The Kansas City team at Stewart Title is looking to capitalize on the newest wave of development rippling through the metro. Wayne Bennett, commercial operations manager, explained how he’s building a team to capture more incoming business and grow his local office.
Stewart Title’s history goes back to 1893. But here in Kansas City, Bennett says the onslaught of commercial development work in recent years has put Stewart in a healthy position in the market. Today, Stewart is in the midst of re-inventing itself by way of a complete brand transformation, focusing on delivering value to shareholders and creating greater opportunities for its associates.
“We’re not necessarily the biggest, but we try to be the best,” Bennett said. “We’re trying to grow organically, perfecting our services, making our company attractive to employees.”
Stewart Title, a publicly traded company (NYSE: STC), has seen substantial growth in the Kansas City market for three consecutive years. According to the company, it’s seeing a “red hot” year for the industrial market and another strong year in the retail market. Company leaders expect to continue to see new construction across the downtown and suburban sectors.
Stewart credits its relationship-centric approach for its growing segment of new connections and its strengthening base of existing customers. Currently, it’s seeing an uptick in order counts, closed file counts, revenue, and market share.
“These are exciting times at Stewart Title,” the company said in a statement. “We are growing organically, honing and refining internal procedures and operations for the benefit of our customers, and always looking out for new talent.”
Locally, Bennett’s strategy over the past two years has been to focus on strengthening his team. While Stewart financially contributes to local causes and campaigns, each member is highly involved in local organizations, where they contribute their time and effort while building and maintaining relationships. Ultimately, those relationships are what lead to booming business.
“Our approach is to invest in the community one relationship at a time,” he said. “We don’t just donate money; We donate money to causes we’re aligned with and believe in, and then we show up to help, to speak, or to support.”
Those groups include CREW KC, KCRAR Commercial, and the Adopt-a-Neighborhood program, among others. Currently, Stewart is doing pro bono title work for the Legal Aid of Missouri in order to free up stale, stagnant properties in Kansas City in hopes of revitalizing their respective neighborhoods.
Bennett believes his biggest keys to success are his people. He says the best way to build a team is to first recognize talent, then to build confidence and equip that person with the right tools, and then get out of the way. Experience has little to do with it, he says, noting that sometimes it’s easier to build someone from the ground up.
“It takes an entrepreneurial mindset,” he says. “It’s been great and we’ve been able to flourish and thrive.”
Bennett said he’s most excited to see local development occurring across the downtown area, from the streetcar’s home in the River Market to the bustling Crossroads Arts District. A project he’s particularly excited about is Copaken Brooks’ Corrigan Station office redevelopment at 19th and Walnut. When that development team called on Stewart’s Sara Steele in December to ask if she could help close the deal by the end of the year, Steele immediately agreed.
“You just can’t do that,” Bennett said. “But we did it anyway. It was all hands on board, but we rolled up our sleeves and got it done.”
Bennett is setting lofty goals for his team. Over the next year, he’s looking to increase revenue by as much as 14 percent, as well as hire a business development officer and an additional commercial escrow officer with a solid book of business.
“We will definitely continue our deliberate growth plan by getting out there and asking for business,” Bennett said.
Looking to get in front of the Stewart Title team? Join us at our 2016 Industrial Summit on Thursday, where the Stewart team is sponsoring a discussion on the state of the market. More information is available here.