Graeme M. Keith -Graeme M. Keith III: Carrying a Legacy

The Keith Corporation (TKC) is a full-service commercial real estate firm, serving clients in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the United Kingdom. It was founded by Graeme Keith Sr. and Graeme “Greg” Keith Jr. in 1989. Today, Graeme M. Keith III leads several divisions of the company and is also a part of the Executive Leadership team. TKC’s mission is to deliver the highest level of quality, service, commitment, and excellence to its clients. The firm’s vast client portfolio includes multinational Fortune 500 corporations, top-rated hospitals, Department of Defense contractors, industrial giants, and high-growth startups. The firm is a progressive commercial real estate firm and credits employees for its success as it remains focused on the future. 

Staying Relevant through 3 decades

Graeme M. Keith III believes that the longevity of TKC is attributable to adaptation, but also to the firm’s family-oriented culture. They have many employees who have been with them for over 25 years and the median length of employment is 10+ years. Graeme feels extremely fortunate to have, and is very intentional about maintaining, such an incredibly tight-knit and family-oriented culture. That culture leads to fierce loyalty and long-term personal and professional relationships and fulfillment. This also results in a natural progression to mentorship opportunities where the newer employees build relationships with some of the more seasoned employees which ends up creating a powerful cycle and stronger bond. “We believe our people are our single greatest asset and there would be no success without them, so we try to invest heavily in them and create an environment where they are fulfilled personally and professionally,” says Graeme.

Further, he says, regardless of the industry and the company culture, to stay relevant and thrive, you must adapt. There are plenty of companies that had great cultures that ultimately ended up becoming extinct because they didn’t adapt. We are constantly trying to “skate where the puck is going, not where it is” which leads to a lot of lively and creative discussions internally. The simplest example of this is that TKC originally started as a single-tenant, net lease build-to-suit developer focused on the Industrial sector. Soon thereafter, they had opportunities for expansion into retail followed by office, healthcare and, most recently, airplane hangars. 

“While we are always trying to grow and evolve, one of the non-negotiables is always providing excellent customer service to our clients. In order to provide that level of service, we are always trying to stay on the cutting edge of optimization technology, as well as industry best practices. Our key stakeholders not only assess the competitive landscape and see where we are deficient compared to our competitors, but those stakeholders also double down on where we set the standard,” says Graeme. 

A Leader par Excellence

Graeme M. Keith, III graduated from The McCallie School, Wake Forest University and Charleston School of Law and is a licensed attorney in South Carolina. In his 11 years at The Keith Corporation, he has completed well over $500 million in deals. He has started and runs several other companies, including MedChat, LLC, and Flux Capital, LLC and he has a stealth start-up that is democratizing access to the financial sector, helping consumers to be more well-informed. Health and Wellness have always been very important to Graeme and he has competed in several half and full IRONMAN triathlons, XTERRA World Championships and won countless mud runs and adventure races across the United States.

All of the companies Graeme is involved in have a very similar philosophy: he tries to be the weakest link on the team. He explains, “If I am the weakest link, I feel like we’re going to have a very competitive team. I learned this when I was competing in mud runs and adventure races across the country and the same philosophy goes for business as well… This is a Biblical philosophy. In Proverbs 27:17 it says: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ If you want to be faster, train with faster athletes. If you want to be smarter, spend time with smarter people. If you want to be more successful, surround yourself with people who are more successful than yourself.”

Graeme always tries to surround himself with the best: At The Keith Corp., he works alongside an incredible team of dealmakers, project managers, accountants, administrative professionals, etc. At MedChat, he works with an amazing team of developers and engineers, as well as very talented sales, implementation, and customer success teams. This is the same at the other companies he’s involved in. The common theme at all of these organizations is that he tries to ensure he is one of the weakest members of the team.

“One of the greatest misconceptions about leadership is that it’s the Leader who drives the results, but in my opinion, it’s the exact opposite. The Leader may chart the course, but it’s the team who is most responsible for the outcomes. As a Leader, I simply try to find the most talented people and put them in positions where they can succeed,” says Graeme.

Exceeding Client Expectations

What TKC does is not super-unique, but how they do it is a hyper-focused commitment to customer service. Everything they do is client-driven; they always aim to provide the highest level of service and quality to their clients in a straightforward manner. Tthere have been a lot of changes over the last 33 years, but TKC’s commitment to its clients has not changed and will not change as long as there is a Keith at the helm. 

Client service looks different for every client: some want weekly updates and status reports, and others just want the keys when the building is finished. The team at TKC first tries to understand the most important items for its customers and then tailors its program around those hot button items. Those can range from cost-conscious value engineering exercises to aesthetics-driven design to ensuring flat floors for automation technology or building controls and security. 

In addition to tailoring its program to clients, Graeme and his team always try to under-promise and over-deliver by completing the projects on time and at, or under, budget. “If we do not feel like we can do a project in a first-class manner, we will let our clients know. It does not happen often, but we have passed on a handful of projects because we did not feel like we were positioned to perform at the level our clients expect from us,” shares Graeme.

Aside from the customer service piece, TKC also leverages a plethora of different software programs to add value to its clients’ processes. These range from mapping programs to demographics subscriptions to utilizing geofencing technologies to help understand and predict consumer behaviors that are relevant to our clients. 

As a result of its culture, Graeme feels that TKC is fortunate to have many employees who have been with the firm for decades. This makes continuity of service much easier and builds a predictable and scalable business for their clients. “A huge part of our success and relevance is the team that we have. We believe in hiring the best, most qualified people, giving them the tools they need to be successful, providing a great working environment, and giving them the autonomy to perform their job without micromanagement,” asserts Graeme.

Advice for young and aspiring entrepreneurs:

Graeme advises them saying:

1) Keep your head down and focus on your end goal. Despite what you may see on social media, there are no shortcuts to success, and 

2) Thomas Paine said: “Character, unlike money, is much easier kept than recovered.” Your reputation and character should never be put on the line. An easy way to determine this in a bright-line test is to think about someone you admire and look up to. Then think of the behavior in question to accomplish the goal you’re seeking to accomplish – would you be proud or ashamed if the person you admire found out about how you acted to accomplish that goal? Your character and reputation are precious and no amount of success is worth risking them.

Assessing the Future

From a personal standpoint, Graeme has a long list of goals he would like to achieve. They run the gamut from hiking the entire Appalachian Trail to seeing Mavericks or Jaws (big wave surfing spots) from the water to driving 200mph in a car and making someone’s lifelong dream come true. He would like to start ticking off some more of those goals over the next few years.

From a professional standpoint, he loves innovating and creating and believes there will be a handful of new and exciting companies over the coming years. He thinks the web3 movement has the potential of being the most disruptive movement since the creation of the internet and hopes to be involved in that space in a meaningful way. He also believes the blockchain and web3 movements have the potential to play a huge role in the future of commercial real estate. At TKC, he has created a digital leadership task force to evaluate what we think that might look like in the future and consider how it could bring value to their clients as well as their internal shareholders.

While he does not have any immediate plans to enter into any new sectors, the entrepreneurial nature of his company means he is always evaluating new opportunities and business lines. “I believe the largest gaps in our service offerings are currently in the multi-family residential and storage sectors. I do not expect us to make a move into either of those sectors this cycle, but believe there are opportunities there that could make sense for us down the road,” concludes Graeme.