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'No Effort Without Error And Shortcoming': Hal Barry At Bisnow's Atlanta State Of The Market

The most pressing questions in Atlanta real estate will be on the docket at Bisnow’s Atlanta State of the Market event on June 26. Speakers will weigh in on the city's recent population and job boom, where the capital is flowing and how the city can survive the next downturn. Register here for the event.

Atlanta real estate developer and Barry Cos. founder Hal Barry

Without Hal Barry, the Atlanta skyline wouldn’t be the same. A titan of real estate, Barry has developed buildings like 55 Allen Plaza, the Pinnacle Building at Symphony, the Wells Fargo Tower and 30 Allen Plaza.

Despite his many accomplishments and awards, during a recent chat with Bisnow, Barry came across as humble. He has the open, convivial demeanor of a friend you haven’t seen in years — and his voice has a quiet confidence that can’t be faked, the kind with warm assurance built in. But he said this didn’t come naturally to him.

Barry grew up outside Fairbank, Iowa, a little town of 650 people. His mother projected an encouraging, nurturing quality on her son, but his father was the polar opposite: demanding and critical. 

Barry’s dad was an Irish immigrant and survived two economic depressions and, according to the Barry Cos. CEO, these experiences darkened his temperament and outlook on life. This caused Barry to doubt himself whenever he tried to see the possibilities of his growth beyond the circumstances of his childhood. His father discouraged him from dreaming.

When Barry left home to study engineering at Iowa State, he couldn’t focus on his schoolwork. He honed his social skills and became the president of his fraternity. Still, he felt lost and unsure of himself. 

Though college wasn’t going as planned, Barry took a construction job and found a sense of purpose in making things with other people. Still, doubt plagued him, he said, but that all changed in his mid-30s when Barry read about Teddy Roosevelt and found this quote:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Something clicked inside him. Barry's internal critic was suddenly a hollow voice. He wanted to endeavor to a greater purpose.

Barry left New York Life, where he had been financing real estate and doing brokerage work and took a job at Adam Cates, the top real estate company in Atlanta. 

He quickly became one of the leading commercial mortgage banking and real estate brokers in the Southeast. Barry was given the opportunity to represent George Pacific for the development of a block and a half of commercial real estate. That opened the doors to everything for him. 

Since then, Barry has been instrumental in the development of buildings and community spaces around Atlanta and the Southeast, weathering economic downturns with the words of Roosevelt in his head. 

Hal Barry will be speaking on a panel at Bisnow's Atlanta State of the Market event on June 26.