Industrial N Illinois

IOV's Tom Barbera finds a competitive edge in the industrial sector

Tom Barbera TK,ph01

Tom Barbera, CEO of Industrial Outdoor Ventures, believes success comes when you have a firm grasp on what you want to achieve. And he takes this concept seriously not only applying to his business but also his health and his family.

Barbera thinks about his goals and works backward to figure how to get there. Actively thinking about this is important and he focuses on it almost everyday. He even worked to instill this idea in his son Gary, who is about to head off to college, by assigning summer reading of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People complete with book reports and all.

Barbera was raised in Barrington, Illinois and lives there now with his wife Jodie and three kids Carly, 20, Gary 18, and Will, 15. When he's not running IOV, a company he launched less than a year ago, Barbera enjoys cooking, HIIT workouts, sports and skiing. He's taken ski trips all over the western United States and Canada. His favorite experience though was heli-skiing, where he flew up in a helicopter with a guide and got dropped off on top of a mountain. There's no ski patrol, no signs, no trails—just untapped wilderness and powder.

Similar to his hobbies, Barbera didn't follow the beaten path into commercial real estate. He studied at Northern Illinois University and then Roosevelt University but knew that the college classroom just wasn't the right place for him to be. He started in the industrial sector as a tenant rep and worked at Grubb & Ellis, Trammell Crow Company and Interstate Holdings.

Early on in his career he noticed that transportation and construction tenants needed outdoor storage and huge parking lots for equipment. The problem was that those sites were far and few between—everything on the market was always leased or owner occupied. And there weren't any industrial companies dedicated to helping tenants find those kind of sites. One reason, he said, is it's tricky to get municipalities on board.

"The building doesn't cover too much of the site and people want white glove industrial—docks in the back, landscaping and office in the front. Basically, a business park setting. But maintenance facilities and contractor facilities are not that. They put a lot of wear and tear on infrastructure and aren't pretty to look at," said Barbera.

When Barbera started his business, he was very confident in his idea. He said he hardly felt any stress, because after his years of experience, he believed he had a "battle-tested business plan." And so far, it seems to be working for Barbera who is aiming to build up a $100 million portfolio by the middle of next year.

Barbera predicts a lot of growth for his business because the market is a lot bigger than he initially thought. Often the first question people have, is about the size of the niche outdoor industrial market, but since no one directly tracks it, it's hard to tell. After digging into a lot of different numbers and research from CoStar, he estimates that outdoor industrial is about 10 percent of the base industrial market.

"There is nobody that specializes in outdoor industrial except for us, but if you want to do a warehouse program its so competitive, low-margin and cut throat," said Barbera.

At this stage in his career, Barbera if fortunate to have a lot of time to invest in his business. He has a great deal of experience under his belt and his kids are at an age where they are more independent. This timing isn't by chance, it's a result of Barbera knowing that he can't be successful if he stretches himself too thin.

"Knowing your limitations is one of the things I've learned along the way. I've got a handle on it. I know I'm good at certain things—being a straight shooter and treating people right. But really the reason I've had any success at all is recognizing what my limitations are," Barbera said.