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Q&A With a Hall of Famer

John Crossman talks about his induction into the FSU Business Hall of Fame

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In April, John Crossman, president of Orlando, Fla.-based real estate firm Crossman & Co., became the youngest inductee into the Florida State University College of Business Hall of Fame. 

Established in 2003, FSU's College of Business Hall of Fame honors graduates who have excelled in their careers, earned significant recognition for professional achievements and community service, and made significant contributions to the mission of the College of Business.

Crossman talked to Chain Store Age about the Hall of Fame honor and about his career that has spanned two decades.

What does the Hall of Fame honor mean to you?

Personally, it's overwhelming. But it isn't really just about me. It represents a body of work carried out with our company's 40 employees and my brother, as well as my high school teachers, college teachers, coaches, teammates and my family — it's about all of us.

Where does all of the energy that created this body of work come from?

My dad was a pastor and civil rights leader. Our household had a strong vision about purpose and service. But we didn't have much; we were poor. I was grateful to be able to go to FSU, to have the opportunity to get an education and compete on the track team. Gratitude makes you want to use your talent to its fullest extent to serve.

Sketch out the highlights of your career.

In my second year in the business, 1994, working for what was then Faison,I made my first trip to the ICSC convention in Las Vegas. Every day,I made sure I arrived at our booth at 7 a.m., before everyone else, and I stayed until everyone else had gone. Company president Henry Faison noticed. When he sold the business to Trammell Crow in 1998, he highlighted me, and was named senior VP of Trammell Crow — because I was always the first to arrive and the last to leave the booth in Vegas.

How did you end up at Crossman & Co.?

The years 2004 to 2006 were personally difficult. My father died, my house was damaged by hurricanes, I was hospitalized with a back injury, and my young daughter almost died. In 2006, I left Trammell Crow to spend more time at home with my family.

My brother had a small real estate company in Orlando. I asked if I could join him, and he said yes. My brother has great integrity and makes an exceptional business partner. He is the details guy and the wisest person I've ever met.

Go figure. I left Trammell Crow to spend more time with my family at the expense of my career. Yet the move led to phenomenal growth — and I have more time with my family.

Because you're based in Florida, you've had a front-row seat to the state's recovery. Can you describe?

The bottom occurred in 2010. In 2011, brokerage returned, and shopping centers began to trade — at a good clip. Leasing rebounded in 2012. Development is returning this year. Wawa is expanding. Publix is expanding. There is more infill development and downtown core development. It isn't huge, but it is definitely coming back.

Why should retailers consider Florida for expansion?

Retail follows residential growth and tourist growth. A tourist spends five times more than the average person, and tourism is huge in Florida, particularly central Florida, thanks to Disney and Universal. In addition, the housing market has made a strong return, and that's good for retail, too.

What lies ahead for Crossman & Co.?

We will continue to grow with our clients and employees. As a landlord-focused organization, we will continue to help our landlord-clients achieve their objectives. We plan to continue as market leaders in terms of information and education. And we want to continue as a leader in diversity.

© 2014