Andrew Wright considers himself the ultimate contrarian.
“If you see everybody running one direction, then I'm going the other way,” he says sitting at the head of a conference table in his seventh-story office on Westshore Boulevard.
Indeed, after launching Franklin Street Financial Partners in December 2006, Wright managed to defy a tumbling real estate market by diversifying his business across services and geography.
Now with four offices in two states and more than 190 employees, Wright expects the firm to hit a third consecutive year of double-digit growth.
The real estate crash is a salient factor in what led the 31-year-old to gain clients for his new business, Wright admits. While established real estate services companies faltered and decade-long relationships dissolved, his cold-calling paid off as banks took over distressed real estate and new ties were formed between owners and tenants — a niche Franklin Street filled.
The firm serves as a buffet of real estate help, offering financing, property management, leasing and brokering as well as insurance. Property and facilities management and insurance have proven to be a dependable backbone for Franklin Street and helped it land sizable clients in Food Lion and PNC Bank.
Deals in these areas may not be as glamorous as brokering multi-million dollar sales or financing expansions, but the two sectors have propelled Franklin Street from $5.3 million in annual revenues in 2010 to more than $9 million in 2011. Wright expects to reach $12 million this year.
Franklin Street got an audition with Food Lion to manage facilities for 21 of the retailer's shuttered locations spread through Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Since then, Food Lion has added another 77 sites to the firm's management roster, bringing the space Franklin Street manages and leases to roughly 8 million square feet. The benefit of having financial, real estate and accounting experts in the same company makes Franklin Street efficient at communicating the myriad details management entails, Wright says.
In March, PNC Bank selected Franklin Street to help it achieve its goal of opening between 25 and 35 new branches in Georgia, says Chief Operating Officer Danny York, who launched the firm with Wright and now heads the Atlanta office. In 2011, PNC Bank acquired Flagstar Bancorp and RBC Bank, along with 79 of their branch locations.
Wright attributes the firm's geographic reach with the win to secure PNC's business. “If we were just a Georgia firm, then I don't think we would have gotten that client,” he explains. Wright travels nearly every week between the company's offices in Tampa, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville.
The young entrepreneur doesn't plan on slowing down. He's poised to take on another hefty challenge as a member of one group bidding on the Channelside Bay Plaza in Tampa.
“We had to compete with a lot of other real estate firms for that chance,” he says. But he has had some help in the process — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is part of the same group.
It's an exciting prospect, however Wright remains focused on a year that could push his firms employee totals near 250 — something that tickles the young entrepreneur financially and philosophically.
“I love helping people establish careers,” he says. “I view that as my responsibility.”