Ahmann Companies ‘Pivot’ into real estate sales

By Dave DeWitte

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Ahmann Companies has launched a commercial real estate firm, Pivot Real Estate, with the goal of becoming even more of a one-stop shop for buyers and developers.

Commercial real estate specialists Craig Byers and Amanda Brandt last month joined Ahmann Companies to begin offering commercial sales as part of the new firm. Operating out of Ahmann’s headquarters at Boyson Square in Hiawatha, Pivot will offer commercial services statewide, with an initial focus on the Corridor and Greater Des Moines.

By offering real estate sales and leasing alongside his companies’ other services in building construction, design and management, owner Joe Ahmann said the firm will be able to offer more creative approaches to clients in the market for space, as well as those trying to lease or sell.

With design, construction and property management services available in-house, Pivot will be agile in advising clients about opportunities for things like property renovations, updates and expansions.

“Our goal is to try to be a little different,” Mr. Ahmann said. “I want to base our success on what the customer’s scorecard says it is, on how satisfied that customer is. We are also going to structure it as a better cost model. The more services we provide, the better the cost model gets for the client.”

Ahmann Companies will use Pivot Real Estate to market its own real estate projects like The Fountains and Boyson Square. Mr. Byers said that fact may breed the perception that Ahmann Companies will favor its own properties, but “that could not be further from the truth.”

“We still do third-party representation for tenants and landlords, and we’re going to show them every piece of real estate that meets their specifications,” Mr. Byers said.

Pivot Real Estate is the first new business Mr. Ahmann has formed since he opened Compass Commercial Services, his construction company, in 2008. The idea for Pivot, much like his previous companies, arose from a desire to provide complementary services to his other business offerings that were needed by clients, and to avoid the need to outsource services.

“It’s that same goal we’ve had in the past of being vertically integrated – this is kind of the last piece of that,” Mr. Ahmann said. “Our clients can now get all these different services at a single source.”

Joining up with Mr. Ahmann was a natural fit for Mr. Byers, who had represented several Ahmann Companies’ properties as a Realtor at GLD Commercial, and worked with the firm on his own projects.

Mr. Byers said the companies’ complementary services have already come into play for some clients. One was a Corridor-wide company that had 10,000 square feet of surplus real estate in the Iowa City market due to its changing needs.

Working with Fusion Architects, Mr. Byers said Pivot Real Estate was able to develop a plan for subdividing the building into space for three tenants at no cost. It was also able to take the plan to Compass Commercial Services for cost estimates, and come up with a plan in 48 days to reconfigure and market the Iowa City space to specific, targeted users.

Mr. Byers said Pivot will leverage the many contacts his family has built in the Corridor’s real estate market. He has been in commercial real estate for more than eight years, most recently with GLD Commercial. Scott Olson, his father, is a veteran of the Corridor’s commercial real estate market who worked with NAI/Iowa Realty Commercial and later GLD Commercial.

The Pivot Real Estate name was selected to reflect the company’s diverse capabilities, which they say allow clients to “pivot,” or change directions to explore more creative buying, selling and leasing options than they might experience elsewhere.

While initially focused on the commercial real estate market, Mr. Ahmann said it’s not intended to rule out future expansion into residential or other areas. Like the companies that preceded it, Mr. Ahmann said he expects Pivot to move where market needs dictate.

Mr. Ahmann was voted the CBJ’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015, and his businesses have consistently ranked among the CBJ’s Fastest Growing Companies. In 2016, Ahmann-owned businesses held four spots on the annual list of the Corridor’s fastest 25 companies, with Fusion Architects ranking highest at No. 6.

Mr. Ahmann said he’s expecting naysayers regarding his latest expansion, as he’s encountered them in every previous expansion from his original home design business. The common argument he said he encounters from competitors is that his newest endeavor will put the interests of his other companies before those of the customer.

Now used to hearing it, Mr. Ahmann has a simple response.

“We do what we tell our customers we’re going to do. That’s been our reputation from day one. We’re not going to do anything to mess up that reputation that we have built over 25 years,” he said.

In addition to The Fountains and Boyson Square, Mr. Ahmann is leading the $17.8-million Depot, a 2.5-acre mixed-use project in Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia district with some of the area’s first home/work living options, and The National, a mixed-use redevelopment of a nearby Czech fraternal hall.

Mr. Byers is the co-developer of NewBo Station, a mixed-use development that is home to retailer Raygun and restaurant The Pig & Porter.