Michael Pollack discusses his experience in the real estate industry in Arizona.

Michael Pollack

Title: President and Founder
Company: Real Estate Investments

What was it about the real estate industry that attracted you?

My grandfather and father were in the real estate industry. Growing up, all I really knew was real estate. When I was in the fourth grade, I gave a presentation on how to read working blueprints. So I’ve been doing this a long time.

Video by Cory Bergquist

What qualities helped you become successful in your industry?

I believe that you have to be honest, you have to have integrity, and you have to work really hard. This is not a business that is easy. You have to be able to roll up your sleeves and work really hard.

What qualities do you think a successful CEO needs to possess?

I work sometimes seven days a week and four or five nights a week. But it’s not working to just work, it’s working smart. It’s important that you lead by example.

Are there any obstacles to working in Arizona that you might not face in other states?

We’re still not compared equally with metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. They are seen much more as financial hubs. Our state leaders really need to focus on what’s important today: employment and diversification. We built this state on construction. We built the economy by building homes to house the construction workers. Now, we need to diversify so that we build a more sustainable economy.

How has your industry changed since you started?

When I started, you could do a residential contract on one page. So it’s changed a lot in that it takes a lot more paper to do essentially the same thing.

How do you think your industry is going to change in the next 10 years?

One of the things that is going to be very important going forward is the lessons learned — hopefully — in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. That lesson is that you cannot have the attitude of “build it, and they will come.” We have to build for a reason. Hopefully, that lesson will be in the forefront as we emerge from what has been some very dark days. The other big change is that we are going to see retailers getting smaller again. They grew into these supermega-sized boxes that were so big you needed a golf cart to go through them. That’s going to shrink. We’ve learned that the biggest is not necessarily the best anymore.

What has been your most significant challenge as CEO of your company?

The biggest challenge of my career was not getting carried away with the hype and exuberance of the marketplace in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 to the point where I could have easily over-leveraged and put myself in a position where I would be unable to make a recovery during the economic downturn. I watched so many friends and colleagues feasting on debt and getting to do all these projects while I watched from sidelines, telling myself, “This does not making economic sense.” Having the discipline to do that was the biggest challenge of my career.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I think we’ve truly been able to make a difference in the communities that we have worked in. Some of our redevelopment projects have changed neighborhoods and changed areas of our cities. My goal is to continue to make the communities we work in a better place one day and one project at a time.

Vital Stats: Michael Pollack

  • Has been involved in more than 11 million square feet of projects.
  • Is the drummer for Corporate Affair, a band that plays charitable events.
  • The Pollack family business began in 1937 in San Jose, Calif., when Sidney Gambord,
    Michael Pollack’s grandfather, decided to enter the real estate development business.
  • Entered the real estate business in 1973 while he was still in his teens, building
    single-family homes.
  • Began doing business in Arizona in 1991 with the purchase of a 23,623-square-foot
    shopping center that was 90 percent vacant. Within months, the occupancy rate climbed to
    more than 90 percent.

Arizona Business Magazine May/June 2012