To one industry colleague, Ed Walsh's golf game has much in common with the way he's built his eight-year-old project management firm.
"Ed is a very driven guy, and he's an excellent golfer," said Eric Witmondt, CEO of Woodmont Properties. "And a great golfer doesn't compete against his opponents. He competes against himself, and the reason that Ed has been so successful in building this business is that he doesn't look at what his competitors are doing."
Walsh's ambition and his ability to offer a unique set of services — project management and tenant and owner representation — have allowed him to build The Walsh Co. into a firm that's now guiding some of New Jersey's most high-profile real estate projects. Since founding the business, Walsh, its president, has built a client list that includes industry giants like Panasonic, BASF, Wyndham Worldwide and PSE&G.
The Morristown-based firm of more than 50 employees offers a one-stop shop of experts in fields from construction and site planning, to furniture and interior design. The company, which works on nearly 400 projects a year, offers services for "literally everything to move a company," Walsh said. And while some brokerage firms offer project management and representation services in-house, those companies "don't have the 40 people with the diverse backgrounds that we have here."
The firm's clients range from small companies making interior renovations to German chemical giant BASF, which last year broke ground on its 325,000-square-foot North American headquarters building in Florham Park. As the project manager and tenant representative for BASF, the firm's involvement stretches as far back as site and building analysis.
Walsh's earlier career included more than 10 years as a senior vice president at Gale & Wentworth, the Florham Park-based development firm now known as Gale Co. In his final days with the firm, he laid the groundwork for what he said was his first big client — Bollinger Insurance, which in 2003 was preparing to move to a 70,000-square-foot office building in the Short Hills section of Millburn.
Bollinger had outgrown its existing office, said Alex Crispo, the insurance firm's senior vice president and general counsel. When the company connected with Walsh, "he came with great recommendations — but more importantly, it was very obvious that he really knew his stuff."
"We wanted to upgrade, so we wanted a sophisticated space that was user-friendly and adaptable, because we were in a growth mode," Crispo said. "And he really put it together from A to Z, and did it relatively painlessly."
Within six months of launching his company, Walsh said, it became evident the project management and client representative role did not exist in New Jersey, giving him an in with many of the contacts he had developed at Gale & Wentworth. For development firms like Normandy Real Estate Partners and Hampshire Real Estate Cos., that meant helping them complete due diligence for new building acquisitions, he said. Brokers, meanwhile, hired Walsh to help their clients move into new spaces.
"He had a track record from having come out of Gale & Wentworth, so that helped him," said Jon F. Hanson, founder and chairman of Hampshire, which has worked with Walsh on several office and health care projects.
The work allowed Walsh to quickly build a practice of project management and representation of both owners and tenants, while landing early clients such as Quest Diagnostics, Sun Chemical and the Medicines Co. Walsh's staff now includes a diverse panel of experts and professionals, which insiders and clients say have been key to his success.
"The best leaders in business are able to surround themselves with people who make them smarter and better, because they hire up instead of hire down," said Witmondt, who has worked with Walsh for 10 years as both a developer and a broker. "And Ed has always hired up and surrounded himself with very qualified people."
By 2008, the firm had begun to take on large clients such as Wyndham, which built a new world headquarters at the Mack-Cali Business Campus, in Parsippany. Those larger contracts, along with steady work from firms like Hampshire, allowed Walsh to maintain the size of his company during the recession. The work also opened the door for other large clients looking to build despite the downturn.
Walsh's client list grew in 2010 with names like Panasonic, which is building a new North American headquarters along Newark's Passaic River, and PSEG, which is deciding whether it will move its headquarters site elsewhere in Newark.
"With major corporations like that, they are looking at his performance from others," Hanson said, which distinguished Walsh during the downturn. "He has the track record that's going to complete the projects … on time, on budget. (That's) very important to major corporations."
That's helping fuel the company's growth, too. Beginning in 2005, Walsh's firm opened offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., and White Plains, N.Y., while earlier this year, he was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to chair the board of New Jersey's Schools Development Authority. He also served on a Christie transition subcommittee on the Department of Environmental Protection.
The venture into public service stems from his longstanding relationship with Hanson.
"I look at him as more of a friend and mentor. That's the type of guy that you go and get advice (from) when you need it," Walsh said. "And the way he talked to me about it was that you need to do your civic duty, along with actually doing your business."
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