capable.

“The question’s really going to be: Where does your culture fit in?” he said. “Our culture was much closer to Cassidy and Turley than it was to FirstService. That doesn’t mean FirstService isn’t a formidable company with very, very competent people. … I certainly wish those who have chosen the other path well. It’s just a different vision as to where we want to go.”

Given that Cassidy Turley’s competitors are all public, Houston said he believes being privately held is appealing, particularly when it comes to recruiting talent.

He also said that the merger was relatively seamless.

“There’s been very few challenges because we’ve all known each other for more than twenty years,” He said. “We’ve been around this industry forever. We know everybody. … It’s a decentralized model and we respect each other’s culture.”

Earlier this week Cassidy Turley announced a partnership with London-based property consultant GVA Grimley, which provides property-related services including agency, planning and regeneration, rating, building consultancy, and investment as well as specialist advice in areas including education, healthcare, and retail. It has 12 offices that generated $220 million for the year ending April 30, 2009.

Houston said the partnership enables Cassidy Turley to service its international European clients.

“We can’t do that from here without someone on the ground in Europe, so that gives us the ability to service our clients (there) and service them very, very well,” he said.

Houston voiced optimism for the future – along with a slight touch of caution.

“I hope we made the right decision,” he said. “We all do this with a leap of faith, and I hope it works out.”