Westmont Magazine Doing Business on a Global Scale
For the first 15 years of his career, Tim Keith ’87 was younger than most of his business associates. “When I walked into the room, I surprised people with my age,” he says. “One of my bosses gave me a position that was years ahead of my experience.”
Tim proved he could handle the responsibility. After working for real estate companies in Phoenix for three years, he joined Arthur Anderson and spent five years as a real estate consultant in New York and Dallas. Hunt Realty hired him away to do second-stage venture capital investment in real estate operating companies. He helped take his first target company public as Meridian Industrial Trust and became regional vice president, doing development, acquisitions and asset management for the Southeast. In 2000, Tim went to RREEF in Chicago as vice president of acquisitions and development, again for the Southeast. After that he became co-head of the value-added and development business for the United States. In 2004 he was promoted to global chief investment officer for investments in Asia, Europe and the United States.
“I’ve gone from local to regional to national to global in the real estate business,” Tim says. “I have consistently broadened my perspective.”
Looking at the whole picture was something he learned in college. “Westmont taught me to think critically and introduced me to the concept of balance in life,” he says. “In my business, I become well informed about the markets I cover, including the politics, the demographics shaping the community and business trends. I want to look at the whole pie, not just a slice.”
Tim says real estate is a natural career for a liberal arts graduate. “We shape communities, negotiate transactions, get in tune with political issues and meet the financial challenge of providing returns for investors,” he explains. “It takes creative thinking and mental nimbleness to succeed.”
Tim, whose mother is alumna Mary Jo Morrison Keith ’61, came to Westmont thinking about an engineering degree. He soon found he liked business. “The concepts came to me intuitively,” he says. “I had no singular interest in accounting, marketing or finance, but I liked all of them. I got my calling at an InterVarsity Conference, Christians in the Marketplace. I saw what it meant to be a Christian in business, and decided that was a good place to be.
“I’m not shy about my faith, but I don’t wear it on my sleeve, either,” he says. “People see something different in me and often comment on it. They seek me out for serious conversations because they know I am thoughtful about the way I live. I feel the weight of responsibility for my business behavior in a way that non-Christians might not. In tense negotiations and discussions it’s easy to become a bad witness. I try to be a good example.”
Last year, Tim joined Westmont’s Board of Advisors, a group of business people who serve as consultants to the college. He has advice for students based on his experiences, such as learning a foreign language and making cold calls. “Make the phonathon mandatory,” he says. “It’s important to be able to talk to people persuasively.” He’s also learned to plant himself each time he moves. “Getting established with a church and friends is crucial,” he adds.