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Konar passes torch of leadership, values to successor

Konar passes torch of leadership, values to successor

Howard Konar
Howard Konar

When Howard Konar began to formulate a succession plan for the family business, he wanted to be sure he did all the necessary due diligence to find the firm’s next president.

He brought in a consultant to determine what Konar Properties did well and what processes, if any, needed improvement. He asked his trusted friends in the property development and management sector for advice and guidance.

Konar needed to know if his successor was already working at company, or if it made more sense to bring in someone from the outside.

It turns out that the right person had been already working side-by-side with Konar and the management team for 16 years.

Tim Schmid
Tim Schmid

Tim Schmid, who joined the company in 2007 as director of residential properties and later became director of operations, took over as president on Dec. 1.

“I’m honored by the selection and excited to meet the challenge,” Schmid said.

Konar had put together a list of criteria, and Schmid checked off all the boxes, the most important being company values.

“We do work that is rewarding, in an environment where people feel supported, in place where there’s room to grow, and Tim has been a part of that,” Konar said.

Now 66, Konar began looking ahead to retirement in 2019 and last year decided the time was right. He wants to spend time with his grandchildren. He likes the idea of bolting to the lake to do some fishing if the inspiration strikes.

But he’s not giving up work entirely. In fact, he’s not even leaving the company headquarters off West Henrietta Road. Oh, he will move out of his second-floor office, but only to a first-floor office where he operates Civic Genius, his nonprofit that is devoted to increasing civil engagement and improving the quality of political discourse.

“I’m going to continue to work on community projects, Konar family projects and Civic Genius projects,” he said.

He believed it was important to separate himself physically from the development firm, however.

“If I stay, then people would come to me for answers or think Tim isn’t the final authority,” Konar said. “I’ll get my information from Tim and provide input if he asks.”

Schmid, 55, will oversee day-to-day operations for Konar Properties, which has around 40 yearly employees and then adds a few seasonal employees in the spring and summer.

The company has developed — and continues to manage — 1,100 residential units across seven properties as well as over 1.2 million square feet of commercial property. The most recent project was VIDA, a mixed-use creation within The Strong’s Neighborhood of Play in downtown Rochester. There are 238 apartments, all leased, hitting every price range, from affordable to market rate to luxury, as well as six retail spaces.

“I’ve been here so long so I know what I’m stepping into,” Schmid said.

Thus, it’s more about maintaining and expanding upon the excellence that already exists.

“I want to protect, maintain and gradually improve upon the legacy the family built,” Schmid said.

The legacy includes long-term stable employment for employees, long-term partnerships with commercial clients and high-quality residential properties that entice tenants to renew.

“We view our employees as partners,” Schmid said. “We’re very cognizant of life happenings and believe in the importance of a work/life balance. We’re a company that’s focused on the long-term. We develop, build and manage to own for the long-term.”

William Konar founded the company in 1973 and a quarter century later convinced Howard to give up his law career to join him in real estate development. So in 1999 Howard resigned as a partner at Boylan, Brown, Code, Vigdor and Wilson (now Boylan Code) to join the family business.

“My dad wouldn’t have considered having anyone outside the family take over,” Konar said.

Howard didn’t have a choice, however. His three children weren’t interested in running the business. But he also didn’t want to sell, so passing the torch of leadership to someone from outside of the family was necessary.

It was imperative to find someone that would maintain the values the company prided itself upon: treating employees well, treating clients well and building properties to the highest standards.

When Konar hired an independent firm to analyze the company top to bottom, he was told they maybe did things too well when it came to property development.

“We were told we over-built,” Konar said. “That’s a polite way of saying we spent too much money.”

But quality is job one. Konar Properties isn’t about short-term windfalls. The firm has always been about long-term investments, about developing properties that will remain a company asset far into the future, not just when they can get out and turn a profit.

Schmid doesn’t see any reason that would change. There will be room for new types of growth, though.

While Konar Properties may not have an official ESG score (based on environmental, social and governance criteria), Schmid places significant value on those principles.

He believes they can develop more sustainable properties. They can be more selective in materials and with architectural designs.

“I would like to see it (those objectives) become more deliberate,” he said.

Konar’s portfolio includes properties only in the Rochester metro area. That doesn’t mean the firm won’t evaluate options elsewhere in the future.

“We’ve always been an agile company and you don’t want to be complacent or stagnant,” Schmid said. “You want to continue to grow and meet new challenges.”

One area the company may consider is sustainable development. They have done some exploratory work on solar farms.

“It’s something we’re looking into, recognizing that’s necessary and that is the future,” Schmid said.

But one thing that won’t change: the principles through which Konar Properties was built, and how the firm conducts business.

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