If business really is all about who you know, then the principal owners of Bloomfield Hills-based ROCO Real Estate didn't have to look very far to find each other and formulate a business plan.
"We grew up together going to Cranbrook Schools," said David Colman, who started the young and growing firm with his brother Michael Colman and friend Tyler Ross. "We have known Tyler throughout our own lives, and our families go way back. Our grandparents and parents were friends."
While the two families have been friendly for generations, their businesses – Acme Mills, an automotive textile supplier owned by the Colman family, and the real estate development company Edward Rose & Sons, owned by Ross' family – it wasn't until 2012 that the three men merged the two families in a joint venture.
At the time, Ross, who in 2011 earned his law degree from Fordham Law School in New York, had gone to work for his family's firm, where Michael Colman was already overseeing new acquisitions. Meanwhile David Colman was working as a product strategist for the investment firm BlackRock in New York. Then an intriguing offer came from home.
"I had an amazing experience there and learned a lot," David Colman said about his time at BlackRock. "It's an amazing firm with so many smart people, but (Michael and Tyler) decided at Ed Rose to start their own company, and they were putting a lot of pressure on me to come back and team up to do it together. After weighing the pros and cons, I moved back to where I grew up, and the three of us really started the company together."
Later, Tyler's brother, Evan, joined the firm as a silent partner. "He's actually an opera singer," Colman said.
Since forming the business in 2012, ROCO has grown its holdings to about 50 properties with a value of more than $425 million. Colman said the firm focuses on multi-family spaces, primarily apartment buildings, that don't require much rehabilitation in tertiary markets. However, the real strategy behind the firm's growth is the ability to find deals before they are heavily promoted in the marketplace. The results, he said, have been a bit of a shock in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by more established firms with older, more experienced executives.
"We are focused on being innovative and cutting edge, and doing things differently," he said of the staff, which consists of nine people, including the principals, who are all in their 20s. "Usually, it's older people that are focused on this industry. When we started, we said, 'let's do things differently.' We didn't want to build our company like those that have been doing it for 40 years and are stuck in their way. We wanted to do something differently. It feels more like a tech star-up, rather than a real estate firm."...continued on page 2