My interest in real estate started in the mid 1980’s after my father and my brother Kevin attended a real estate seminar and thought the family should invest in some rental properties. So, my parents, my nine siblings and I formed a company named Deca Partnership (Deca is a prefix that means ten) to honor our family of 10 children. We pooled our money and started buying some rental properties in south St. Louis. It was initially an investment opportunity that became a family business as some of my brothers did the maintenance work and others managed the properties. At this time I was working full-time in the healthcare industry and going to Saint Louis University working on my MBA, but I found myself very intrigued by my family’s new venture.
Over the next few years we were able to buy a dozen or so properties and really began to understand the ins and outs of the business. While we were learning a lot, we quickly realized that owning rental property was a difficult 24/7 job. It didn’t matter to us as we liked the challenge! Deca Partnership was growing and we had a vision for much more. I was handling the financials on a part-time basis, but knew I wanted a bigger role in the company.
As we started managing our own properties we began to run across other property owners who were looking for someone to help them manage their own properties. These were people who had full time jobs but had rental property for a side income. However, they were discovering they needed help being available to their tenants on a regular basis. At the time, there were only a few property management companies in St. Louis. What we saw was a huge demand for quality property managers. So, in 1990 I knew it was time for me to step up and I got my broker’s license from the Missouri Real Estate Commission. Under my direction, we started a new company, Deca Property Management, Inc. I was also still working in healthcare, so I needed the help of more family. My Mom was hired to run the office, my brother Jim became a full-time property manager and brothers Rick, Mike, and Dave continued with the maintenance work. We hired our first non-family employee, Marty Carr as a property manager to help steer our growing company.
Over the past 28 years our family business has evolved. We changed our name to Deca Realty to better reflect the fact that we do property management and real estate sales. Jim and Marty became owners and we added Angela Velazquez as another owner. We have changed from handwritten rent receipts to online rental payments. But despite the growth and changes, one thing has remained constant –the way we treat people. My parents were adamant that fairness and courtesy be the foundation of Deca. With those virtues in mind, we developed our value statement, “Do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, every time.” And that is how we run Deca Realty every day.
We are involved in the community and we are leaders in the property management industry. I focus every day on making sure our staff provides the best possible service to both owners and tenants. Investing in real estate is difficult. I am proud that Deca Realty helps owners navigate the pitfalls of property ownership and to help tenants find a nice place to call home.
Today I spend much of my time at Deca as president and CFO. I’m continually striving to instill growth with positive change. We now employ over 40 people and while not everyone is a blood relative, we operate as a family unit. On a personal level, I am married and have three children of my own. Throughout high school and college, each of them has worked at Deca in some capacity. From cleaning the office on weekends to helping with clerical duties during the summer, they have learned the family business. They are starting to find their own paths in life and it is uncertain whether any will join the team at Deca. Regardless of that, I am proud that they have learned firsthand the important value of “doing things right”. It will serve them well in any career and that would make my parents proud too.