Bill Syrios became a real estate investor almost by accident. Upon graduating from college and getting married to Teresa in 1976, he went to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. In 1980 he became an ordained Presbyterian minister and moved to Portland to work as a campus pastor with an organization called InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Bill had never taken a business class in college and, admittedly, found math to be one of his most difficult subjects, but he found himself drawn to real estate. He just liked houses. While in Portland he bought four different houses to remodel, and then sought to be a landlord. It is a toss up as to which he did a worse job at—remodeling or being a landlord—but he was a veritable disaster at both. He considered writing a book entitled, How NOT to Invest in Real Estate.

Bill sold three of those four houses and he and Teresa moved to Eugene in 1986 to work with InterVarsity at the University of Oregon. He felt pretty burned out by his part-time real estate ventures up to this point and disciplined himself to stay out of the real estate classified section of the newspaper. That lasted, however, for only three years.

In 1989 Bill had a bout with Hepatitis B that kept him flat on his back for two weeks with nothing to do but think. During that time he evaluated what he wanted to do for the rest of his life—he was 35 years old and experiencing his first mid-life crisis! His interest in real estate had led him to read a helpful book. This book pointed out that you must treat rental properties not as a hobby—which characterized his very frustrating landlord experience in Portland, but as a business. Here was the paradigm shift he needed.

So in September of 1989 Bill put his foot back in the water. He borrowed some money from his dad, purchased a campus property and remodeled it to create more bedrooms. Instead of meeting tenants to sign rental agreements at his home he made Wendy’s his office, trying to erase past mistakes of relating to tenants informally instead of as a profession. On December 1, 1989 he formed Stewardship Properties. The word “stewardship” has biblical roots. The idea is that we are just “passing through” and during this life we are called to be good stewards of what God has given us to manage.

Only vaguely aware, Bill had stumbled onto a niche real estate market—campus properties—which brought together two of his passions—students and houses. Soon one house led to another that led to another that led to a small apartment building that led to another that led to… December of 2004 and Bill was having another mid-life crisis.  Stewardship Properties was now 15 years old, had a collection of some 300 plus houses and apartment units and its management, construction and maintenance teams were doing fine. But for Bill, there wasn’t much vision for anything beyond a modest real estate investment business.

During this new mid-life crisis, Bill was reading two
books by Jim Collins—Good To Great and Built To
. In Good To Great, Collins talks about Level 5

leadership, a kind of servant leader who is able to build a leadership team, which can carry on long after the primary leader is gone. Bill realized, that even though Stewardship Properties was a going concern, if he was removed, the company would flat line and merely survive at best. There was no one in the organization capable of doing what he had and was doing—being a real estate investor.

Added to this thinking came the book Built To Last, where Collins encourages his readers to consider building what he calls an “enduringly great company.” Along the way, a leader will need to make, what Collins refers to as, BHAG’s—Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (along the lines of Boeing betting the company on the 747 in the 1970’s).

These thoughts came together for Bill—being a leader who could multiply himself, enlarging his vision to building an “enduringly great company” and making a BHAG for Stewardship’s second 15 years. The way to multiply himself seemed clear—find young, energetic students who had the potential of becoming skilled real estate investors, train them and cut them in on a piece of the action over the long haul. This is the perspective that led to creating the first summer internship.

Given the potential of multiplying himself, Bill staked out a 15-Year BHAG for Stewardshipto grow ten times larger than its present size as of Jan. 1, 2005.

He realizes the company cannot sustain such grow by operating under the same paradigm he used for the first 15 years—with only himself looking for properties. Consequently, Bill has started a new division—Stewardship’s Investment Team. This division will focus on finding sellers—“We Buy Houses”—and help launch a diverse means of marketing.

What interns learn this summer will equip them to become real estate investors in their own right. Some will likely find themselves working with Stewardship in the future to meet their mutual goals. Bill looks forward to what that future holds and is excited about mentoring this second class of real estate interns.

It was not quite as clear back in 1989, but even when the business consisted of me and one house I wanted to see something larger happen than just myself making a lot of money and that’s why I chose the name Stewardship Properties. Being a steward reminds me that I’m “just passing through” this life and consequently I don’t really own anything—I just manage things. There is a passage in Scripture that says, “The Lord owns a thousand cattle on a thousand hills.” This also identifies who owns the real estate as well! Being a good steward is a high calling. I’m thankful to God for his grace in growing this company as well as for having such a quality group of fellow managers involved with me.     –Bill

For further information on the company see:

Stewardship Properties  •  1247 Villard St., Eugene, OR 97403  • 541-343-7070

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