Bussey is commercial real estate's go-to guy

May 2, 2011
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He calls himself a Georgia boy because he was born in Atlanta. Bill Bussey also is a ramblin’ wreck from Georgia Tech, having graduated from the technological university with an industrial engineering degree.

But Bussey, a retail specialist and partner at Colliers International – West Michigan, first enrolled in the school’s architectural program. He admitted that if computers and CAD software had been available when he was at Georgia Tech, he probably would have stayed with architecture.

“It was when you had a drawing table and an eraser bag, and it was all by pencil. I don’t think I had the patience to do that. I took architecture, then I changed to physics, then I changed to industrial engineering.”

Even though Bussey didn’t earn an architecture degree, he said the training he received has helped him in his brokerage career.

“It has been invaluable for me in real estate, whether I’m doing my own developments or whether I’m helping clients figure out a site plan. It’s amazing how the things you take at the time (and) you don’t think you’re going to use, you use a lot. It helps me to understand real estate and construction drawings and to understand what the process is,” he said.

Bussey, a smart and personable guy, said the best things that have happened to him in his lengthy and successful career were joining Paramount Properties — now Colliers International — in 1998, and earning his Certified Commercial Investment Member designation from the National Association of Realtors.

Bussey said Paramount was a unique firm at the time he joined; he feels that he has grown both personally and professionally since he has been there. He said that although it took a few years for him to earn his CCIM, it was well worth his time and investment, as it taught him all the aspects that make up the commercial field, including the best way to negotiate a deal.

He thinks aspiring commercial brokers should look into the program at the beginning of their careers.

“I’d probably been in real estate for 15 years before I did that, and when I went through CCIM, I learned I was doing it the hard way all those years. If I had one wish, I’d wish I had gotten my CCIM designation right when I got into commercial real estate,” he said.

“It’s interesting because one of my partners, John Kuiper, was designated as CCIM number 10,000 when he got his CCIM. Just to show you how long I’ve been doing this, my number is 3,291,” he said with a laugh.

Bussey hasn’t always worked in real estate. After graduating from Georgia Tech, he moved to Florida to work in process controlling for a manufacturer. He then came here and took a sales management job at Lear Siegler. While there, he began investing in real estate.

“I got so involved in that, I had to make a choice: Am I going to do more in real estate, or am I going to do less and keep selling aircraft computers?”

He chose real estate. He formed a partnership and began working in the residential market. Then he joined Eastbrook Builders. While he enjoyed his time there, Bussey came to the conclusion that commercial real estate was more up his alley, so he hooked up with Ray Kisor at Kisor Streeter.

“It was my first experience at a commercial-only real estate company. It was a great experience and I learned a lot. Later, I joined a company called American Acquest, which involved both selling and developing real estate,” he said.

Bussey said his favorite deal took place at American Acquest. He helped develop about 100 acres on 28th Street SE, across the street from what is now the Art Van location. That site now is home to Sam’s Club, Gander Mountain, two auto dealers, a hotel and a mobile home park.

“Then in 1998, I had the good fortune to join Bill Bowling as an associate broker. He had formed a new company called Paramount Properties. He had a novel concept at the time, in which all advisors would specialize,” he said. “It involved both development and sales, and I enjoyed it because it was so challenging.”

And the rest, as they say, is history, and that saying is applicable in this case. Since joining Paramount, Bussey has won the Circle of Excellence Award twice, a Commercial Sense Award and the Largest Retail Sale Award. He is considered by many as the definitive go-to guy in the local retail market.

Bill has been married to Kay, who goes by the letter K, for 30 years, and they live in Ada. Debbie, Melissa, Mark, Laura and Scott round out the immediate Bussey family. The lasting relationship is the second marriage for both Bill and K. Three of the children are from Bill’s first marriage. He met K when their respective kids were hanging out together.

Bussey is active in his industry — he maintains a membership in five related organizations — and in the community, especially from a business perspective. When he has some spare time, he likes to dabble in photography, invent things and play golf. Those, he said, are his hobbies.

But Bussey has other interests that he called his passions, things he feels very strongly about and that he needs to be involved with, he said, because everyone is required to contribute to the world in which they live. He listed two of his passions for the Business Journal, and, not surprisingly, both relate to young people.

One is education.

“Our educational system is in such shambles that we don’t teach our kids logic. We don’t teach our kids math and science. And as a result, it’s hard to find good employees. I think we all need to participate as much as we can to transform our educational system into producing the same quality of people that we used to, from an educational standpoint,” he said.

Another passion is the Boy Scouts. Bussey sits on the Gerald R. Ford Council board. “Kids who are in Boy Scouts for two years or more are 20 percent more likely to graduate from high school. Forty percent of them graduate from college versus 16 percent of non-scouts. And so the local council has a program called Scout Reach because we see what scouting does to train future leaders,” he said.

“We take scouting into places where people have never seen scouts, and the local council spends over $250,000 a year for that purpose.

“It makes an amazing difference in the attitudes of these kids when they learn there is more to life than their own neighborhood. They learn that they can succeed. They learn that they can be in supportive groups. They learn that ethics are important. This gives them a whole other life experience, and it helps them to have some of the same experiences as regular Boy Scouts. Sometimes, it’s the first time they’ve been to camp.”

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