In The Black (Forbes Books, 2023) by T. Dallas Smith, details Smith’s career as a pioneer in commercial real estate and founder of his namesake Atlanta company. He wrote In the Black, he says, to help African American entrepreneurs find their place in the field of commercial real estate. (Smith, a REALTOR®, is one of several practitioners featured in CREATE Magazine’s summer 2023 cover story “Diversity at Work”).
Smith, who grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Georgia State University, says two professors influenced him greatly. David Schwartz, author of The Magic of Thinking Big (originally published in 1959), encouraged him to thing big and speak big. Thomas Stanley, who went on to write The Millionaire Next Door (originally published in 1996), showed him the importance of overcoming obstacles—to go through, around or under the mountain in your way. Along Smith’s career path, he says in the book, he has encountered racism and entrenched ideas. But as he tells it, he never let backward thinking stand in his way. In 1989, when Smith applied to the number one brokerage firm in Atlanta, he was told that they weren’t ready for a Black broker. Cushman & Wakefield hired him instead, making him the first African American broker at their firm.
Smith is transparent about discussing the highs and lows of his long career in commercial real estate. He has made money and lost money—but he has always had faith in his abilities. His success, he says, stems from the intentional relationships he has created and his habit of going the extra mile for his clients. In the Black presents many of the career tips and lessons from his 40 years in the business. He counsels young people to look for advocates, build relationships before you need them, and gain exposure to every aspect of the business.
As his career advanced, Smith found a mission beyond making money and serving clients. He’s giving African American real estate professionals exposure to commercial real estate. Smith says he wants to “make sure that I make a place for people who look like me to succeed in this industry.”