Posted on June 06, 2013

REAL ESTATE LEADERS With dad's legacy in mind, Ryan Beedie takes family business to new heights

Ryan Beedie, president, Beedie Development Group: revenues have increased nearly 600 percent since he took the reigns at the family firm - but, "I am still learning from my dad."

BY NOA GLOUBERMAN

As a kid growing up in Burnaby, Ryan Beedie learned his first lessons about industrial real estate development from his father, Keith, who'd been steadily building up his company, Beedie Development Group, since opening a small woodworking shop-turned-construction firm in Vancouver's Marpole neighbourhood in the 1940s.

Between visiting sites around the Lower Mainland with his dad and discussing the ins and outs of the business at the dinner table, the thought of pursuing any other kind of career rarely entered Beedie's mind.

"I never felt pressure to take over, I just sort of knew I'd end up here at some point," he said, adding that he joined his father's company in 1993 after earning his undergraduate degree from SFU, completing an MBA in real estate and finance at UBC and working (briefly) as a chartered accountant for Ernst & Young.

"After realizing the CA route wasn't for me I thought it'd be great to learn from my dad before something happened to him," Beedie said. "He was 65 at the time, so I jumped at the chance. Well, he'll be 87 this month and I'm still learning from him."

In charge of leasing, land acquisition and build-to-suit projects in the '90s, Beedie became president of the Beedie Group (where his father remains chairman and CEO) in 2001. Since then the company's become a force in industrial real estate, boasting significant land holdings, extensive building projects and over 8 million square feet of managed space.

He's quick, however, to credit his dad with establishing the vertically integrated structure that continues to account for much of the firm's long-term success.

"Dad would buy a site, build what the tenant wanted on it and then retain ownership, which gave him control over the entire process," he explained, adding that acting as developer as well as builder meant his father could keep costs lower than competitors. It also garnered loyalty among clients and ensured a continuous stream of income that could be used to acquire more land.

Residential But the younger Beedie hasn't exactly taken a backseat to the success of the family business. Besides increasing revenues by nearly 600 per cent since taking the helm, he's focused on evading stagnation with moves into residential development. The last year or so has seen Beedie turn his attention toward residential towers like Burnaby's Station Square Metrotown and, in Coquitlam, the Village at Fraser Mills. Asked for an update on the latter, he says his team's completed some design work and continues to collaborate with the city on the project.

"We're being a bit cautious," he told Western Investor. "There are significant upfront costs … and you want to be confident the market's going to be there to support it. We'll continue to evaluate things and, when the time's right, we'll press go."

Alberta move

As far as branching out beyond British Columbia, Beedie plans to develop "as many square feet in Calgary and Airdrie as we do in B.C. in 2013."

"It's taken a few years but we're now considered a name in that market," he said, pointing to significant land purchases made by the Beedie Group in Wild Rose Country. "The next step would be maybe Edmonton, but you can't just show up and say, 'OK, we're here.' You do your research and … any new market you want to enter has to see what you're bringing to the table, too."

Beedie says several key differences between the provinces - for example, the larger structures that typically go up in Calgary and a tight labour market that could mean longer build times - make Alberta a much different place to work.

"Plus there's the weather window, where you can't build anything during certain portions of the year, it's so cold," he said. "Costs are different, too, as are certain design elements. Our products in B.C. are quite attractive but, with industrial development in Calgary, it's not necessarily the same esthetic. At times I feel like we're almost designing beyond what the market there may want."

Giving back

Back home, Beedie is well known for giving - and giving generously.

"I feel it's important to share with your community," he said. "It has nothing to do with religion; it's common sense."

Another thing seems certain: a rock-solid generational foundation will continue to drive business forward at the Beedie Group.

"I feel very fortunate; we've really had a great run these past few years."

from Western Investor June 2013