Life Lessons: Robert Tham

Principal, Corbel Commercial . Over-thinking business decisions can slow progress

Early in Robert Tham’s career, optimism and instinct drove his success as a commercial real-estate dealmaker.

“I used to just get it done,” he said. “I used to just swing and if I hit the ball, I hit it, and if I didn’t, that was OK.”

But about a decade into Tham’s career, that attitude left him.

Some time after launching Corbel Commercial Inc. in 2006, his deal-making experience, coupled with the stress of running his own business and supporting a family, was shifting his focus to obstacles rather than opportunities.

“I’d started picking at all the details [in real-estate deals] and super micro-tasking and over-thinking everything.”

Tham said that while the problem developed over time, with rising stress hurting his health, he recognized the problem suddenly during a conversation with a client.

“I was working on this one very complicated deal, and I admitted to my client that I didn’t know how to do this deal,” he said. “And I thought he was going to go, ‘What the hell?’ but he didn’t – he just started helping me with it.”

Tham said it was a humbling moment, but it showed him that he didn’t always have to have all the answers. “It made me realize that I over-think every deal. I think everybody knew I did this for years; I just don’t think anybody told me.”

Tham said the realization has helped him get back to trusting his instincts and looking for positive outcomes rather than envisioning ways that deals can go sideways.

“You can’t let your experience jade you. Just try. If it works out, it works out; if you make a mistake, you made a mistake.”

Tham said that attitude shift has given him new joy in his work. “I’m happy. A couple of years ago, if you’d talked to me, I would have been banging my head against the wall.”

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