Over several decades Bridgeport native Robert “Bob” Scinto has built a $200-million commercial real estate empire that spans 3.2 million square feet of office space in eastern Fairfield County.
He is the definition of self-made.
Battling dyslexia and hearing issues, Bob finished high school with only a fourth grade reading level but would go on to graduate from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield while working during the day as a plumber with his father, Daniel.
It was an early lesson in family as the bedrock of business for the developer, whose own burgeoning brood — four children and 10 grandchildren — is poised to continue the legacy of R.D. Scinto, his Shelton company.
Yet for a man who has worked for his father and with family members, he has some ironic advice for prospective familial entrepreneurs.
“I would tell them try to avoid it,” he says. “It is very hard to be in business with brothers and sisters. It is definitely a challenge, but you have to adapt. I like to tell people I can never change anybody. I can only change the way they affect me. That’s what’s in my power,”
Nevertheless, his children have become an integral part of his firm, beginning with his youngest, Robert Jr., chief operating officer of the company and the likely successor to his father’s title.
“I grew up in the business,” Rob says. “In fifth grade, I wanted to buy a skimboard so I went to work as a maintenance man.”
Now Rob is hands-on with tenants and regularly starts his day with his father on job sites.
“We have a lot of fun together,” he says. “We are both funny, energetic people. We love people. We get serious, too, though. At the end of the day, we are both deal junkies trying to drum up as much business as we can for the company.”
A love and respect for people is central to the company’s philosophy and recipe for success, says Bob’s daughter Amy, who is the director of marketing for one of the company’s premier properties, Il Palio restaurant in Shelton (April 2013 WAG).
“My dad often says it is important to be two things,” she says. “You need to be a good person and you need to be kind, and I think he genuinely displays that effortlessly every day.”
Her father has always put family first, she adds, as illustrated by the extended maternity leaves Amy and her sisters Katie and Dana have taken from the business to start new families.
Katie, who recently had her first child, says there has been very little friction among family members as each has his or her own defined role.
“There are not too many challenges,” she adds. “We work for our father, he created this business and we are lucky enough that he let us be a part of it. There are always arguments and there is always wanting to do things our way, but he didn’t get to where he is now without being five steps ahead of everyone else.”
Amy is just returning to the family business following a 10-year hiatus raising four young children and Dana has been raising a family for several years following working for her father in public relations.
“He is so proud of the way my mom raised us,” Amy says. “He loves the fact we are stay-at-home mothers and raising the children and now he is extremely happy to know we are getting our hands back in the business.”
She adds that her father will often refer to her mother, Barbara — to whom he’s been married for 40 years — as his rock and frequently discusses decisions with her.
While Barbara does not work directly with the company, Bob credits her as his greatest asset and a pillar of support in his most trying times.
“I woke up one morning in 1990 and I owed $62.5 million personally,” he recalls. “I was losing $500,000 per month,” he said. “When things were going off the table, some women would have said, ‘Don’t you think we should put everything in my name?’ She never had that attitude. She said, ‘Bob, you are going to get through this somehow.’
“It is very hard to be successful and not have a good marriage. Divorce takes up time and energy and just sidetracks you,” Bob says. “Just look at Tiger Woods.”
While the Scinto family looks to a future with new generations in the wings, Bob is in no rush to hand over the reins.
“I have a theory that you either continue to grow or start to die, and I’m going to be dead a very long time so I am not worrying about this,” he says.
In the meantime, he plans to continue his seemingly simple formula for success that has elevated him from a working-class man to real estate titan.
“You want your children to do well and be good. It is the same type of relationship in business. You want people to be successful. The secret of my business is really simple — you don’t lose any tenants. Be such a great landlord and such a great friend that no one ever wants to leave you.”
For more, visit scinto.com.