More Than Title Guys
No surprise that GRS Group CEO Chuck Victor—whom we snapped in his Irvine conference room—by age 25 in 1983 had been a manufacturer's rep in seven states for a fuel booster popular with Big Daddy Don Garlits and the Hot Rod Association; helped build a racing team that competed in the AMA Superbike Daytona 200; and co-created and sold a company providing high-octane fuel for motor racing. This is a born entrepreneur who's used to doing things fast. Today, he heads a rapidly expanding commercial real estate services company that does title insurance, environmental and engineering due diligence, financial advisory, and energy management consulting, with employees in 12 US cities and growing operations overseas.
He keeps these glasses in reserve to look intellectual, though with the red stems you can see he remains a secret hipster. The kid of a colonel with the Corps of Engineers, he grew up in Alaska, DC, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. He then met his wife on holiday in Cozumel, and moving with her to Austin, Texas, built and sold a wine consulting business. Then he met someone in Laguna Beach who did mortgage banking, and before he knew it, was helping find debt and equity for commercial development deals. That’s when the science bent he acquired from his dad took over, and next he was building up an environmental engineering and testing business, National Assessment Corp. He sold that firm to Land America in 2002, staying for seven years to drive its sales from $15M to $100M in 40 countries—and running the western region of its commercial title ops as well.
But Land America went bankrupt in the recession. So with 12 colleagues and a big check he wrote, Victor founded a new company determined to be a lean and high-powered version of their former firm. Rather than acquiring companies to grow, its M.O. is to partner and co-brand. Today, it's got a Corteq division that does assessment; Centaur, which does financial advisory; a title insurance group; Ti-Con for energy audits and retrofit; and special affiliates in the UK and Germany. The combination of services is so broad and unusual that clients like Siemens and Wells Fargo use GRS for multiple commercial real estate tasks throughout the US and Europe. Next goal: add new partners each year in the likes of Southeast Asia, India, the Mideast, and Europe.
Chuck skis 10 to 15 days a year and goes backpacking from the Sierras to Denali. He and wife Kathy got engaged at the base of Mt. McKinley. Here's the family (including three kids, now 18, 16, and 14) trekking through the Harding Ice Fields in Alaska, up the face of a glacier. Chuck says it was surreal, but as you can see from the Outward Bound motto he embraces, he tries to apply it to real life.
And at our conference the other day in the OC, here's GRS director of marketing Mike Gerard, another outdoor nut, disguised in coat and tie. Are you ready for this: Mike's the former executive director of the national association for surfing in the US, who's also consulted with the Chinese government to develop an IOC-recognized national surfing program for China. Chuck served on Mike's board, probably because he misunderstood and thought Mike asked him to be on a "surf board," not a "surfing board."