Recently I had the opportunity to deliver a presentation on the velocity of change that is occurring all around us in business – but more specifically, commercial real estate. Further, the direct impact it will have on the people and organizations that are unwilling to innovate.
Preparing this message reminded me how important it is to develop a highly creative culture where todays leaders must embrace an environment that challenges conventional thinking.
It also brought back memories from one of my first jobs directly out of college and three (3) important life lessons that I learned – oddly, they all centered around coffee being a catalyst for change and still hold true today:
#1 Bad Coffee Equals Bad Morale
In the cafeteria of my old company sat an antiquated coffee pot and the type of grounds that no amount of cream or sugar could fix. Visualize in your mind poor lighting, old chairs and tables, styrofoam cups – no fun.
Being young and ready to set the professional world on fire, I was quick to share my thoughts with the owner about how we could improve the working conditions and morale through the purchasing of a new coffee machine and upgrading the seating area.
To my surprise, I was promptly told no. In a youthful statement of defiance, a month later I went out and purchased a new coffee machine. I also made it a goal to bring in new types of coffee grounds each week. Not particularly inventive in the context of technology. However, something odd happened – within only a few weeks, people took notice with several colleagues asking how they could help. Through a series of meetings, new ideas and a bigger plan was formed to positively impact other areas in the company from collaboration, marketing, to client retention. In this momentum, we would eventually win over the ownership and reinvent our culture as well.
While improving the coffee and cafeteria might be a stretch for impactful leadership and innovation, I learned a valuable lesson – small changes can in fact lead to extraordinary transformation. Their ability to inspire those around you should also never be underestimated.
#2 Quality Matters
My early coffee experience also reminded me that quality matters in all things. It led me to adjust my way of thinking about continual improvement, a process that never ends for both our personal and professional lives.
The standard of excellence is not permanently chiseled in stone. In fact, it is constantly being redefined and pushed forward. What was done yesterday should be improved upon today – good must become better.
Jim Collins, author of the book Good to Great said it best: “Few people attain great lives, in part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because…they become good – and that is their main problem.”
Breaking the mold and identifying areas needing improvement is a process. Over the years, I have worked diligently to apply this mindset to everything I do. While not an easy task and something I fully admit to failing at often, developing a passion for quality and excellent work has only benefitted my life.
#3 Coffee is for Closers Only
With an article on business and coffee, you knew the classic quote from Glengarry Glen Ross, “coffee is for closers only” would have to find its way in here somewhere.
The last lesson learned courtesy of a warm cup of coffee is that taking an hour to sit down with existing clients on a routine basis has reshaped those relationships far beyond closing transactions and into something more meaningful.
In this world where the benefits of technology make the passing of information easier and easier, not losing sight of the importance of face to face interaction can’t be overstated. While the landscape of commercial real estate continues to dramatically transform, this is still a people business.
When was the last time you sat down for 60 minutes with a client? I make it a point to meet with mine frequently and it has made all the difference in my career (by the way, replace coffee with lunch or dinner – you get the idea).
Looking Forward – Be a Voice to Change
Most people fail at change not because they can’t do it, but because they allow the thoughts in their mind to talk them out of their true potential and ability to alter outcomes. With this in mind, here are a few critical things to consider:
First, if you see a need for change, you have a responsibility to be that bright light and not run from it. It’s yours to own (even if it starts with the company coffee).
Second, always respectfully listen to the opinions of those around you, even if they differ from yours.
Third, the best ideas may not be your own. To this point, do you have an environment and a process in place that allows the best forward-thinking ideas to elevate?
There is a powerful driving force in every human being that once unleashed, can make any vision, a reality. However, you must be willing to help lead that change.