Millionaire’s Corner: Quintin Primo Talks Surviving A Failed Business To Building A $4 Billion Asset Firm

Lesson from the top 100 black businesses on why owners should never give up

(Image: File)

Quintin E. Primo III knows all too well the life lesson of his favorite quote from the late British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

As the chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Capri Investment Group, Primo, 61, is the quintessential success story. His passion for innovation, taste for competition, and ‘never quit’ mindset gave rise to one of the nation’s most successful global real estate investment management firms. Capri (formerly Capri Capital Partners L.L.C.), holds the No. 7 spot on the BE Asset Managers list, with $3.7 billion in assets under management for 2014.

Not resting on his laurels, “Having $4.5 billion in assets under management (at the end of 2015) pales in comparison to [multinational investment firm] Blackstone’s $100 billion,” says Primo. Don’t limit yourself to being the largest black-owned entity; limit yourself to being the largest entity in your line of business.”

This is his third go-round at the helm of a company. Primo left his vice president position at the Citibank affiliate Citicorp Real Estate. The Harvard M.B.A. struck out on his own in 1988, starting a boutique investment brokerage firm focused on international investors and their investment in the U.S. That business failed miserably. In 1990, he was bailing water out of a sinking ship.

[Related: Meet Nzinga Shaw: The NBA’s First Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer]

But like a phoenix, Primo rose from the ashes in the form of a real estate investment management firm that he founded with high school friend Daryl J. Carter in 1992. The duo’s real estate portfolio grew to reach $7 billion before selling the firm in 2004.

Primo re-invested and created the investment advisory firm Capri Capital Partners, which was named the 2012 Financial Services Company of the Year by Black Enterprise. At the time, Capri had just completed one of its largest property acquisitions—the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in South Central Los Angeles. Capri acquired the 865,000-square-foot-shopping mall for $136 million followed by a $30 million modern renovation.

The mall is home to local black businesses, including Post & Beam, a restaurant owned by Brad Johnson and renowned Chef Govind Armstrong, and Buffalo Wild Wings, owned by Karim Webb, the 2014 Black Enterprise Franchise Company of the Year. Capri is expanding internationally with a focus on high-growth markets, including Africa, India, and the Middle East.

A must-see, one-on-one keynote conversation at the 2016 Entrepreneurs Summit, Primo will share his story on building a multibillion-dollar business. Some words of wisdom:

  1. Failure is part and parcel to the entrepreneurial existence. You can never ever, ever, ever give up.
  2. More important than access to capital in running your business is access to information because that will lead you to opportunities.
  3. The No. 1 job of any business is to serve society. If you are not serving a societal need, then you shouldn’t be in business.