EMPOWER CELEBRATES DERRICK EVERS
What drives a person to succeed in an industry where most of the major players do not look like you? Here is one story, transcribed from an interview with Derrick Evers, the co-founder and CEO of Kaizen Development Partners. Derrick has a compelling personal story of triumph, one that begins with his connection to the segregated south (Derrick’s third cousin is Medger Evers, the slain Mississippi Civil Rights activist) through Detroit and to leading workplace and healthcare real estate development and now additionally teaching at SMU.
By Gianna Pigford
CoreNet Global North Texas EMPOWER Co-Chair
Derrick Evers grew up and spent most of his youth in Detroit, Michigan where he attended high school in downtown Detroit. To escape the city’s violence, his parents moved the family to Texas just before Derrick left for college. This was a pivotal moment in his life’s journey as while in Detroit, Derrick believed he and his siblings were at a crossroads in their life and his parents recognized that they had to make a difficult decision. They did not have jobs when they arrived in Texas, but they had faith that this was the right decision to make and it proved true. Like his parents, faith is what is most important to Derrick and makes him who and what he is on a personal level.
Derrick feels he was fortunate to be accepted to Texas A&M University as an architecture and science major. There, he was one of the few minority students in the program, but he got used to what that felt like and embraced it. Like most in similar situations, Derrick was faced with the question, “Are you Martin or Malcolm?”. Derrick believes there is no wrong answer to this question as there is a time to be both. He has found there is more opportunity to create change from within instead of kicking the door in and that entry into the real estate industry for him was through mentorship.
Mentorship is Important
Derrick truly believes in mentoring as he is a product of mentorship. He started his career at Trammell Crow Company (now CBRE) and Bob Sulentic, CEO, took him on as a mentee. Bob taught Derrick that you always need to be candid and impeccably trustworthy. You will never have your integrity questioned in this business if you are upfront and honest. Bob also taught him about the business acumen and the necessary larger corporate structure of the real estate industry.
Another mentor that Derrick credits to his success is Roger Staubach, who recruited and taught him about leadership. Roger has this charisma about him that makes you want to be around him and follow him. He earns your trust, and this was the biggest lesson that Derrick learned from him. You must earn the trust of the people around you and they will fall on a sword for you because they know you will do the same for them.
Giving Back to the Next Generation of Leaders
Derrick both informally mentors and is a formal mentor to five upcoming real estate professionals. It is not intentional that he has mostly minorities as his mentees, but he obviously pays attention to people of color as there are so few people of color in the industry and even fewer that mentor. Derrick wants the people that he mentors to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Derricks recalls a personal story where he was leading a meeting and as he entered the room he was asked to get someone a coffee. In that moment, he had to decide, “are you Martin or Malcom?” Should he call out the transgression or take the higher road? What Derrick did was to ask, “Do you want cream or sugar?” Derrick got the cup of coffee for the person and then went and sat at the head of the conference table to lead the meeting. This is an example that Derrick uses when he mentors and recommends that you be a person of restraint and strategic about how you navigate arenas that are not inclusive. Mentees come away knowing there will be forks in the road, but minute decisions at the forks in the road will determine where you go.
Advice for Those Seeking Entry Into the Real Estate Industry
Derrick speaks at the lecture series for “The Compelling Why” which reaches high school students, primarily black men, with similar backgrounds as him. These are our next leaders, but unfortunately, Derrick does not believe he will be able to reach all who attends his lectures, but if he grabs just one or two it is worth it. Derrick shared that he was one of a few that successfully got out of his environment and that lends to the professional advice he gives.
“Sometimes in order to succeed, even your dreams have to believe.” Derrick heard this statement and now shares this with those he mentors. It is a profound statement, but what does this mean? As Derrick explains, “A lot of us have big dreams and aspirations. The world has a lot of folks that dream, and it is full of those that are smart. But sometimes that is not enough. Your dreams have to believe.”
To the people going through things right now, Derrick offer this analogy, “Grapes must be crushed to make wine. Diamonds form under pressure. Olives are pressed to release oil. Seeds grow in darkness. So, whenever you are crushed under pressure, pressed or in darkness, just know that you are in a powerful place of transformation.” This line of thought has shifted how Derrick feels about difficult times. All of us have felt this. If you can look at it in a different way as Derrick suggests, “This is a moment in time. I am in a powerful transformation. This thought elevates what you are going through, and those moments are not so lonely.”
Derrick believes he is doing exactly what he wanted to do since he has been a child. He is extremely humbled to have the conversation and privileged to share this platform he has to speak about equity, diversity, and inclusion. The discourse is very much needed for those that are unable to be heard. Derrick shares his experience and inspires others to go past where he is and what he has accomplished, to “continue the trend”. Derrick’s parting words, “I’m excited for where the real estate industry is trending. We have had our setbacks, but we have a tremendous opportunity to share who we are and what we can be. I believe in us!”