The day after Ian Quint passed the New York state bar exam, he followed his passion and headed straight into the real estate game. With no prior experience or education in the field, this McGill graduate understood quickly that experience and fostering relationships was the foundation of building a successful business. Looking back now, it's no surprise that he went to acquire over 5 million square feet of real estate in just 3 years, making him a reference point for real estate development in Eastern Canada. Find out the full story behind this eight times IronMan competitor who proves time and time again that hard work, passion and intrinsic motivation have no bounds.
How did you develop your work ethic and perseverance ?
The biggest parallel I can draw between my personal life and my business life is that even when I was a kid I was always very driven, very motivated. I didn't even know what I wanted to do but I was very involved in sports, and I would practice like crazy. I would play on 3-4 teams at the same time. My poor father and mother had to shuttle me from one game to the next. Any free moment I had I was practicing.
It translated from sports into business when I graduated law school - the day after I wrote my bar exam I started working in real estate. [When I was in law school] I knew I didn't want to be a lawyer but I loved the education, I think it's the best education anyone can have - it's the foundation for any business you want to go into. It was invaluable for me. Before that I did a Bachelors in science at McGill University that I also loved.
Tell me about your journey in real estate ?
I started working with my uncle right out of school. He called me when I was studying for my bar exam and he said his property manager had quit, am I interested, and I said yes.
I was 23 at the time and I knew nothing about real estate.
I showed up to the office the next day, I had no training, no script, I had no idea what I was doing and I just started working in the field. I was doing property management and leasing and I learned everything by myself. I read, I started meeting people, I absorbed whatever I could and after a month or two, I was already bored with property management and leasing and decided I wanted to develop.
My uncle had a small portfolio of industrial multi-tenant buildings in Brossard. They were not maintained properly, they looked tired and they had big vacancies. I decided I wanted to renovate these properties. I got my general contractor's license, I renovated all the properties and then rented every single one of them to 100%. That was the end of the first year. I decided I wanted to start from scratch and do land development. We bought a piece of land, and I just started building, I had no clue what I was doing. No tenants, and by the time I laid the last brick I had the building fully leased. After that I started building and building.
2,3,4 buildings, always per year with no tenants. Always filling them up at 100% before I was done. It was a great learning experience for me, I took over tasks as I wanted to, so by the end I was doing the leasing, the management, the construction, the human resources, the marketing, the legal. I made the most of it and I learned.
What made you decide to take the leap of faith to go off on your own ?
It's something I was thinking about almost every day when I was there. Because I was doing everything anyways, I was doing 100% of the work for almost none of the reward. I'm of the newer generation of thought when you're in business, it's all about relationships. I had developed phenomenal contacts, and relationships.
I had worked very hard to foster these relationships and I didn't want my reputation to get effected by the environment I was in. I stayed much longer than I should have because I loved what I was doing. It got to a point where I wanted to do bigger things, attract a different market, and I wasn't able to. I went off and bought a commercial building on my own that my uncle has rejected, which was the push that I needed.
I started from scratch with $0. Everything I had done for 10 years, all the buildings I had built that I had a small part of. I left with nothing. I'm fortunate because people struggle a lot when they start, I worked like an animal, I had a million failures but I always got back up, I was able relative to other people who start their businesses, to have a lot of success quickly, and its been a phenomenal ride so far.
What differentiates Group Quint from other companies ?
One of our strengths now is leasing because we're not passive, we're very aggressive. We'll meet every single agent in the area we'll knock on doors of tenants that are existing in the area see if they need to move, or expand. When I was building in Brossard I would knock on tenants doors that had industrial space and I would say "listen you're renting 50,000 square feet now, you can fit the same amount of stuff in my building in 30,000 square feet because you can stack higher. Overall you're paying less and you'll be in a newer building." I would use these types of tactics and lease all the buildings. I developed really great relationships with these agents, they would always come to me first. The rest was history.
Did you have any mentors when growing your company ?
I didn't have any direct mentors, I would have different guys in the real estate industry that were older than me, that were doing impressive things and I would learn from them. It was very organic, when I started to develop I became friends and partners with some of my mentors I also became a mentor to younger guys coming up. I have both, people I mentor and people I look up to and bounce ideas off of.
Do you believe in building experience before launching your own venture ?
I could not have done what I am doing now, had I not developed my experience or my contacts. You have to put in those hours to be an expert, just like Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers says you have to put in your 10,000 hours before. Wether that's working with a larger group or going off on our own you have to have that experience and that knowledge. Without that it would've been impossible for me to do and foolish for me to think that I could. I was also fortunate that I started in a shop where no one told me anything so I had to learn everything on my own. If I was going to work in a real estate company they would hire me for a specific job, there I touched everything. It was a great school for me.
What are your future company goals?
We have a great formula here, we want to continue our growth 1) we want to maintain the same atmosphere in the office as we grow and hire more staff. 2) We really want to continue at the same growth rate; acquiring 1-2 million square feet of property a year and expand into other markets. We did our first deal in the United States, so we want to grow outside of Canada as well. We want to do it in a responsible way and continue organically. 3) Surround myself with great partners - when you buy a property with a person it becomes a marriage so it's important that you have the same vision and you can both add value to the partnership.
At the end of the day, if you can't have fun or sleep at night because you're involved in a bad relationship, then it's not worth it. It's just money. We do this because we love what we do. I don't think you can be really successful at anything if your motivation is only financial. You have to love what you're doing. To put in the hard work and long hours, you need to love it.
We want to continue helping those that are coming up behind us, that's something I never had. I had no help, and I wish I had that so I'm trying to give back and help the younger guys.
What keeps you motivated?
I believe some people are just born with it, it's innate. Necessity is the mother of invention. If you couldn't afford to eat, you're going to do whatever it takes to make money to buy a sandwich. For me, it's something that's always been built into me, I really don't think it's something that can be taught.
What advice would you give a young entrepreneur starting their journey?
You can't expect that you're going to graduate from McGill and you're going to be a real estate developer, you have to get the experience, you have to build a foundation that's the most important thing. Once you have that, work very very hard. Any advice that I have isn't real estate specific, it can be applied to any business. You have to work very hard.
The harder you work the better your chances are that you're going to get lucky. It's inevitable that you're going to fail 1000 times before you're going to do your first deal, but you have to keep getting back up. When you have a goal, don't let anything get in your way.
Learn the lesson and move forward. I don't ever live in the past. Learn and apply it to the future.
Build up the experience, and then work as hard as you have to.