We had the good fortune of connecting with Duerk Brewer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Duerk, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My feelings about risk and overall risk tolerance have changed throughout my life as I gain experiences, particularly failures. You might think that taking risks and experiencing failure might make you risk-averse, but it has done the opposite for me. I have never been one to take chances without upside, but as I have leaped into the unknown in my career, personal life, and investments, the outcome has not always been what I hoped for. Going through those situations, I’ve learned resiliency. I can recover and take away valuable lessons that put me in a better position for the future. Knowing that I can get back up and bounce back from defeat has given me the confidence to be willing to take more risks than when I was younger and understand that failure should not always be feared. Now I know that even if and when I fall short, I will not only be ok, but I will be better.
• If you are a parent, what do you think is the most important thing you’ve done as a parent in terms of the impact on your children?
I have eight kids. Each of them unique, with different strengths and weaknesses; however, my emphasis is always on the effort they put in over the outcome in any given situation. Results are important and are tethered to overall goals and accomplishments in life. However, the effort you put into achieving those results is not the only factor we can control 100 percent. While we cannot always control the outcome, it is almost always improved as we improve our effort. In school, I incentivize my children with straight “A’s for effort,” but I am not talking about the letter grade on the report card. An “A for effort” means if the grade is below an A, they have no missing assignments, no late assignments, and have taken advantage of available test retakes and tutoring. If at that point they have any other letter grade, to me, it is an A. The reality is, if they do all of those things, the grade almost always is an A. But they are still rewarded for their input when it has not been done. If my children can go out into the world and understand that controlling the outcome is achieved through their own efforts, I feel I am setting them up for success.
• What is the most important factor behind your success / the success of your brand?
The most important factor behind my success and the success of our company is having a mindset of accountability and excellence. When that mindset permeates a company’s culture, it attracts a certain type of person. As you start to fill an office with those individuals, they naturally elevate one another. It is not enough to just show up and go through the motions at Matthews. We are building something great here, and those that are attracted to Matthews find personal fulfillment in being a part of that. When you surround yourself with like-minded, hard-working, committed professionals, you all feed off one another’s energy, and it creates a momentum that helps you be excited about getting up in the morning. It does not feel like work and your days fly by.
• Work life balance: How has your balance changed over time? How do you think about balance?
I have been in the commercial real estate industry for over twenty years. When I started my career at a local start-up in Phoenix, I often worked 15–16-hour days. I didn’t do it because I had to, but because I was excited about what we were building- there was always something else I could do if I had more time. This extra time focused on my career accelerated my understanding of the business and catapulted me into leadership positions at a young age. I now have a family and have grown into senior executive leadership positions, which have certainly reduced the number of hours at work. I still put in a lot of hours, and they are not always physically in the office, but they are still nowhere near the hours I would log early in my career. I have learned to differentiate between urgent and important tasks and be more efficient in my time, making calls during commutes, or having meetings over lunch. I have also learned the importance of hiring great people, empowering them, mentoring them, keeping them aligned with the organizational goals, and letting them run, so I do not have to be involved every second of every day. These lessons have allowed me to take on outside activities and passions in addition to work. Over the past nine years, I have been coaching cross country and track at a local school. This involved a lot of early mornings during the cross-country season, and many days during track season where I leave for the office at 6:30 am and do not return home until 8:00 pm from Track practice. However, I also am there with my kids, and I get quality time during those rides to and from practice, where I get to know their peers, help them develop individually, and as athletes. I cherish those moments and memories. On Sundays, I commit to not work at all, I focus only on my family, we go to church, play games, and just spend time together. It is my favorite day of the week and I cherish it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started my career working in the mailroom at a brokerage company. From there, I worked my way through the ranks to become a company executive and partner at the firm. That experience alone has provided me with a unique perspective that has benefitted me as a leader. Having held almost every role within a company at some point in time provided me with an appreciation for the challenges associated with various roles. In addition to the understanding, I have gained through experience, I believe my mindset has benefitted me in having professional success. I always envision difficult situations in business not as obstacles, but as challenges to overcome. I feel this approach helps me not to be daunted by taking on ambitious projects that others may shy away from. I feel pride when I look around our current company, our unprecedented growth in our industry, and see the impact we have made in a relatively short amount of time and know that I was a part of it. However, I feel the most pride in the leaders I have helped develop. I see them realizing their full potential, leading successful teams, and ultimately surpassing me in so many areas.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If they were my best friend, I would have to assume they like all, or many, of the same things I enjoy. If I were going to show them a great time, it would start with an early morning mountain bike ride up in the Hawes Trail system before it got too hot. Then we would grab some breakfast at The Original Pancake House.
After that, maybe we would catch a spring training game, and I would take them to lunch at Spinato’s for the best local pizza. In the afternoon, we would catch a movie at Harkins and let the weather cool off. Then we would hike Papago or Camelback (depending on how tired we were) to watch the beautiful Arizona sunset. After that, we would wind down with some dinner at Barrio Queen, where I would insist they try the tableside guac with pomegranate seeds!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I take a little something from everyone I interact with. Sometimes it is the behavior I want to emulate; other times behavior I want to avoid. Professionally, I give a lot of credit to Monique Fox, the COO of Greystone Real Estate Advisors, who hired me and believed in me at a young age. She promoted me quickly despite my relative lack of experience. I was also very much shaped by John Rhoades, COO at Hendricks & Partners, and Brent Long, President of Greysteel, who were both professional mentors that I respected to the point where I would question “what would they do?” as I made decisions early in my career. Having people who believe in you and are willing to invest in you is critical to success, so I strive to provide that to others where I can.