Ben Branch likes to compare his career trajectory to an LP record: you have to be patient, enjoy the ride, and pick up on the highs when you see them. “I’ve always viewed opportunity as the confluence of courage and preparation,” he says.
In his decades of work in the construction industry, he’s learned the value of not only preparing for new opportunities but also having the nerve to seize them when they come along. As executive vice president of design and construction at Florida-based real estate development, investment, and property management firm Codina Partners, Branch brings that experience and a growth mind-set to his work.
A first-generation immigrant from England, Branch came to the United States as a child in the 1960s with his parents, got a green card, and pursued a drafting and design degree after high school. “This was back in the day when drafting was really drafting,” he explains: “no computers, just pencils, pens, and rulers.” After getting a degree in architectural engineering from Penn State, Branch started working for a general contractor, learning the construction industry from a project management perspective.
A pivotal opportunity for Branch came in 2003, when he took a position managing design and construction services for commercial real estate firm Flagler Development. Branch continued seizing opportunity, eventually advancing to serve as senior VP under the leadership of then-chairman Armando Codina, who helped Branch grow and mature as an executive. He stayed and honed his craft for a decade, until a private equity firm acquired Flagler, and Codina left to form Codina Partners. Branch spent a few years at other firms, but in 2019 he joined the team at Codina Partners to work with his mentor again.
During his years of professional experience, Branch has worked in virtually every aspect of design and construction in the real estate development industry. He’s especially thankful, he says, for the years he spent working for firms like the Haskell Company and Liberty Property Trust, where he learned all facets of the business and picked up a diverse set of experiences.
Branch also credits the influence of strong mentor figures like Codina for his ability to follow his instincts and move through this industry with confidence. “It’s great to see how visionaries like Armando make decisions,” he says. Personally, he says, he’s taken tremendous inspiration from Codina’s strong leadership and admirable vision in his own work at Codina Partners.
He’s faced challenges along the way, of course—but Branch prefers to view setbacks as learning opportunities. That’s key, given the unpredictable nature of the industry: “Construction projects can go sideways in a minute; that’s just the nature of these projects,” he notes. He’s seen capable professionals freeze when something goes wrong, getting lost in the problem without a backup plan. To executives and managers facing a setback, Branch advises getting back to basics, staying focused, and following established protocols.
At Codina Partners, Branch puts these lessons to good use. Currently, a large part of his time is taken up by high-rise multifamily projects and a charter high school in the downtown Doral area, and Beacon Logistics Park, a “high-tech, class-A business environment” for industrial development in South Florida, which is currently set to complete its first building in early 2020.
Sometimes, though, things don’t go as planned—and Branch believes that this is not just a part of life, but also a learning opportunity. “We like movies that have happy endings you can see from a mile away,” notes Branch. “But not every obstacle has a happy ending.” Even so, there are ways to put your best foot forward and power through the problem. “We all stumble,” he points out. “The difference is how we get up and move forward.”
Branch believes that his personal victories are a result of a combination of factors: his own perseverance, having strong mentors like Codina, and an openness to learning from the failures that sometimes result from the complicated nature of the construction industry. From a childhood spent mending fences and learning how to draft the old-fashioned way, Branch’s dedication has led him to his dream job as executive VP for a real estate developer, working with his mentor. It just took courage, preparation, and the willingness to say ‘yes’ to opportunity.
Builders Without Borders
In addition to his work at Codina Partners, Branch is a board member for the faith-based organization Mission to Haiti (MTH), which focuses on child sponsorship. Sponsored children have the opportunity through MTH for education, meals each school day, healthcare, and introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the last seven years, he’s planned trips there; he’s distributed food, painted schoolhouses, worked on other light construction projects, and has even sponsored a child. “It’s the poorest country in this hemisphere, if not the entire world,” says Branch. Helping “equip Haitians to change Haiti for Christ” is a cause about which he’s extremely passionate.