We’re thrilled to officially announce that Don Smith has joined the TwentyTwo tribe as a Director and Principal.
Don has a rich story to tell and an impressive track record, having most recently grown the portfolio management/corporate services businesses for both Colliers and previously DTZ over the last 20+ years.
Don’s appointment directly supports our plans to scale the business and we’re excited to appoint someone with the skills and experience Don brings. And yes – the three D’s (Dean, Duncan & David) become the four D’s – and the dumber and dumber joke just got longer!
Emma sat down with Don to chat about what drew him to the TwentyTwo tribe….
Let’s start with your career history – where did it all begin?
"My property career started at the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the ’80’s, a team called Facilities Management. Back then no one really knew what FM was, and for MoH it was an all encompassing property group. That's where I met Dean for the first time in the early '90's as a consultant, when Dow Group (now TwentyTwo) wasworking for the Ministry.
My time at MoH was during the health reforms of the 1990’s and we had lots of dynamic things happening in the property space. It was a really interesting time and I’m proud of what we achieved then.
I moved to AMP in the late ’90’s were I managed a commercial property portfolio. Back then there were only two main property players and AMP was one. It was really insightful to work as a landlord – I learnt heaps. I got involved with lots of really awesome work while at AMP – including launching the AMP Office Trust, which is now what Precinct has evolved into.
Fast forward a few years and it’s now the early 2000’s. I'd done some awesome stuff, but I suppose I'd gotten to the point where I'd probably managed the biggest and brightest buildings and I felt like one building was very much the same as the next. I needed a new challenge.
Luckily, around this time I was approached by DTZ to head up their Property Management Team. I saw a lot of cultural alignment between DTZ and myself and it offered me the opportunity and variety that I think I was craving at the time. Over the 10 years I was there, we massively grew the team and the contract base. I had a great time, worked for a lot of really, really interesting clients. The team had a riot, it was great.
Then along came the GFC. DTZ decided that they were going to rationalise their global footprint and sell their NZ business to QV. This didn’t really feel like the right move for me, so that’s when I joined Colliers to establish their Corporate Solutions/Portfolio space.
I started on day one with zero clients, zero revenue and lots of costs. It was like a complete reset from where I had come from, which was an established business with a solid client base, but the challenge and opportunity to create something was very exciting for me. We went through a really aggressive growth period, which was fantastic and we grew fast to be the biggest player in the industry with some big clients including Bank of New Zealand, Vodafone, Plumbing World, Land Information New Zealand, Waka Kotahi, Ministry of Education, ACC, NZ Post, NZ Police, Ministry of Defence and Z Energy, for example
We were a support asset for an organisation. Organisations see propertyin some way as a “necessary evil”. It wasn’t their core business, but they need it to enable their business. What they cared about was what property could deliver to the wider business. I really enjoyed the journey, it really was fantastic and a lot of fun. I got to work with some great people and I like to think that we empowered some great organisations.
And now, here I am at TwentyTwo."
"I suppose for me, what I learned in my previous years, was that culture was the most important thing in any job environment. For me, culture is the key to work/life happiness and when you’re aligned to a culture, you produce your best work.
So, initially I spent quite a long time talking to Dean about the culture and what it was they wanted to do and where they wanted to go. And I got quite excited about it. I felt real cultural alignment between myself and the other TwentyTwo directors. And I could also see that they've got a fantastic business that could grow into something even better and even bigger. I could see an exciting journey in TwentyTwo for myself.
I was also really attracted to the fact TwentyTwo are NZ owned and the directors are involved in all day-to-day business. I'm a big believer in Kiwis for Kiwis. We need Kiwi decisions for Kiwi businesses. What we’ve got in New Zealand is a unique environment and culture. I believe it’s important that we embrace that and our property decisions support and enhance rather than just follow some global doctrine that has been developed for a different environment and culture.
I’m just thrilled to be here! The quality of the current TwentyTwo client list and the calibre of the team has blown me away. Let the fun begin!"
About the author
Loves anything blue. Avoids routine and making plans. Dreams of playing golf on the senior tour. Should have been a chef or writer. Fond of chardonnay and food (any kind).
Dean is one of NZ's leading property advisers with 30 years of consulting experience acting for major tenants and owner-occupiers. He specialises in property strategy, tenant representation, project leadership and major transactions. He also continues to provide peer review advice across all major projects.
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