Ali Jamal is the Owner and CEO of Stablegold Hospitality, a real estate investment company.
As the global pandemic completely rattles everything that we hold familiar, disheveling the way we work, live, learn, play, travel and even breathe, anyone responsible for the well-being of others is being forced to get their feet planted firmly on this shaky ground and figure out next steps, quickly. As the CEO of Stablegold Hospitality, a multimillion-dollar real estate investment firm, I’m in the same boat with thousands of business leaders who admit that showing leadership this past year, compared to any other year since the inception of their company, has given us a run for our money.
Years ago, my company implemented a business model called the Entrepreneurial Operating System, founded by Gino Wickman, which is broken down into six components: data, vision, people, issues, process and traction. Throughout the pandemic, however, as a leader I found the first three aspects to be fundamental in helping us navigate these turbulent waters. Throughout this year and next, I recommend that all leaders, duty-bound to the success of their company’s financial position and people, focus on adopting these three core aspects into their own leadership strategy. Here’s how and why.
While carrying out all the responsibility that comes with a leadership role, it becomes tempting to delegate the analysis of performance metrics to one of our direct reports. I call this deafening the data and am admittedly guilty of it from time to time. Ever since the pandemic showed the world its nasty strength, bringing the tourism industry to its knees, I had to ensure I didn’t make the same mistake.
One of the key tools I found useful to complete every quarter was a SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis. That’s because, within weeks, the landscape that our hotels once operated in had completely turned upside down. Many customers lost their jobs and could not pay for their stay, and a flood of investors entered the Class C/D property market, now realizing the need for affordable housing was going to be greater than ever before. Doing this analysis on a regular basis forced me to face the current situation, follow its trends and stay a few steps ahead with a strategy to stay on top of the competition and understand what accommodations need to be made in the new climate.
In our case, for example, we put a stronger focus on acquisition, aggressively looking for appropriate real estate deals and closing on them as soon as possible. We also provided free or deeply discounted accommodation, for a limited time, to our loyal customers who truly hit rock bottom.
Trivia time! Apart from being some of the greatest visionary leaders of our time, what do Nelson Mandela, Ray Dalio and Elon Musk all have in common? When faced with imminent threats, they didn’t simply drop their heads in their hands. They were guided by an unshakeable vision for a brighter future and had an uncanny ability to influence others into putting their fears aside and adopting that vision.
History reveals that economic downturns are inevitable. More importantly, it also teaches us they don’t last forever. Now is the time to get those visionary goggles on and garner at least a fraction of the confidence, trust and respect that great visionary leaders have achieved.
Every week, I spend approximately 15% of my time analyzing our data, especially our SWOT analysis, strategizing how we’re going to overcome any downward trends or threats, and then executing those thoughts by creating tasks that are delegated to my management team. Another 10% of my time is spent on communication, a check-in if necessary, to rally my team around that vision.
Unemployment rates sky-rocketed due to Covid-19, which, although unfortunate, brings a silver lining to business leaders who need to build an army that will help drive the company’s mission to its post-crisis future.
The people component of the EOS model refers to hiring the right talent and designating them to the right seats. Our current market is flooded with candidates who have relevant skills and experience. What makes them the “right” people, however, is whether they genuinely buy in to your vision and the company’s sense of purpose. In times like these, we need staff who are strong-minded and determined to fulfill the company’s mission. Their willingness to do so can be determined in a number of ways: research their extra-curricular activities and interests, evaluate their response to behavioral questions such as “How did you resolve a particular problem at your last job?” and assess their aptitude for change management.
Thanks to a larger supply of candidates, we should also find it easier to target the right industry for recruitment. Lately, for example, I’ve found it much easier to find individuals who previously worked in the tourism industry, have experience working in the same property class and who are also a cultural fit for the organization. I rarely ever found all three traits in one candidate before.
I’ve also learned that when these candidates do exist, they’ll get snatched up in a New York minute. It’s so important to pay special attention to the people aspect of the EOS model while there’s great talent out there, just waiting to be hired.
To clarify, I’m not stating that the other three components of the EOS model — issues, process and traction — should be ignored. They’ve helped me organize and add structure to my company by leaps and bounds. I’ve found that the three aspects discussed above, however, are critical to execute during times like these. If your business has survived the pandemic thus far, you’ve probably already started putting them into practice. I believe prioritizing them and intentionally practicing them in your day-to-day operations, however, will propel your business to succeed far beyond what your competitors are hoping for.
Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?