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Greenville Business Magazine

Why Live in the Big City When You’ve Got S.C.? CRE Leader Builds a Successful Career in His Home State

Apr 25, 2023 12:31PM ● By John C. Stevenson

Adam Padgett spent his first 12 years on a farm, before moving to the “big city” of Aiken, South Carolina.

The Palmetto State native’s earliest ambitions didn’t include staying in his home state, but as he grew older he began to reconsider his goals: “I grew up thinking I wanted to move out of South Carolina,” he recalls. “I thought at one point I wanted to be a stockbroker and live in a big city. That changed somewhere between late high school and during college.”

It was during that period that Padgett, who is now the executive vice president/principal of Lee & Associates of Greenville/Spartanburg, discovered commercial real estate.

“I got into this business when I was in college and needed a part-time job, and I liked it,” Padgett recalls. “It looked to me like you could make good money and not be tied to an office all the time.”

That was in 2006. By the time Padgett had gone into commercial real estate full time, the Great Recession was underway: “It was a totally different world from 2006 to 2008, 2009,” he said. “We’re fortunate, but when you’ve seen some of the worst, it causes you to not slow down nearly as much because you know this industry is cyclical and things can quickly turn.”

Along the way during his 17-year career, Padgett says he’s learned a lot, not only about CRE, but about working at the client’s pace.

“it’s definitely one of those things where you have to learn patience,” he offers. “You have to understand to not push companies into making decisions because that will not create long-term relationships. If someone makes a hasty decision – I’ve watched some companies buy or lease a building and then turn around 12, 18 months later, it just didn’t turn out to be the right decision.”

While he notes that the CRE industry does offer great opportunities for success, “it does come at the end of what can be a long and laborious process.” An average transaction, he says, usually takes at least seven to eight months. Sometimes, the process can take years.

“I worked with one company for seven years off-and-on before we ever did a transaction,” he says, “but it was a company that -- it was worth it.”

But financial reward isn’t everything. Padgett says one of his favorite things about working in CRE is learning about how his clients’ businesses work.

“What I like the most is going into facilities – seeing how distribution centers work, seeing how things are made; building those relationships where you can continue to work with the same companies over and over,” he explains. “You have people who stay in this business 30, 35, 40 years, and they’ll have done repeat business with clients over and over and over.”

And while Padgett hasn’t yet lived in a really big city such as Atlanta or New York, he says he has found a home: “I grew up on a farm, moved to the big city of Aiken. I’ve been to the big city of Columbia. When I moved to Spartanburg, I liked the pace, the fact that you can go out to dinner and run into people you know. Spartanburg is still a small community, even though it’s grown so much and changed so much in the time I’ve been working and living here.”