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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Colvill Office Properties CEO Chip Colvill


This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.

Industry vet Chip Colvill is a leader in the Houston office market, with 32-plus years of experience in commercial real estate. Colvill serves as president and CEO of Colvill Office Properties, where he oversees the leasing and marketing of 16M SF of Class-A office properties in Houston. Over the course of his career, Colvill has transacted more than 18M SF of lease transactions in some of Houston and Dallas' most renowned developments, including BLVD Place, 609 Main and Chase Tower.

Colvill Office Properties founder Chip Colvill and his wife, Vivian.

Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?

Colvill: Our firm, Colvill Office Properties, is a landlord-representative-only leasing company specializing in the leasing of Class-A and B office buildings. We handle marketing and leasing duties on behalf of over 20 institutional clients in the Houston market, representing approximately 15% of the overall market and 33% of the central business district. The firm was founded in 2001.

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?  

Colvill: It is hard to answer this since I have been in the commercial real estate business for 33 years.  I love this business as it has helped me to develop many strong friendships and has been very good to my family.

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?  

Colvill: Really don’t have one; I guess I have been very fortunate over the years.

Bisnow: What was your first big deal?

Colvill: A law firm lease in 2002 for 450K SF and a large software company lease in 2005 for 621K SF.

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?  

Colvill: I am very fortunate that I can’t say I have one, as even the deals I have lost over the years were great learning opportunities.  

Colvill Office Properties founder Chip Colvill and his wife, Vivian.

Bisnow: How do you define “making it”?  

Colvill: For me, it is not monetary. This is a relationship and reputation business and those can only be earned over a long period of time in this business in doing the right thing for the client. Strong relationships can only be built after years of being a trusted adviser and colleague, and a reputation can be damaged in a second if you don’t do what you said you would do. I see many get into this business looking to hit the big money and they lose sight of these as critical to long-term success. Patience and persistence are key factors.

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?  

Colvill: Lack of attention to detail and following through on the small things that ultimately can add up to always representing our clients' best interests. You simply cannot cut corners in this business.

Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?  

Colvill: I have four. 1) Lou Cushman of Cushman & Wakefield for giving me a shot in 1984 to get into this business and teaching me that a high level of focus and attention to detail is critical to success in this business.  I think about him all the time in everything my company does.

2) Tim Relyea, also of Cushman & Wakefield, who is to this day ... the hardest worker I have ever come across in all my years in this business.  No one will ever keep up with Tim, but he is a role model for many in this industry that hard work is critical.

3) Chanse McLeod of Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP is the smartest lawyer I know and [I have been] able to learn from him over the past 25 years. The knowledge of real estate transactions Chanse taught me has allowed me to leverage this knowledge on behalf of our clients, which has been invaluable.

4) Charles Gordon of CBRE has always been a gentleman and is strong at communicating and facilitating dialogue that allows the parties (landlords and tenants) to benefit from such open dialogue. Charles is proof that you don’t have to be a tyrant in this business to be successful and that if you treat people fairly and openly good things can happen.      

Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?

Colvill: Best was Lou Cushman when I asked him why his firm, Cushman Realty Corp., was the best in the business. His answer was, “we do one thing (tenant representation) and we do it well.” I have taken that to heart over the years in running Colvill Office Properties, as landlord representation is all we do, and we hope our clients feel we do it well. I can’t honestly say I remember getting the [bad] professional advice, but if I did I forgot what it was, which is something you have to do in this business.  

Colvill Office Properties founder Chip Colvill

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?

Colvill: Golf. I am a terrible golfer but I love getting out to play and hanging out with friends and family. Golf is a game of life too that can be valuable to the real estate business as there are opportunities for happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, keeping composure, opportunities to cheat or do the right thing (follow the rules), victory and failure. It is a very humbling game for me and at times I wonder why I play since I am not good at it, but I love it.

Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?  

Colvill: Don’t laugh but I would have to say Ninfas on Navigation in Houston where Mexican food all started. It’s an institution thanks to Mama Ninfa.

Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?

Colvill: Thank you for the sacrifices you and your family are making and for your commitment to the United States of America.  I can’t imagine how hard of a job this can be on a 24/7 basis.

Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?  

Colvill: Hard to answer as I am not really a risk taker. There have been times over the years when I thought I should take more risks but I guess in representing our clients we always “think like owners” so I have always put their interests first to protect the downside.  

Bisnow: Whose work do you most admire? 

Colvill: Tim Relyea, as I have always tried to keep up with him. He represents his clients' best interests, always. Even with his incredible success over the years he has never let up — if anything his resolve is even stronger today than it was five years ago, which is amazing. I also have to say I admire Beau Bellow of JLL [and have enjoyed] watching the broker he has become with his dad, Dan Bellow (an incredible mentor). My son Cameron is working for me now and I hope he can spend more time with Beau to learn what he did to successfully follow in his dad’s footsteps, which I know is not easy.  

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night? 

Colvill: Worrying that we are always doing the best we can for our clients and that they know it through our actions. Also, for the incredible young-gun brokers that work for my firm, [I worry about] keeping them fired up even in tough markets. Real estate is a cyclical business and I have been through five cycles in the Houston market over the years. This has helped me to look longer term, but I always worry about the “what-ifs.”

Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?

Colvill: My faith in God, my wife and the family we are blessed with. We have four children and it has been amazing to watch them grow up and become adults. My wife has been an incredible adviser for me over the years. She has a very keen ability to always give me very sound advice, which has helped me tremendously over the years in what can be a stressful business.