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Damian McKinney

CEO, McKinney Advisory Group

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A job in his father's metals business was always a fallback option for self-described Hoosier Damian McKinney, but he had grown tired of Indiana's “overcast and cold weather.” So, with his father's blessing, McKinney eschewed Notre Dame for its biggest rival, USC, where he earned a degree in business administration and subsequently founded McKinney Advisory Group, a San Diego-based commercial real estate firm with offices in Honolulu, Long Beach and Orlando, servicing clients throughout the world.

Some years after having achieved great success in the commercial real estate industry, McKinney recalls his father saying, “Gee, I don't think we can afford you” whenever there was talk -- however jokingly -- of the possibility of McKinney's joining the family business.

“I was having fun and my wife is from San Diego. It was hard enough to get her to marry me. Getting her to move back to Indiana was more salesmanship than I had in me. So I stuck with commercial real estate in Southern California,” said McKinney from Honolulu, where he was on one of his frequent business trips.

Although his company has done business from Australia to Europe, as well as in Latin America and Canada, McKinney said its focus is the continental United States. He said minimizing travel has been one of the reasons his company recently made a concerted effort to seek business with companies closer to home.

“In San Diego, we're just becoming more relevant in our backyard. We made a conscious effort about two years ago to say 'Why are we getting on planes every week and flying to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, etc., when there's companies right in our backyard that could benefit from our services?' So, it's really been a new phenomenon of our company to really focus on serving companies based out of San Diego.”

McKinney's bottom line includes a passion for giving back to the communities in which he does business, most notably as an advocate for children with disabilities. He is a founding board member for All Kids Inc., a nonprofit for the inclusion of children in after-school activities and anti-bullying programs.

“Our company is based on the philosophy of servant leadership and we give back at least 10 percent of our profits to charities that are in the areas (in which) we live and work. That's really the 'why' of our company,” McKinney said. “If you come in our office, you won't see pictures of buildings, you'll see pictures and thank-you letters of people we've helped and charities we've helped. We serve on a lot of boards and that's really a big part of our discussions every day. At the end of the day, our servant-leadership culture is ultimately what we're trying to accomplish.”

-Lovitt is a La Jolla-based freelance writer.

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