Every Business is a People Business
David Binswanger, President and CEO, Binswanger
Binswanger is a third-generation family owned business, founded by David’s grandfather Frank G. Binswanger, Sr. during the height of the Depression in the early 1930s.
Family businesses that make it into the third generation are unusual, with the odds (and statistics) working against that happening. David pointed out that in any business there will be disagreements, but “if you put the family first, you’ll resolve your differences.”
“We can get in a room, fight about an issue for an hour, but then figure out what to do,” David told me. “That’s because we’re able to create a common vision together. When you understand that family is more important than the business, you figure out ways to make sure that you’re on the same page, even when your personalities are different or when you’re not necessarily agreeing at the end of the day.”
Headquartered in Philadelphia, Binswanger specializes in real estate services for mid to large sized companies around the world. Its clients include ExxonMobil, Comcast, General Motors, Wal-Mart, Intel, and many others. Binswanger helps them buy, sell, build, finance, and value real estate, everything from a small sales office to a large chip manufacturing plant in the middle of Costa Rica.
Binswanger has grown from a single Philadelphia office to an international real estate leader with offices on five continents. David’s father made that growth possible by anticipating trends and seizing opportunities, particularly in the Sunbelt.
“He was an entrepreneur who opened an office in 1956 in Charlotte, North Carolina,” David said, “which is the first time a real estate company ventured out of its local area. That got us to focus on major corporations and major institutional moves, which is how the company expanded nationally in the 60s and 70s, and the internationally in the 80s and 90s.”
David gave the Comcast Center in Philadelphia as an example of a recent successful project.
“We were not the developer, but we were involved in creating and negotiating the deal. The developer delivered the building as a shell, and we were responsible for the interior. The Comcast Center is now a landmark in Philadelphia.”
Although he grew up in a business family, David felt little pressure as a child to follow that career route.
“My father encouraged us to figure out what we wanted to do on our own,” he said. “When I graduated from college, I decided I didn’t want to be in the business.”
After attending Bowdoin College in Maine, David worked for IBM for a couple of years as a systems engineer, designing software packages for large insurance companies. He then earned an MBA at Harvard Business School and decided to join the family business.
“They started me literally on the street,” David said. “I had done a summer or two in the m