Quinn Beats Own Downsizing

March 22, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Ned Quinn is a real interesting guy.

He is a husband, a father, quite involved with his industry and the community, recently started his own commercial real estate firm, and said his biggest career break came when he downsized himself from his own job. That's right. It happened eight years ago.

Back then, Quinn was managing the printing department at James River in Kalamazoo. But when he was offered the job, he was told that his position — along with all the other jobs in the department, about 100 — would be eliminated.

He took the job anyway.

"Obviously, it was a very emotional time for the employees. But we worked through it in about a two-and-a-half year period. We maintained our production numbers and we actually increased the profitability in the department as it was going down," said Quinn.

"But that put me in a position where I also eliminated my own job," he added. "From the standpoint of what was the best break for me, that forced me out of a box. It forced me out of corporate America and forced me to look at what is important in life, why we do the things that we do, and what makes me happy."

On the business side, what made Quinn happy was becoming an entrepreneur, being the master of his time and his fate. He had his real estate license and began selling houses for Greenridge Realty. Then he ran into an old friend who pointed him toward the commercial market. He then joined Grubb & Ellis/Paramount Properties and later went to Blue Bridge Ventures.

"Even as hard as the James River thing was to go through emotionally, to downsize a department, it did open up an opportunity," he said.

Today, Quinn is the founder and owner of Gable Ventures, a busy, little commercial real estate firm he started with Chad Bush and Kelly Wolthuis a little more than a year ago.

"Chasing that 'what makes you happy'," he said as to why he started Gable Ventures.

"I think my ultimate goal has been to work for myself and control my own destiny. I had built a black bag of tricks, I call it."

Inside that black bag is the finance degree Quinn earned, the track record he established in commercial real estate sales, and the development expertise he picked up at Blue Bridge.

"I had a pretty good black bag of tools that I had accumulated from sales to development to running a business that I felt I was prepared a year ago to step out on my own and create what I want to do," he said, while adding that he was "very pleased" with the progress Gable Ventures has made since the firm opened at 600 Monroe Ave. NW in January 2003.

Just one project that Quinn is putting together is a retail center in Georgetown. He said a group of investors asked him to find them an investment, and he did — the Georgetown Plaza. One of those investors, a close friend, said that if it's such a good investment, then he should put his own money into the project. So he did.

"With regards to what I am trying to do with the business, we're going in the right direction," he said.

When Quinn isn't directing Gable Ventures, he volunteers for Byron Center Christian Schools and the Children's Law Center. He also coaches in the American Youth Soccer Organization.

"With two little boys, you get involved," said Quinn of his soccer-playing sons Tyler, 9, and 7-year-old Austin.

And love of the game isn't the main reason Quinn coaches.

"I like seeing the joy in the kids' faces. Realistically, I think you try to teach them fair play. It's not about winning and losing, it's about having fun. We've had some great experiences with my kids and other kids. When they make a great pass or a great goal, the expressions on their faces are priceless."

Quinn and Michelle, his wife, have made the boys the focal point of their activities. As a family, they ski together on the water and the snow and go fishing at a lake where his parents have a cottage.

"I still hear the story from my oldest son Tyler when he caught his first big fish. When he tries to explain it to his friends he always says it was a bass. But it was a pike," he said. "Just his expression, even to this day, is like when he caught it and those are the things Michelle and I try to focus on with the kids.

"Michelle is a wonderful mother and wife. She is very active with Byron Center Christian Schools and she is really about the kids," he added.

As for his immediate future, Quinn said the upcoming days would directly evolve from the ones that have already passed. By that, he means to always remember what Gable Ventures started out to be and then stick to that initial design.

Quinn recently bought out his partner, Jack Buchanan, in a large industrial development the pair did in Walker, and has his firm currently involved with industrial, residential and retail projects within the area.

"That goes back to what we are trying to create here and I'm trying to offer a product that is a good value to buyers or tenants," he said. "I'm working with some national and local buyers and tenants right now."    

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