Terry Ward: A Life in Business
“Terry is a connector. He’s genuine. He wears his heart on his sleeve a good deal of the time, because he very much cares about people. And all of his businesses have centered around providing for people.” —John Gaughan, co-owner of NSIGHT.
Terry Ward started in real estate because—as he tends to do—he was determined to solve a problem. His Houston restaurant needed more parking, so he bought a corner lot across the street.
Within just a couple of years he built a multi-million dollar real estate business that developed seven well-known communities, a large portion of Copperfield northwest of Houston, and numerous commercial sites in Houston. He grew the business by focusing on connections, details and meeting more needs than other developers.
“Terry’s passion is off the charts. When he believes in something, he doesn’t let go of it. He doesn’t do anything part way.” —Keith Grothaus, Senior Vice President, Brokerage Services, for Caldwell Companies, who acted as Ward’s broker for more than 10 years.
In Sports and Restaurants
Ward attended The Ohio State University while working at a local radio station and was profiled in Billboard Magazine as the youngest disc jockey in a major U.S. market. After leaving Columbus, Ohio, Ward went to work with the Houston Astros as assistant marketing director. There he conceived and led marketing efforts to increase ticket sales and attendance.
He stayed in that job for two years, then bought a 15 percent stake in the Texas Tumbleweed Restaurants, and a few years later, he opened his own restaurant, Dirty’s, between downtown Houston and Memorial Park. In 1983, Ward opened another Dirty’s in the Galleria area. For the next eight years, he focused on running the establishments, which grew into a multi-million dollar venture.
Working as a DJ and assistant marketing manager is where Ward developed his marketing persona and flair. It was while running restaurants that he developed his attention for detail and meeting customer expectations before those expectations even arose.
“There were 16,500 restaurants in Houston, from fast-food to full-service,” he says. “That means everybody who was in our restaurant chose us over 16,499 other restaurants, and we never took that for granted.”
Dirty’s was so popular that finding parking became an issue for customers and a threat to Dirty’s continued success. So Ward bought a six-acre tract of foreclosed land across the street.
Within 18 months, he sold four of the acres, doubled his money and owned the parking lot outright.
His new career in real estate was about to take off.
Developing Copperfield and Houston
Ward bought several more tracts and resold them for profit, including land near downtown Houston and the Heights State Bank building, which he sold to Houston Community College.
In 1991, he sold Dirty’s to focus full-time on real estate development.
“Terry was just fearless. He’s a smart guy and has great instincts, so he took chances that maybe others wouldn’t take. But they paid off because they weren’t reckless chances.”
—Jim Maddox, an established developer who became Ward’s exclusive broker for years.
Ward bought the remaining undeveloped commercial tracts in the Copperfield area along Highway 6 from FM 529 to U.S. Highway 290 — which amounted to about 70 percent of the land. Rather than just flipping the land, he began installing infrastructure and landscaping.
“My philosophy was: Get the land ready. Have all of the utilities there. Create something special with landscaping that has a different feel.
“The most important thing was to have it ready so when major retailers came to buy my property, all they had to do was get a permit. Then they would buy ours over somebody else’s because they could open six months faster.”
Over the next several years, Ward developed and/or built for Walgreens, The Woodlands Corporation, Hollywood Video, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, St. Luke’s Hospital and more.
“Terry applied his vision of community, and instead of just looking at it as selling land for the highest profit, he looked at what was needed in the community, what was missing, what services—what food, retail, car washes—were missing for the residents who lived there. And he went about trying to find those parties that could provide those services.” —Keith Grothaus, Copperfield community leader and Senior Vice President, Brokerage Services, for Caldwell Companies.
That vision convinced companies to buy into commercial ventures in the area, and that commercial growth fueled residential growth. Ward’s efforts are directly attributable to the continued growth of the Copperfield area on Highway 6 between FM 529 and Huffmeister Road, Grothaus said.
The Healthcare Village
Next, Ward turned his attention to the “Healthcare Village,” a community of world-class healthcare providers led by physicians, with hospitals and systems as partners. The facilities would feature state-of-the-art technology, communications systems and innovative construction techniques.
In meetings with healthcare system leaders, Ward emphasized the idea of doctor-owned groups, where the physician and patients were the main deciders in the care.
Ten Centers of Excellence signed letters of intent, including Methodist, St. Luke’s, Texas Children’s, Texas Heart Institute, Texas Orthopedic and TIRR Systems. Whole Foods, Hobby Lobby and other vendors were onboard with building facilities within the community.
After five years, though, Ward was unable to get the doctors, healthcare systems and insurance companies to work together. Despite all the time and energy Ward had put into the project, it never reached completion.
So Ward began working on Country Communities. The Country Communities concept was about connecting with nature and neighbors. Ward bought tracts of acreage in the country near big cities and installed the infrastructure and landscaping for a residential community. Residents would be surrounded by rolling terrain, running creeks, majestic oaks, bluebonnets and wildflowers, a unique landscape and a county lifestyle.
Like most successful innovators, Ward has an eye and talent for getting the details just right. Country Communities properties included treehouses and little flourishes that bring back memories of childhood.
Indigo Fields Remembrance Park
Recently, Ward has been focusing on his next Big Thing: Indigo Fields Remembrance Park, a serene memorial park in a natural setting where people could scatter the ashes of their loved one and celebrate their life.
The landscaping will be designed to help people through the five stages of grief, and the meandering wall around the property will shift through themes that evoke a different emotion. The Fields will include interactive panels where visitors can be told about the lives of those whose ashes reside there.
Indigo Fields is intended as a place of celebration of life. Ward and his wife will offer “Celebration of Life” services. They’re now trained “celebrants,” people who share the life stories of those who have passed at their service or memorial.
His business plan has that venture opening by the end of 2017.
But that’s not all he’s working on. His current projects include:
- Indigo Fields Remembrance Park
- Mission Park at Hearthstone — a unique business community located on a golf course
- Student housing and retail at Blinn College
- A 1,000-acres Country Community
The keys to his success
Over the past four decades, the key to Ward’s success has been his passion for whatever he’s doing, those who know him say. That’s why he throws himself into his projects, why he’s always looking to improve details, why he’s always looking for more connections.
“People are naturally attracted to Terry because of his authenticness. He is very open and trustworthy. And he’s very insightful. That’s a great combination.”—John Gaughan, a long-successful businessman and co-owner, with his wife, of NSIGHT, which teaches corporations better methods of communications, leadership development tools, future strategy and a succession management concept.