After 13 years of building a reputation for her ability to "organize chaos" for companies in Norman, Judy J. Hatfield found a ready-made market in 1984 as a certified public accountant.
Chaotic problems were spreading in the energy bust wake for small businesses, so she started J.J. Hatfield Inc. to help them reorganize. That led to her first big break, an opportunity to become a receiver in January 1986 for the Shawnee Colonial Inn.
"I can do that," she said to herself, and she did. She acquired 45 percent of Equity Realty Inc., then just a shell in Norman, to manage properties under her receivership. That led to other opportunities. As a woman-owned firm, Equity Realty was approved to handle properties for the Resolution Trust Corp. and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Now, after "turning" the chaos of the 1980s state real estate recession into an advantage, Hatfield is taking advantage of the new economic cycle in Oklahoma _ the growth of value and investment in commercial real estate.
Equity Realty of Norman has become a significant broker, handling property sales of more than $8 million in 1992. That puts Judy Hatfield, who acquired the remainder of the firm in January 1987, among the leaders of a growing number of women who have started and built successful companies in Oklahoma.
"We are projecting a 30 percent increase this year from brokering property sales," said Hatfield. "That's because Oklahoma's economy has improved so much. Investors are buying properties and taking them out of foreclosure, because the price is right and values are growing.
"Bank loans were almost impossible to get in Oklahoma five years ago, but banks are healthier and loaning money now, and some are investing in their own commercial properties. We are in a strong position to take advantage of the growth. We now list more than 60 properties for a total of about $15 million."
These include apartment complexes, shopping centers, office buildings, industrial parks and buildings, undeveloped land and businesses. With offices in Woodward and Oklahoma City as well as Norman, Equity Realty manages and lists properties as far away as Liberal, Kan., Guymon, Elk City, Lawton and Sapulpa.
Obviously, this didn't just happen. It was developed with Hatfield's integral ability to plan, organize and seize opportunities as well as her education in finance and as a CPA.
"While we were building the company through managing properties in the 1980s," Hatfield said, "we knew the cycle would turn. We wanted to be in position to sell properties.
"Now, when the management business is going down as properties are sold, our sales are growing as property values and rental rates are going up. Top rental rates in Norman have grown from $6.50 to $7 per square foot in the late 1980s to $10.50.
"Occupancy rates are up to about 78 percent, the highest since 1985."
Equity brokered the sale of two properties for $435,750 in 1987, and the number of sales has grown every year since then, reflecting the growing economy. The firm handled five sales for $2.5 million in 1988, then 12 for $2.3 million in 1989.
Sales reached 23 for $2.6 million in 1990. In 1991, with property values beginning to grow, Equity Realty brokered 37 sales for $6.7 million before exceeding $8 million last year.
Meanwhile, Hatfield's firm has about 100 employees, down from 150 a year ago. That reflects the sale of properties once managed by Equity Reality, including labor-intensive properties such as motels and apartment complexes.
She has built a staff that includes Vice Presidents Steve Kreidler in commercial sales, Karla Griffin in commercial property management and Vivian Smith as office manager. Other key members are Angela Creed, Gary Gregory, Jo Ogden, Twana Parker, Jeannine Rainwater and J.L. Tramel.
Hatfield, however, is not stopping with Equity Realty. She also has joined Rosalind Bell in developing Hatfield and Bell, a Norman marketing, communications and public relations firm with a staff of seven.
"I love marketing," Hatfield said, "and we have developed some of the public relations skills in Equity Realty, so we have them in both places. That gives us greater flexibility to meet new situations as they arise."
Meeting "new situations" has been the underlying strength of Hatfield since she graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1971. She earned a degree in finance with a minor in economics at a time "when women were still required to wear dresses," but she was uncertain how to begin her career.
"When I first started at OU," she said, "I thought as a girl I should consider becoming a nurse, a teacher or a secretary. So I didn't know how to dream about a business career. Women still wore dresses in the business school."
She started in the office of the Westinghouse plant in Norman and stayed nine years. When the plant was ticketed for closing, she was considered for a plant manager job in Boston. She and her husband Troy, however, decided they wanted to raise their family in Oklahoma. Troy has continued with the Oklahoma Wildlife Department.
Judy found a job with Totco, a technical tool company, in 1980, and she began to think about becoming a certified public accountant. Two years later, she became the first woman lending officer at the First National Bank of Norman and started working on the side toward becoming a CPA.
"I applied for the CPA examination on the basis of my experience, rather than on education," she said. "That was unusual, but they let me enter. Instead of taking classes, I studied on my own and passed the examination."
About the same time, Hatfield also began to dream about going into business for herself. It was a natural progression from her success, since she had grown up in a family-owned business.
Her father, Bob Yeats, operated Yeats Furniture in Pauls Valley and Wynnewood, and her grandfather, J.C. Yeats, operated Yeats Furniture in Ardmore. Both are still in business.
"Being a CPA opened the door for me to go into business for myself," she said. "It gave me credibility. Meeting people was no problem. I liked to meet people, and I made a list of people I wanted to meet in business. I just called them and said: " `I want to meet you,' and I still do that.' "
With J.J. Hatfield Inc., she developed enough clients to work with her husband in making a living. When she was appointed receiver of the Colonial Inn (still managed by Equity Realty), she quickly realized the potential. She acquired eight or 10 receiverships that first year.
"One of my advantages was that I didn't charge a double fee," she said. "Some receivers charge a fee as a receiver and another to manage a property, but I charged one fee and hired Equity Realty to do the managing without an added fee."
Hatfield seized another opportunity when she went to Woodward to look at some foreclosed properties. She happened to be in Woodward when Homestead Savings and Loan became the first S L in Oklahoma to be closed by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. The FSLIC needed a property manager.
Typically, Hatfield said she could do that.
When the Resolution Trust Corp. was formed to manage and dispose of properties acquired through failed banks and S Ls, there were provisions for firms owned by minorities and women. Hatfield acquired approval for Equity to became a contractor.
As a result, Equity clients have included Boatmen's Bank of Kansas City, North Carolina National Bank of Dallas, Equity Bank for Savings FA and BancFirst of Oklahoma City, City National Bank
Trust Co. of Norman, McClain County National Bank of Purcell, American Charter of Lincoln, Neb., and Federal Bank for Savings.
Equity Realty has served as real estate agent for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) in selection of a Norman site and helped the Earth Observation Satellite Co. select a site. It also has brokered the sale of Cape Cod Condominiums in Oklahoma City for more than $1 million and the 22,000-square-foot Westwood Center for the FDIC for more than $500,000.
Meanwhile, the Equity office at the MacArthur Executive Center, 5909 Northwest Expressway, manages that 105,000-square-foot building, office condominiums and a condominium association.
Hatfield's favorite project, however, has been the Republic Building in downtown Norman. It had three tenants and was deteriorating in 1987 when Hatfield became the receiver. Now, it has been renovated and is 100 percent leased, with the top rates at $10.50 per square foot.
"That," said Hatfield, "shows how far we have all come since 1987 in Oklahoma."…