Jack Huff On New Fort Worth, His Favorite Deals And Induction Into The NTCAR Hall Of Fame
Jack Huff believes in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory that when someone acquires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in a given field, that person masters the subject. So far, the Transwestern principal has logged about 70,000 hours of real estate transactions in his almost 40-year career and has helped Fort Worth become a different city.
At its heart, Fort Worth is a West Texas town, whereas Dallas is more of an international city, Huff said. The Fort Worth market is not as large, meaning brokers must have a bigger market share to have more volume, he said.
“Before the Bass brothers decided they would be a catalyst to Downtown, it was run-down and sleepy,” Huff said. The Bass family, along with Woodbine and others, has transformed Downtown. “We’ve got it all going on now, but it’s still transforming.”
Huff’s focus is office tenant representation but he has closed many office and land sales, and worked on development of retail centers, land, office and parking garages. His role in deals such as IBM’s 83K SF lease at First City Bank Tower and the lease of 64K SF for Range Resources at Two City Place in 2006 has led him to be inducted into NTCAR’s Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame. (Woodbine founder John Scovell will be inducted into the NTCAR Hall of Fame with Huff.)
“I happened to arrive in Fort Worth at the right time. I got great opportunities, and I got a lot of reps in early in my career,” Huff said. “I landed in the perfect industry for my skill set.”
After starting his career at Swearingen in 1979, Huff formed his own company with partners Sam Brous, Terry Montesi and Pat McDowell in 1986. After a string of mergers, Huff Partners became one with Transwestern in 2011.
Huff said one of the greatest assets to a real estate career is a hearty constitution. “You can’t let stress get to you. If you’re fragile, you probably won’t last very long in commercial real estate.”
A few deals stick out above the 1,150 Huff has closed in his career. The creativity needed to execute the 272K SF sublease for Carter & Burgess at 777 Main St. in Fort Worth in 2000 required Huff to coordinate several moving parts. Selling the 66 acres to Huff’s former partner, Terry Montesi, for Trademark’s Waterside development in 2014 was rewarding. The land had complex entitlements and zoning issues, leaving Huff to negotiate between an experienced buyer and a relatively inexperienced seller. Seeing how the land has become such an asset to the Fort Worth community in its new life as Waterside has been exciting.
Huff credits one mentor in particular for teaching him the ropes: Wayne Swearingen. When Huff first interviewed for a job at Swearingen Co., leader Wayne Swearingen told Huff to go work someplace like Xerox or IBM to learn how to sell, then come back in a few years. Huff, more determined than before, interviewed at Swearingen Management and earned a position. At the next Swearingen company meeting, Wayne Swearingen looked at Huff and asked why he was there. Huff proudly stated, “I work for you, Wayne.”
Huff said Swearingen gave him several great opportunities throughout the years, including bringing Huff into the sale of the 954K SF Continental Plaza in 1995, even after Huff had started his own company.
Despite Huff’s gratitude to Swearingen, he tries not to be too much of a mentor to his own kids, who are both in real estate. Huff’s son works at Transwestern, and his daughter is a residential real estate agent with Williams Trew.
“I try not to give them advice unless they ask for it,” he said. “But I do tell them to be honest and work hard.”
Huff and Scovell will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on May 4.