President, CEO, Founder, The Gentile Group LLC; Director, Gentile Family Foundation
Michael B. Gentile was forced to learn the ups and downs of business quickly.
In 2007, Gentile and his father decided to take a risk with their newly formed commercial real estate business. They emptied their pockets and bought their current portfolio, “leaving just 67 cents in our bank account,” Gentile says. The portfolio seemed like the ideal investment, boasting a 92% occupancy rate.
“Two months later, our occupancy dropped to 64% and the economy was in a free fall,” Gentile admits. The Gentiles were forced to cut employees, and immediately Gentile was thrown in to manage all day-to-day operations and leasing activity.
“My naivety was a benefit,” Gentile says. “I wasn’t afraid to try and make a deal out of nothing.”
Within six months, he was able to lease the portfolio back to 78% occupancy, and by late 2009, 85% occupancy. Gentile says navigating and surviving the market fall to eventually grow his company is “one of the most rewarding things I have accomplished in my life,” he says.
The Gentile Group currently manages eight assets: an office center and a warehouse in Clearwater, two office centers in Largo, two office complexes and a warehouse in Pinellas Park, and an 88-unit apartment building in St. Petersburg. The full portfolio totals more than 355,000 square feet.
Gentile says they know all tenets on a first-name basis and occupancy has stabilized around 88% occupancy, amounting to more than $3 million in gross revenue.
“Part of the reason we’ve been successful is the personality of the company,” Gentile says. At the office, they have no answering service or voicemail, and calls are forwarded to cell phones. “If someone calls, someone answers.”
Being a family-owned business gives Gentile more flexibility in creating deals. The company donates rent to the National Association for Mental Illness and has been known for adjusting rent to help its tenants grow, Gentile says. “In today’s real estate market, every day is different. You have to be able to manipulate the deal on the spot.”
— Traci McMillan Beach
City of residence: Tampa
Years on the Gulf Coast: 32
Marital status/children: Married, expecting a daughter in November
One website that makes your job easier: Craigslist; in this age of technology, your prospective clients will first search online for an office space. Craigslist has been the key to our leasing success. 90% of all our leads come from the Internet and Craigslist is a free service that delivers results.
One community group you’re most involved with: The Gift of Adoption Fund and our family foundation. The Gentile Family Foundation hosts an annual golf tournament benefiting this great organization. This year’s tournament is on Sept. 27 at Innisbrook Resort on the famed Copperhead Course.
Best award you ever received: In eighth grade I finished second in Florida for public speaking. I did not realize how important that was until I entered the business world. The ability to communicate is at the heart of success.
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Kevin James, comedian and star of King of Queens. People tell me all the time that I remind them of him. I have a fun, outgoing personality and like to joke around a lot, so he would probably be a good fit.
If I had a magic wand I’d: I would teleport myself to the top of Mount Everest. Not many people get to see the view from up there and I know I wouldn't make the climb, but I'd love to see the view.