For many business owners, AMJ, Inc., is a name synonymous with quality properties and personal customer service in the worlds of North Central Florida real estate, property management and general contracting. Since 1977, founder Mike Warren has steered the AMJ ship to its current size of 20 staff who manage high-end property around the region.
Warren is a Ph.D. graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who came to the University of Florida to teach electrical engineering in 1974.
He was married and had a family, and according to Warren, the realization that he had to provide for them, along with a feeling of disappoint in the way university teaching was headed, led him to leave teaching to form an engineering consulting company. He ran the company for almost four years before he sold it to his partner to devote his time to real estate.
Today, the majority of AMJ’s operations and holdings are based in Gainesville, Its operations are based on appreciation through long-term investment and ownership. AMJ’s goal is to strive to be the best in every area of service the company offers, Warren said. It offers higher quality sell sites, like the Commerce Building next to City Hall and apartments in Regents Park; six full-time customer service representatives on call at all hours; and financial stability.
Warren’s diverse background and forward thinking have helped the company thrive. One example, he noted was that AMJ weathered the recent economic downturn “in stride,” in part because he saw it coming. Warren had been the director of a bank in Gainesville, and that experience told him that real estate business was getting “too hot and completely unsustainable.”
But because the company is liquid financially, AMJ also had plenty of cash on hand, which Warren said allowed it to step up when the banks started calling in loans and froze borrowing. “Cash is king in real estate,” he said.
Warren has been key in making sure that AMJ gives back to the community. The company is a major contributor to WUFT, Gainesville Fisher House Foundation, Dance Alive National Ballet and The Phillips Center for Performing Arts, among others. It has also donated housing to artists performing at the Hippodrome Theatre.
“It’s nice to know we can help them and then they can do their part to make Gainesville a real cultural center,” Warren said. “Giving encourages others to give, so it has a multiplying effect.”
The next decade for AMJ, he said, will be a strategic build on past successes. The company will continue to carefully acquire property that can fit into its management scheme and not stray too far from the area so that it can continue to provide high-quality service.
What I’ve learned…
AMJ, Inc.’s Mike Warren has learned a lot about running a successful business during almost four decades in running his successful real estate company. His fundamental advice is to treat others the way you want to be treated. “This builds trust, and trust is the foundation of business,” he said.
He also has experienced the value in hiring educated, intelligent people with the ability to think critically, “because you can’t build a company without good people,” he said.
He regularly encourages staff to question decisions. “I don’t need people to tell me what I think,” he said. “I can do that with a $5 mirror.”
And finally, learn how to assess and understand risk. Don’t “tilt at windmills that may look good at a distance and create more problems than successes,” he said. The staff at AMJ find good deals all the time, he said, but it’s important to first ask if those deals are a good fit for its strategic business plan.