Lessons from my early days in real estate
This month’s theme got me thinking about my early career. One of my first jobs was as a leasing consultant.
From there I moved into multifamily property management, and then into financial analysis and due diligence. I was fortunate to work with a great company, NTS, and with a fantastic leader, J.D. Nichols. Here are some things I learned.
Identity and purpose matter
Knowing who we are and why we do what we do is critical to success. A strong corporate culture doesn’t just talk about mission, vision and values. It actually manifests those things in the real world. It’s the way employees treat each other, the way customers and clients and contractors are treated, and the way the work gets done. Nichols held himself and all of us to high standards. Whether it was a walk-through, a loan package or a ground-breaking ceremony, we gave it our best. It was in our DNA.
Being comfortable with ambiguity is required
Rushing to answers is limiting. Stay with the questions, keep digging and do the hard work to find the magic. Yes, sometimes being asked to run another scenario—what if we changed the interest rate, what if we changed the usage mix, what if we could pick up another few acres to the south—drove me crazy. But through it all, I learned so much. And by the time we broke ground or introduced a new partnership, we knew we were bringing the best we could to the world.
Everyone is a stakeholder
No organization exists in isolation. Its success or failure depends on its ability to engage with the world around it. To attract the best employees. To
just a place to build a business, to reap the harvest. It’s a place to build a life, to put down roots, to commit to the success of the young and the care of the elderly and to provide vibrant opportunity for everyone. Nichols showed us the way in his efforts with education and air transport. He was constantly on alert for ways things could work better.
Great leaders create leaders
Being a great leader isn’t about taking all the credit. It’s about creating space and opportunity for others to bring their gifts and talents. Nichols wasn’t afraid to listen to new ideas, to entertain possibilities, to try out new things. I remember saying, “Mr. Nichols, what if…” and the next thing I knew, I had resources and responsibility and some of the best times of my career. Many of the people I worked with from that time went on to start their own companies or become influential community leaders.
Listen to your gut
Sometimes, you just know something is right. It’s good. It’s the way it’s got to be. So don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Believe in yourself enough to listen to yourself, to be honest with yourself, to call your bluff when necessary, and to move forward despite resistance when it’s the right thing to do. I found my confidence and my voice at NTS, being able not just to look at facts and data, but to think deeply about what we were doing, if it made sense, or what might work better.
My NTS days were years ago, yet the lessons continue to serve me well. Which lessons resonate with you? What lessons have you learned? Years from now, what lessons will your colleagues say they learned from you?