A lady who is leading by example, aiming to impact the real estate business by exploring vast opportunities, is Karen Simon. She has been a mentor for women making their way into the sector for 30 years. While being the President and Managing Partner at Emersons Commercial Real Estate, Karen has managed to run a platform designed to align resources and maximize values. She believes that female industrial and commercial realtors have made a great deal of progress and emphasizes that there is still room for growth and opportunity.
Emersons Commercial Real Estate has put together a team of experts specializing in property management, accounting, leasing, sales, and consulting. Karen delivers industry-leading solutions matching clients’ expectations by putting together an efficient and hardworking team. She leads by example for her team members and encourages them to explore the ever-increasing opportunities in Real Estate.
The Building Blocks
Karen started her career after getting her master’s degree from Texas Christian University. She was offered a position teaching in a community college and taught there for four years. She geared up for her stint with the federal government by sitting for the civil service examination and qualified as a GS1415. She got offered a position as executive assistant to the regional administrator for the department of housing and urban development for region 10, which is Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Karen worked for them for four years, during which she was in charge of public relations and intergovernmental relations for the states under region 10. With her sheer dedication and hard work, she qualified for the broker’s license, which required 60 semester hours in real estate and real estate-related coursework or 900 classroom hours after sending her transcript to the Texas Real Estate Commission. She completed nine classroom hours out of 900 and got her own license. About six months later, she met the head of the industrial department for the Henry S. Miller Company – then the largest real estate company in the state; fifth-largest in the United States – and offered her a position because she met their criteria. She was appointed as the head of the Industrial Division for Henry S. Miller in Tarrant County. She shares, “The Metroplex includes Tarrant County, Dallas County, and the surrounding counties, but they had an office in Fort Worth, which is Tarrant County, and they had offices in Dallas. They gave me time to take some courses in industrial real estate, the first time, there were 36 men and me, and thus I began my real estate career with the Henry S. Miller Company. I stayed with that group for six years. They had sold the company in about the fourth or fifth year, but the market took a tremendous downturn along about 1988 to ’89.”
Karen had to close her office because she was not interested in relocating or commuting to Dallas because it wasn’t as easy to work remotely. Everything was in triplicate typewriters. There were no computers used in the offices at that time. Everything was sent by fax. It was a different technological world. So, she left and joined a company called The Real Estate Group and formed a company called The R. E. Group Advisors, Inc, which was a woman-owned company. Doing business with the federal government was much more advantageous if the company was woman or minority-owned. Karen expanded her horizons from industrial real estate to the other facets of commercial real estate: office, retail, land, and apartments. In about 1996, she left the REG and formed an industrial and land division for a retail development group called the Woodmont Company. During 2003 or 2004, she was asked to open an office for the Bradford Company in Tarrant County. It was an industrial and office specialty group, and Karen worked with them for the next 12 years. But her pursuit of ownership ultimately led her to Emerson’s Commercial Real Estate Group, based out of Dallas, and opened a Tarrant County office. She is currently the managing partner of Emerson’s Commercial Real Estate for Tarrant County. This is a brief history where she started out in 1983 in the commercial real estate department.
Karen’s Partnership Forum
Karen shares, “Well, being a woman in the commercial real estate business in Texas was a bit of a challenge because when I started in 1983, no longer with the federal government, which was blind to gender, there were very few women in commercial real estate. When I became an industrial realtor in 1983, I was the first woman to hold that position in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And I learned, as you would look at challenges, that clients really were not gender-conscious either, but other realtors were genderconscious. So I needed to do more than would be expected of my colleagues. I needed to know more about it. I needed to be willing to work harder. I needed to be more conscientious. Commercial realtors don’t usually work on the weekends, but if you are the only female industrial realtor and it’s more convenient to show a warehouse on Sunday, then it was worthwhile to be to available do so and I did. So, I would say being a woman in a male-dominated industry just required that I put forth more effort than my counterparts.”
Emersons was founded in 2004 by Richard Webb, who was both a broker and a banker by training, and Matt Price, who was a CPA and a broker. They formed the company because they had worked together on a family trust that extended into the commercial real estate area, particularly in management. They grew the company in the Dallas market and built their management component for property management. They opened or affiliated with a company that they considered a satellite in Oklahoma City. They had some representation in Austin and Houston. During the year 2016, Karen was selling them a piece of property because she represented in the State of Texas the excess properties for CVS Pharmacies, and they were buying a piece of property from her. Richard and Matt approached her about opening an office in equal partnership at Tarrant County. And then, about 2019, along with a company out of St. Louis called Priority Properties, they also formed a company called 1045, whose primary purpose was to manage all of Kroger Real Estate nationwide, which is about 2,800 properties and amounted to over 80 million square feet under management. The company then absorbed into 1045 the Kroger employees that were on the management side for their own real estate. The company has grown considerably since and made tremendous progress.
Impact on the Industry
During the strongest period of COVID, people began to work from home. For a period of almost a year, whatever jobs were able to be remote were remote, and so only a skeleton had to work from the corporate offices, the end result of which is there are many that still do work remotely or they have the flexibility of working at home part-time and working in the office other times. Karen has allowed a lot more flexibility in the Ft.Worh office.
Technology certainly makes a job easier if the person is technologically proficient, but it certainly requires an effort. Karen explains, “I mean, for example, in 1983, I had a cell phone, but it was in my car. I couldn’t carry it with me. I didn’t have a little handheld machine called a BlackBerry till probably the early ’90s to when my email was so portable. And then, of course, the use of portable computers that you could just carry with you also eased the burden of being tied to a location. All that being said, we’re all for technology, but we need to have additional training. The younger people grew up with the benefits that those of us that have been in the business a long time need to work with and catch up to.”
Karen emphasizes using technical skills and a lot less foot traffic. She advises not to forget core values and always remember to put clients’ interests first to be successful. She shares, “I’d like to, in a mentoring fashion or by example, let them know that there are no limitations as a result of gender. It’s just that until people as a whole are blind to gender when it comes to different specialties that they need to just work harder, be better know more than their counterparts.”
Karen feels that her career in the real estate business has been a challenge. She exclaims, “Oh, I think one of the impacts I had was on other young women to let them know that women can do the same job as well as men if they have the right tools if they’re willing to make an effort if they’re willing to go the extra mile. I think that I helped other women find their own position or their own destinies. I felt it important that I be a mentor to other women, professionally.” She sees herself as a pioneer because she utilized the opportunities that came to her at the right time and stayed on top for a long time. When she first went to work, she found out that it was more difficult because she had a three-year-old and a seven-year-old when she entered the job market. However, as time went on and opportunities presented themselves, those things began to catch up. Day care became more readily available. Karen is glad to belong to a generation where things were able to help her move upward and onward.