Entrepreneur Spotlight: Meet Stephen Nalley, The Founder Of The Black Briar Hotel Group

Stephen Nalley is the founder and managing partner of The Black Briar Hotel Group and Black Briar Advisors. Black Briar is a uniquely positioned full-service real estate investment company that specializes in the acquisition, repositioning, renovating, and asset management of distressed hotel and resort assets. Black Briar and its Managing Principles have significant transactional experience and are experts in all phases of the real estate life cycle. This includes deal structuring, contract negotiation, due diligence, underwriting, raising and closing on debt/equity capital structures, asset management, renovations, and property management. Black Briar and its principals have owned and asset managed over $2B in real estate assets, which includes over 100 hotel and resort assets.

Prior to founding Black Briar, Mr. Nalley was the Chief Operating Officer and Chairman of the Executive Committee for Ocean Waters. Ocean Waters was a multifaceted real estate investment company, which consisted of over 129 separate entities, 79 real estate assets, 45 operating hotels, and various office, retail and residential components. Mr. Nalley was responsible for the day-to-day leadership and general management of the company. Mr. Nalley assisted Ocean Waters and its Principals in creating over $1 Billion in value by acquiring nonperforming hotel and resort assets and leading them to profitability.

Prior to his civilian career, Stephen served in the United States Army as a light infantry squad leader and Commando with the 10th Mountain Division’s Special Troops Battalion. He was honorably discharged and is a disabled service-connected veteran.

Stephen Nalley received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of North Florida and earned his MBA and DBA from the University of Atlanta and a Law Degree from Washington University School of Law. Stephen is also a Certified Hotel Administrator through the American Hotel and Lodging Association and a professionally certified life coach through the International Association of Professions Career College.

He is the bestselling author of Relentless Pursuit, where he describes the secret to success as knowing what you really want, having a compelling reason why you want it, and having the discipline to sacrifice what we want right now for what we really want later.

StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Stephen to discuss his journey in the industry and here’s what went down:

How did your life look like before being an entrepreneur?

I served in the United States Army as a Light Infantry Team Leader with the 10th Mountain Division and in the US Army Reserves with the 2145th out of Jacksonville, Florida. After leaving the military service, I became addicted to academics and started my first company. I worked my way through college holding entry-level positions with American Express and CSX. During this time, I was always hard working and extremely motivated.

As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?

I am motivated in general by my passion, but the thing that gets me up early every morning and keeps me working late is my children. As an entrepreneur, I have the ability to create my own destiny and to seize opportunities that otherwise would not exist. I have always said, “If it was meant to be, then it is up to me.” There is nothing more exciting than building a company from conception to success.

In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and explain why.

Limitless. I love the concept of defying gravity. I chose “limitless” because that is what I strive to be. Every day I triple down on my weaknesses and develop them into strengths. I love tackling problems head-on, as opposed to trying to move around them.

What were your top three motivations for starting your business?

First, I saw an opportunity in the space that I was working in. At the time, there was very little expertise in turning distressed assets. Over the years, I had developed a skill set that was marketable. Secondly, I had developed a very strong team that was just as like-minded and passionate about what we were doing. Lastly, I strongly felt that we could bring enormous value to the space that we were in.

What do you put your success down to?

My work ethic and mindset. When I set goals, I achieve them because I am willing to outwork my competition and make sacrifices to get there. My mindset has always begun with “failure is not an option,” and then we push through adversity from there. I see myself as a problem solver and believe that the key to getting through the dark times is by making the uncomfortable become comfortable.

What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?

Simply put, you have to buy it right, finance it right, market it right, and operate it right. However, it starts with knowing your product or service and having a strong understanding of your market. From there we must be able to execute a business plan. This begins by surrounding yourself with the right team and being able to lead by example.

What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge that I have always faced has been the economy. My business thrives when the economy is good. However, after 9-11, the recession of 2006, and the most recent pandemic, things have been extremely challenging. This is where we have to adjust and go where the market is taking us. Prior to the pandemic, we were doing a lot of asset management. When the pandemic hit we shifted to more consulting on distressed assets.

Does the loneliness of the entrepreneur really exist?

Never. Not if you are doing it right. I talk to over fifty people every day about my business or what is going on in the industry. I am not a team of one. I have an organization in which I see all of my employees as a part of my family.

As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leadership lessons you have learned?

Without a doubt, you have to lead from the front. You should never ask anyone to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself. I have seen so many businesses fail due to poor leadership. I have an old saying, “If a person can lead, then I can follow. If they can’t lead, then I will lead.” Leadership is not a title; it is an action.

What do you hope to see happen in the near future for small businesses all over the world?

I am optimistic that things will get better. Small businesses are the backbone of our country. I hope that more capital will be available for entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and bring more products and services to market. I see start-up capital as being the number one thing that holds many entrepreneurs back when it comes to them starting a business.

For information on Stephen Nalley, please visit www.blackbriarus.com or www.stephennalley.me

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