They say change is the only constant. In business, I find that the saying only holds truer as time goes on.
In the apartment industry, we are seeing a unique mix of new, technology-based entrants alongside those that have been tested by the trials of time. After all, for those of us in multifamily, and in other consumer-driven housing businesses, our livelihood is based on the basic premise that people need to have a shelter to go home to every night. That concept won’t change for the foreseeable future, nor will the idea that the most successful businesses will be those that can address evolving trends and rising expectations of the consumer while still achieving profitability.
I am fortunate to be at the helm of a great company that has thrived through a century’s worth of evolution and business shifts. Regardless of the challenges inherent in any company’s longevity journey, we’ve always stayed true to our core business driver: our people. As we embark on our second century, there are plenty of key lessons we’ve learned during the first 100 years that we bring with us. Here are four lessons for your transformational business:
1. Go back to the beginning.
In business, it’s very important to have and share a strategic vision, presenting an insight or prospective on where the company will be going. While the strategic plan is critical, so too is the knowledge that every business has a history of best practices to learn from and never lose sight of. When considering the long view on your business, leadership should look back in time to gain an understanding of the original premise and rationale for the business. Why did it start? What need did it fill, and what value did it serve in its early days? Never lose sight of the “what” and the “why,” and stay focused on that in future strategic planning. Don’t dilute the core business model that was successful and that led to the sustainability of the company for the first century.
When we look back on our own business, we consider housing and the dignity of housing as the initial inspiration for the company we know as Village Green today. It started with a vision to create housing and deliver great experiences to the individuals living in their homes. Our business represents a necessity — you have to have a roof above your head.
2. Identify the key moments in your business’s history.
In an ideal world, every business is supremely designed from day one to face and survive all adversity and become a growth engine. However, this is not an ideal world. When reviewing the key moments in your history, analyze the business shifts and rationale of the past. When you entered a new market, what happened, and what did you learn? Were business shifts driven by sales/revenue, or was the business altered by the needs and demands of the customer that may not always have been profit-driven in the moment? Introspection is a valued trait in these moments, as is the belief that teachable moments — big and small — can be pivotal in shaping the company that has resulted.
3. Take stock of your business.
If you aren’t already continuously examining your business using relevant and measurable metrics, the time is now to develop those and develop that habit. Be honest in your self-evaluation of what has and has not worked. What are we doing now that we need to immediately stop? What are we doing that has the potential to harm our business? What are we doing that’s working and should be replicated for accretive growth?
It’s great to be proud of past successes and goals that have been reached, but leading a business for sustainability into the next century is less about pride and more about humility and open-mindedness. It’s so important to seek and be receptive to the viewpoints of others, both internally and externally.
4. Make investments — in people and in yourself.
Investing for growth should be both a business objective as well as a part of the ethos of operations. People are what make up the business, so take time to invest in them, appreciate their contributions and continuously remind them of their value to the enterprise. Share your insight and foresight with others and present opportunities in tangible places where others can contribute to this growth. Consider establishing advisory boards where ownership of business change can start at an associate/sub-team level. This not only brings fresh ideas to the table, but also enhances employee engagement, ownership and accountability. Empowered people at every level of the organization who care about the business are a key ingredient to business continuity and longevity.
In addition, what are you doing for yourself? I mean this in a learning and time investment sense. Are there new skills or additional viewpoints that should be gleaned to assist in the growth aims you have for your business? Investing in both the business and the people who run it will pay dividends and the return on that investment will be well worth it.
Every business is built on a foundation of hard work, the efforts of great people and the strategic insights of effective leaders. Whether your business is going into its second decade or its second century, reflect on the conditions and decisions that have led you to that milestone.
In our industry, we have an altruistic value — to provide housing — in addition to an operational value to our associates and customers/residents. By understanding that every business is primed for growth and has the ability to live forever, we can remember that no matter how young or old a company may be, it should stay centered on its core reason for existing while always learning and adapting. That’s the secret to the fountain of youth in business.