Steven D. Fifield accepts E.J. Plesko Distinguished Speaker Award
On Friday, April 5, the Wisconsin Real Estate program welcomed Steven D. Fifield, owner and president of Fifield Companies, to accept the E.J. Plesko Distinguished Speaker in Real Estate Development award. Fifield is deserving of this award, as he has been recognized as a prolific and successful office and residential developer nationwide. Known as an industry trendsetter, he developed over 50 high- and mid-rise apartment and office towers in the last 30 years. In the last decade, Fifield has become a major developer of urban infill residential buildings.
Wisconsin real estate students, alumni and faculty were excited to hear from the renowned developer. The real estate development field is one in which many of our students and many in the industry strive to enter and find success. At the ceremony, Fifield shared insights from his company’s success and gave advice on how to survive as a real estate developer.
Fifield advised the mostly student filled audience to sharpen their analytical abilities and industry knowledge by gaining transactional experience in the early part of their careers. By starting out at a medium- to large-sized company, students can immerse themselves in real estate transactions and learn the details of real estate investment. “The best operators in the industry are analysts,” Fifield noted. He added that you’ll never stop using the technical skills learned during your real estate education and while in an analyst position.
Fifield also shared more candid business advice acquired from running his own firm. For instance, a central component to Fifield’s success has been picking his partners well. Fifield stressed having a fully collaborative team—including contractors, architects, and engineers—that will be involved in your business deal. He added you should get to know your team the right way and not to “fall in love” with interviewees. When hiring on new employees or firms, Fifield relies heavily on personal references.
Another business-savvy practice used by Fifield Companies is the use of peer reviews. By hiring others with the same professional expertise to review detailed plans—architects, structural engineers, and other partners, for example—the firm ensures that designs and feasibility analyses are free from error, preventing construction delays and unnecessary cash outflows. A few other words of wisdom from Fifield were be cognizant of real estate cycles, relentlessly study sub-markets so as not to overlook a potentially profitable deal, and understand your business from the top down.
The E.J. Plesko Distinguished Speaker Series in Real Estate Development features speakers who embody the Wisconsin tradition in their spirit, imagination, entrepreneurial skills, and enthusiasm for improving the quality of our built environment. The E.J. Plesko Speaker Series is funded by Mr. E.J. Plesko, president of E.J. Plesko and Associates, Inc. based in Madison, Wisconsin. Mr. Fifield is the fifth recipient of the award.