Jim Lindsey, a great running back in the ’60s and ’70s, had more than his share of Hall of Fame mentors. He played for the legendary Frank Broyles at The University of Arkansas. And in the NFL, he toiled under Norm Van Brocklin and Bud Grant with the Minnesota Vikings. But if you ask the 65-year-old who laid the foundation for his real estate success, Lindsey doesn’t credit any gridiron great. Instead, the conversation turns immediately to a high school math teacher in tiny Forrest City, Ark.
Yes, the seeds for Lindsey Management Co.—a company that broke ground on 2,180 units in 2009, landing it the No. 1 spot on the 2010 MFE Top 50 Builders list—were planted in a tiny classroom in Forrest City, Ark. Lindsey used the basic math equations he learned from Bratton to understand the dynamics behind making development deals and running apartments as efficiently as possible. “He believed that in math, you start with the basics, the most simple elements, and move up from there,” Lindsey says.
Later on, Lindsey would apply that simplicity to his real estate deals—looking at how small components of a big lot can yield golf courses, amenities, and multiple phases of apartments. But like his mentor Bratton, who stayed in tiny Forrest City, Lindsey didn’t stray too far from his roots—building around 2,000 garden units per year in overlooked markets in Arkansas and neighboring states.
While other major builders have slashed their groundbreaking pipelines from thousands and thousands of starts a few years ago to zero new units in 2009, Lindsey Management has remained remarkably consistent. After starting 2,604 units in 2007 and 1,684 in 2008, it leapt to 2,180 in 2009—more than even the largest national companies. And most amazing? It built those units without help from the FHA’s Sec. 221(d)(4) program, which many in the industry insist is the only path to new development in the current economy. Not for Lindsey. Here’s how this quiet regional firm—and its steady, broad-shouldered CEO—keeps on building.
1) Your Markets Don’t Have to be on the Coasts. You Just Need to Know Them Well.
Lindsey knew math and knew farmland (which he called “the most basic unit of real estate”) from growing up on a farm in Forrest City, and he knew Fayetteville, Ark., because he went to college there. So it’s not surprising that the town, located in Northwest Arkansas, would be where the math major and pro-runningback made his first jaunt into the real estate business.