Jeff Turk, CEO
How did you get into your business?
I arrived in Austin in the fall of 2005. I was just coming back from West Africa, so all I had was two backpacks and a laptop. I bought two chairs and air mattress at Wal*Mart, got an apartment on East Riverside Drive, and founded Council Oak Investors. We closed the fund in 42 days, and the apartment was condemned by the city the following week. Formaspace was the first acquisition in the fund.
What is your company’s Driving Critical Success Factor?
I’m not sure I understand the question. Unless you own something completely proprietary, don’t people always make the difference?
What do you love most about what you do?
I like solving problems creatively. I like working with people I like and respect. And I love being part of our client’s workspaces. We’re in all kinds of spaces, from national labs doing top-secret research, to robotics and aerospace projects, to the set of Gray’s Anatomy. How cool is that?
Elvis or Beatles?
Whoa – you might as well ask “Duke Ellington or King Oliver?” I’m a child of the 80’s. When Elvis broke out with ‘Love Me Tender’ my parents were tweens. The Beatles broke up before I was born. I prefer for the music to fit the context of the environment. If I’m down in South Texas I might tune in a little Tejano, if I’m in Chicago I might listen to my wife’s Southside music, if I’m clubbing in Austin it could be Bob Schneider, but right now I’m at our very loud, very amped-up factory and Nickelback is playing in my head.
What is your favorite business book and why?
I’m not sure if I can name just one, but if I did, it might be ‘Good to Great.’ Actually anything by Jim Collins. And Gladwell, and the ‘Topgrading Guys’, and Jack Welch, especially ‘Winning.’ Who doesn’t like to win? The best book I read in 2009 was ‘Who’ by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, which I think is actually better than Topgrading. I also like the concept of lifestyle design outlined in ‘The Four Hour Workweek.’ I recommend reading anything Warren Buffet has written as well as transcripts of everything he has said. I just recommend reading in general.
Do you consider yourself a good communicator?
No. I’m a terrible listener, and listening is the key to communication. I’m one of those ADHD kids, so when talking to me, it’s best to get to the message quickly. Also, I have an aversion to simplicity and repetition, so that’ something I’m working on.
One thing that has helped me recently is a Livescribe pen. It’s this pen that records conversations as you take notes. Then you can tap your notes, and the conversation that occurred as you took the note plays back to you. Very cool.
How do you define success?
I have a little piece of paper that I scribbled on years ago that says “Do good by doing well.” My goal is that everyone who touches us – coworkers, partners, vendors, and customers – is better off for the experience. If we can develop people in the direction they want to go in, improve people’s quality of life in the workspaces where they spend most of their working hours, and generate a profit that can be churned back into the community – that’s success.
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