CEO and Broker-in-Charge, NAI Earle Furman
Jon Good became president of Greenville’s largest commercial real estate company when he was 36, and moved up to broker-in-charge when he was 40. Greenville born and bred, Good’s perspective on Greenville and its economic growth spans from boom-to bust-to-boom again. You might expect to find him in a fancy corner office befitting his position, but you’d be wrong.
You always seem to be on the move. Is that your normal management style?
If you ask people what I do, they’ll tell you I don’t ever sit down. All I do is walk around. My grandfather was the manager of Belk Simpson on Main Street [now the Poinsett Plaza]. I met all these people who had worked for him, but never met him. And they all said he was never in his office until the doors were locked. He walked around. That was his style. It always stuck with me.
You invited us to talk to your employees about you. That’s a sure sign of confidence. What three things would you advise a manager to do to be a better leader?
I had a great mentor in [company founder] Earle Furman. He would just ask questions until you came up with an answer. Help your people find the answer by asking them the right questions – that’s one of his styles I have tried to copy. Two, be generous to people. Everyone in our company is engaged in the community. And three, go where your people are. Be with them when they’re doing their deals and when they are doing business. That’s why no one ever comes to my office. I sit in there when there is nobody here. The rest of the time, I’m with them.
Are you a workaholic?
I’ve always had that 80-hour-a-week mindset. When I started, I felt like in a 100 percent commission business if I work twice as much as everyone else, maybe I could go twice as fast.
From an economic perspective, why does Greenville succeed?
Everybody in the Upstate always put their community ahead of themselves. There are so many other places where it seems like that doesn’t happen. So I think it really was across the board with government, philanthropic and business leaders all putting aside individual wants and saying “this is important.”
We have petitioned our state legislators for 10 years to change the tax incentive program. Currently our tax credits are all manufacturing-based. Many states have tax incentives based on bringing smart people in. Greenville has much more room for growth in the tech-based, high-paying, knowledge economy. That’s what we need here. We don’t know why that doesn’t find a foothold in the legislature.
Does Greenville have an oversupply of office space while, at the same time, nearly 350,000 square feet of new space is under construction?
We are a small market. We don’t feel like we are oversupplied. We have not had a lot of new development of rental office space in the suburbs, and what typically happens is everyone wants to come back downtown. When new space comes in downtown, the downtown firms move to the new space and someone from the suburbs transitions into their space.
What does the new space have that the old space doesn’t?
Functionality-wise, office space has changed dramatically. New space doesn’t have any hard-wall offices and if they do, they’re in the inside of the building and the glass space is open workstations. A company can go from having 25,000 square feet office buildings older than 10 years to 15,000 square feet in a new building. And it’s the way people work and what millennials expect.
What is Greenville’s next step and what do we need to do to get there?
We’ve got great colleges here, but they could benefit from collaborating together, from strong leadership in the big schools (Clemson, Carolina, Furman, Wofford, Anderson) to develop a master plan for education that starts in kindergarten. That would be the next big thing to build the knowledge-base here that you see in Boston, Philadelphia. That would really give us the power to last forever.