Keith Oden | President of Camden Property Trust
Creating and Building:
Born in McComb, MS, Keith says he could have written the book “Hillbilly Elegy,” about his own life. Since his parents weren’t really in the picture, his grandmother raised him from a young age in Pasadena, TX. He went on to graduate from the University of Texas, receiving his MBA with a concentration in real estate shortly thereafter.
“I was just intrigued always with the idea of creating and building things.”
After working as a management consultant at Deloitte, he interviewed at Century Development and joined the team. This is where he met Ric Campo, who became his long-time business partner.
During that time, they realized that considering Houston’s economic recovery status, short-term leases were going to do the best, so they focused their business on apartments.
From there, Keith and Ric began buying apartments in Houston and working with investors, until the RTC came along and the one-off asset game didn’t work anymore. They struck a deal with investor Louis Ranieri, which allowed them to play the RTC game, and their portfolio grew to 7,000 apartments. When Ranieri wanted to sell, Ric and Keith didn’t want to give up this company they had created. They crafted a plan and kept the business, taking the company public in 1993.
Keith has several highlights that he says were “Watershed” moments for Camden’s trajectory.
- When they went from private to public, this became a huge watershed moment because they weren’t spending time raising capital. Keith says that raising capital is now less than 5% of his time.
- They went through three public-to-public mergers, which grew the geography of their company beyond Texas.
- They created the first revenue management system for the multi-family business with the software firm, RealPage. This solved the problem of pricing apartment rents in real time.
- The first year they made it on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For was in 2007, and they’ve been on it for 11 consecutive years now. He says it’s the benchmark, not just for Camden, but of how far the apartment industry has come.
- Keith and Ric, as President and CEO respectively, continue as partners and collaborators to this day, essentially as co-heads of the business. This type of collaboration is unique in the REIT industry.
Creating Company Culture
During a facilitator meeting where they discussed the importance of taking a stand, everyone in the meeting had to stand up and pitch their goal for the company. Keith stood up and said that in five years, Camden Property Trust will be recognized as one of the best companies to work for in this country. Two years later, they made Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.
This company culture wasn’t born in that meeting however, it was there from the beginning.
“It’s just setting up an environment where people can do their best work, where they’re rewarded for it both financially and emotionally… and then just being unyielding in terms of good and bad behavior.”
Keith says Camden’s company culture is not a spectator sport, but an inclusive, respectful, integrity-driven environment.
Make it your mission to improve people’s lives, and you measure your success by that.
Website: Leading Voices Podcast