Toro says hire attitude over resume any day

Avalon chief gives leadership views Speaking at ‘Best of the Best’ gala

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. – North American Properties Managing Partner Mark Toro knows how to build commercial properties and market them, but he is also flexible enough to know that markets and marketing changes.

At the Nov. 21 Appen Media “Best of the Best” gala, Toro, as keynote speaker, spoke about “what did it take to get here?” As a real estate executive with 26 years in commercial real estate, Toro has been responsible for the development or redevelopment of 19 million square feet of commercial property valued now at $2.5 billion.

In Atlanta, North American has acquired and Toro turned around the 138-acre Atlantic Station mixed-use project at the junction of I-85 and I-75. Now he has oversight of the $600 million, 2.4 million-square-foot Alpharetta mixed-use project at Ga. 400 and Old Milton Parkway that he has named Avalon.

Avalon will be a leader in the new wave of mixed-use retail thinking.

“Three years ago, I didn’t know the Avalon concept existed. But what we found was we are no longer lessors of retail and office space, nor are our tenants simply purveyors of their wares. What we are doing at Avalon is creating an experiential environment that is like no other place,” Toro said.

A self-admitted “leadership freak,” Toro is constantly reading and absorbing what the latest thinking is and applying it to marketing the shopping experience. He says what you have to do is learn how to “skate to where the puck is going” faster than anyone else. In other words, while the “Big Boys” are trying to find out where the market is going, North American is already primed and moving toward it.

North American can do that because it is leaner with less bureaucracy. It can make better decisions faster than “the Big Boys” because it has spent a lot of time building the right team with people who “get it.”

“Focus is a critical part of what we do. You eliminate the big picture of the things on which you cannot have any effect – what will Congress do next, what will happen in the Middle East. You focus on the circle of your concerns. And you bring to it your abilities to bear on that,” Toro said.

Keep the focus on what Toro calls the circle of influence.

That is where the team comes in. Always be looking for those with the passion, the ideas and the energy.

“You bring the people before the strategy. I always hire attitude first, skills last,” he said. “We hire people extremely slowly. People don’t change.”

About a third of most companies’ hires are go-getters who charge through walls to get the job done, he said. Another third are those who come every day and do their job. And a third of the hires are what Toro calls CAVE people (Constantly Against Everything) who affect the second third.

Toro concentrates on hiring the first third.

“Surround yourself with positive people,” he said. “Action is the best path to success.”

Small is faster and that is the way to beat the “Big Boys,” because their bureaucracy will create lethargy.

Toro’s whole team for Avalon numbers 64. It not only has cohesiveness and singleness of purpose, but it has a culture of accountability. They don’t fail because as a team, they work against failure; unlike bureaucracies, which work to avoid blame.

“The culture is, ‘We do what we say we will do.’ That is the standard,” he said. “We compete with them because we can move faster. Good enough never is.”