We recently sat down with Mike Raskin, Partner and Founder of MJR Development, to learn more about the business and how he got started as an entrepreneur. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation below!
Thurston EDC: How long have you been in business?
Mike: We have been in business for just over 30 years. I started the business the day before my 30th birthday and turned 60 last summer. I had always wanted to start a company before I turned 30. My business partner Mike and I sat on a deck the night before and thought about business names on a bar napkin over a beer.
Thurston EDC: What inspired you to start your business?
Mike: I have always loved buildings and real estate, and my earliest memories as a kid are of playing blocks with my dad. I was constantly looking at architecture books and checking out new buildings from an early age, and dreaming of what I might build someday. I guess I was lucky in my early years to dream about what I could be when I grew up. I have always loved the design, and creative process and nothing is more fun than creating projects with great teams. After college at UW, I worked in construction and real estate brokerage and got an MBA from Columbia in finance. In my mid-twenties, I remember finding a way to get 15 min meetings with the leaders of big Seattle development companies and asking them the same question. “How do I sit in your chair in 10 years”. They were surprised, and I got some great advice. It’s been an excellent road and a lot of fun.
Thurston EDC: What inspires your work and sets you apart from the competition?
Mike: I am not sure about setting us apart from the competition, but I can say that great real estate projects are the kinds of buildings that people like being in. A good space is a people’s space, and we love creating these spaces. Our environment shapes us. We love creating projects that have great people spaces.
Thurston EDC: What has been your most significant success to date?
Mike: Most people think that successes are the great projects you can point to or the buildings you have created. It is undoubtedly great to point to a project with pride, but the most significant success and the real reward is the journey. The most notable success is putting together great teams of designers, engineers, contractors, brokers, planners and tenants to create amazing projects. There is just nothing more fun and rewarding.
Thurston EDC: What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Mike: Well, the 2008 recession was certainly not a lot of fun, to say the least. We talk about and focus on playing offense, but the best sports teams play great defense. We played great defense for a few years and came out of it better than before.
Thurston EDC: Will you describe your typical workday?
Mike: I make my two boys breakfast every morning and drop them off at school. On the way there, we all answer the same question. “What are you grateful for?” I ask them. “Hit me with your gratitude,” I tell them. There is no better way to start a day than by being grateful for what you have. I hate early morning meetings and try to avoid them like the plague. Before any meetings, I try to spend time to “touch my teams” and “touch my trains”. My teams are the great team members we have, and the trains are the consultants, brokers and vendors that work for us on our projects.
A touch is a quick focus on what is critical instead of getting into the details. I have found that a quick positive connection is the best thing you can do, and the best way to do that is to say Thank You. The two most powerful words in the English language are Thank You. We have some outstanding team members doing fantastic work, so it is pretty easy to say thank you and talk about the fun things we are doing. On a typical day, I have my share of meetings with our designers, brokers, and lenders. When I am in the office, our whole gang generally will have lunch together, and one of us will run out to get food for us all. I love getting out to our projects, and I try to get out as much as possible. There is nothing like touching the real estate and looking for new sites and buildings. No day is ever the same, and we are lucky to work with some great people. However, one thing is the same almost every day, and one of my boys summed it up when asked about what he thought of Covid. He said, “The best thing about Covid is having family dinner every night.”
Thurston EDC: What is your best advice for an aspiring entrepreneur?
Mike: Entrepreneurship is about Persistence and Belief. It is rarely about making a pretty plan and executing the plan. That is what they tell you in textbooks. Entrepreneurship is more like running as fast as you can until you run into a wall and get knocked down and then getting up, brushing yourself off and running as fast as you can until you hit another wall. You keep doing this repeatedly, never giving up, and you finally find a way to make it happen. It’s about persistence. Entrepreneurship is also about belief. You have to believe. If you don’t believe it can happen, it never will. If you don’t believe, then no one else will believe either. It is like an upside-down house of cards resting on one card—your own belief and desire. A word of warning —entrepreneurship is a drug — you’ll want more once you’ve tried it.
Thurston EDC: Do you have a business or personal mantra or inspirational quote you’d like to share?
Mike: I am not sure if I have a mantra or quote, but I tell my kids the same two things every night and maybe that sort of fits. I tell them to dream Big, Big, Big, Have Fun, Fun, Fun and Never Give Up, and they will reach their dreams; I also tell them to remember, “Good things happen to good guys. Be a good person, and things work out.” Maybe it is Karma, but the world has a way of rewarding you.
Thurston EDC: Is there a common misconception about your business within Thurston County that you’d like to address here?
Mike: I honestly can’t think of any misconception about our business in Thurston County. We love working in Thursday County. The people are great!