Consulting always felt like a great stepping stone out of college. From the onset, I was put in new and challenging roles. Whether while learning to build an Excel model from scratch or speaking with industry experts, each day brought a different sector to learn or a different skill to hone. Most importantly, it enabled me to work alongside colleagues who were both incredibly smart and incredibly kind. This instilled in me a lesson that has held true to this day – the best way to learn is from others and colleagues are just as key to a rewarding professional experience as the work itself.
My firm also underscored the importance of clear communication, both verbally and in work output. Along with knowing information cold, it was important to be able to transfer this information to partners – and eventually clients – in the limited window we had to do so. Any document should be followable with no instruction, and any statements had to be succinct and accurate. “One slide, one point” was a mantra that was to be followed at all times (and subsequently a helpful lesson in fundraising decks). Part of communicating effectively is being able to admit when you do not know something. Admitting you have a blind spot and that you’ll work to learn the answer can be difficult to do – particularly when interacting with clients – and is essential to earning the trust and confidence of others.While consulting taught me valuable lessons and helped me build transferable skillsets, I wanted to feel more connected to and have a greater impact on the company at which I was working. The drawback of working on so many cases is not having the time to dig in nor, always, the time to see the ultimate impact of the work you are doing. I wanted to try my hand at building something, even if that meant losing the comfort of structured days and embracing the possibility of failure.This mindset drove my difficult decision to move from my secure position in consulting to a one-person startup that had not yet been named. The founder was building a new-age hospitality company, and I was completely new to the real estate industry. I had to learn quickly and without much direction, deciding how to prioritize my time and doing so with little slack in the system – no HR team, no legal team, and no other analysts. The change in my day-to-day work and responsibilities were felt immediately and significantly.
In consulting, I had been far removed from the end customer of the companies we advised; at the start-up, my personal cell phone became our customer service line for my first three months, whether calls came in at 12 p.m. or 12 a.m. This role thrust me into challenging conversations, such as when one of our properties lost hot water over New Year’s Eve. I learned how to be the face of a product, take personal responsibility for negative feedback, and earn the trust of guests.
Similarly, in consulting, I provided advice on where to expand but was far removed from the eventual outcome; at my startup, after I ranked potential expansion markets, I was to pick one, travel there, and acquire a new property. With our ability to raise additional capital contingent on proving the model in a second market, it was not hyperbolic to feel that a poor decision could spell the end of the company. I learned that having a potential make-or-break impact on the organization to which I was dedicating myself, while initially daunting, made my work more rewarding.
The most rewarding part, however, has been seeing our team expand and the collective aspiration of our team, now numbering over 100 individuals, grow. The ups and downs of a start-up have a way of bringing a team closer together and never was that so important as during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has upended real estate companies across the board, whether they have been around for one year or one hundred years.
The pandemic also served to accelerate important trends in real estate that have been growing for some time – namely, the desire for flexible real estate and the adoption of technology to improve tenant experience and increase labor efficiency. These trends have been noticeable in office space with the rise of coworking companies offering turnkey solutions and flexible lease lengths. This flexibility has become more important with the rise of the “work from anywhere” mindset in the wake of the pandemic. Similarly, this need for flexibility has only increased in the hospitality sector as well. Guests wanted the ability not only to stay for the traditional three days, but also for three weeks, or three months. The real estate industry has to continue to adapt to the changing world and continue to embrace new technologies to help it do so.
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image source: https://www.valuer.ai/blog/25-innovative-real-estate-startups