Power Couples: Jacob and Arleen Garza find balance in two different business backgrounds
By James McCandless Reporter, San Antonio Business Journal
In 1988 Jacob Garza walked into a Super Bowl party in Dallas. It was a big party with some people he knew and others he didn’t. He saw a woman sitting on the couch with two men on either side. He didn’t know who she was, but he was taken aback. All he knew was that he had to find a way to sit next to her. One of the men got up and Jacob swooped in. They spoke, danced and she gave him her office number.
A day or two later, he called. Dallas is a big city, but he turned out to be just a stone’s throw away.
“It turned out that he worked in downtown Dallas, literally in the building next to mine,” Arleen Garza said.
The rest is history.
The Garzas got married in 1991 and moved to San Antonio in 2008. Jacob continued to work in software and Arleen remained in finance. They didn’t decide to work together until 2012, when Jacob wanted to buy a 24-unit apartment complex. Neither of them really knew the market, but Jacob’s company was in property management software.
Arleen, the self-styled “conservative banker,” dug deeper to understand the numbers. For Jacob, it was more of a gut feeling. Navigating that push and pull has defined their business relationship ever since.
“In any business that I’ve ever started, I’ve really wanted to understand the ultimate end-user, because I’ve always believed that if you take care of the people who write your checks, they’re going to take care of you,” he said. “So what better way to do this than say ‘let’s buy an apartment complex — a small one — and see if we can run it?'”
Over the years, they’ve learned how to divide and conquer while still maintaining open communications about what each of them is doing. Jacob oversees REEP’s growth strategy while Arleen manages acquisitions. His entrepreneurial spirit and her analytical process have paid off so far. They currently hold nine multifamily properties in San Antonio and 10 in Houston, with an eye on further expansion.
Not letting their business affect their personal relationship and vice versa has been a learning process. Arleen said that in the beginning, it was impossible to separate the two because of the way starting a business from scratch takes every hour out of your day. But as they started to grow, they made an effort to put walls between going into the office and going home.
“Because otherwise, work and family just becomes work,” she said. “So it’s a concerted effort to say ‘it stops when it gets home and it picks up the next morning.'”
Jacob pointed out that as the company grew and more employees came on, there was less of a need to insert themselves in every detail. He credits the quality of their employees for their setup, including their kids, Jack Garza and Victoria Garza-Fraser.
“We built a company where we don’t have to come in,” he said. “We can take until noon, leave at noon or we can take the day off. Nothing in this business is tied to us.”
Adding those layers of management, Arleen said, helps them take a longer-term view of their business and focus on more strategic initiatives, like evaluating different asset classes.
“Those are the things that should occupy my time versus very tactical things,” she said.
But most importantly, they both stressed that if any couple is considering going into business together, it’s essential that they hold their personal partnership above their business partnership.
“Put your partner first above the business and it will last,” she said. “If you don’t, there will be conflicts.”
Article reposted with permission from San Antonio Business Journal