Hatfield Follows Chaotic Cycles to Build Company

Article excerpt

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. …