“Do you really think you can build this business?”
That’s what someone asked David Ridley during the early stages of his startup real estate investment firm.
Well, David was able to build the business. The firm he founded and lead as CEO, Invesco Real Estate, grew to over $65 billion in assets under management with 20 offices scattered around the world.
But that’s not the most important part of the story.
The most crucial part of David’s story is not that he was able to achieve success. It’s that he was able to achieve success, without regrets.
In the early days of company formation, David sat at a conference table with his partners. That day, they made a pledge they were not going to pay the price that so many pay to be successful. They weren’t going to sacrifice their families. They wouldn’t give in to alcoholism or pride.
How’d they do it?
Well, that’s what David came on the latest episode of the Lead to Grow podcast to talk about.
Here’s what he had to say about the three pillars of achieving success without regret.
1: Maintain a Strong Personal Foundation
Flashback to 1985.
That year, David was down in Houston looking at a piece of real estate for potential investment. At dinner, the broker asked him, “Do you really think you have a chance to build this business? How do you ever think you’re going to compete with JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs?”
David went back to his hotel room and made a list of all his weaknesses: He wasn't smart enough, he wasn't gregarious enough, he didn't know how to sell, and no one knew about their company.
Then, he got on his knees and just surrendered. He asked God to give him a way out of the new venture. And then he asked that if that wasn’t an option, that God would be the CEO.
He ripped up the list and threw it in the trash. He didn't own those issues anymore and he completely lost the fear of failure.
That was the real beginning of the company.
David describes this as “putting on your own oxygen max.” You can’t help others if you’re not healthy yourself.
So, start by setting a strong personal foundation.
2: Build a Strong Organizational Foundation
Once you put on your own oxygen mask on, you’re ready to help others.
The most important pillar in any business is people. You need to give them a healthy environment to work in.
David knew that his people's health would be the #1 determining factor of the company’s success. He knew that there were certain factors he needed to get right to keep his people and culture healthy.
What are some of those factors?
Inspirational leadership. Leadership needs to “get it.” They need to truly understand how important the health of their people is.
Great companies have great meetings. David’s company had three rules for meetings: Check your ego at the door. There’s no rank in the room. And everyone in the room has an obligation to dissent.
Clear sense of direction.
Robust communication. Up, down, and sideways.
Openly encourage life balance.
When you get these principles right, you find yourself in an upward spiral. Great health produces a values-driven culture, and the market begins to recognize your firm character. And that becomes your branding. The result is that your existing clients want to do more business with you, and prospects want to come work with you.
David was even willing to sacrifice business in the short-term to build his culture: In their first 20 years, David’s company shut their doors for 10 years because they were at capacity.
3: Focus on Elite Client Engagement
If you can get the first two pillars right, you have the power to pursue elite customer engagement.
You can have the best culture in the world, but if you don't know how to land clients, it’s all for nothing.
So, what are the rules of exceptional client engagement?
Nail down your value proposition. For six months, David and his team would meet early in the morning to talk about their value prop until they had one they all knew was compelling.
Learn the art of war rooms. A war room is a meeting specifically designed for competing most effectively in a competitive market for new clients. If you hold enough war rooms around the competition and figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are relative to yours, you learn how to best position yourself. Then you can beat just about anybody.
Create and deliver effective prospect presentations. The only way you can truly get great at this is to practice. Keep the presentation simple, believable, and understandable.
Do your post-mortems. Immediately. When you don’t win, have the courage to review what happened immediately. Then, when you’ve done about 20 post-mortems you probably won’t keep making those same mistakes.
Every now and then, David would get up in front of his team and say. “Raise your hand if you're in sales.” He expected everyone to raise their hand because David believes that everyone is involved in client engagement. You may be a fantastic investor or great at operations, but if you can’t engage the client, the company can’t exist. Everyone is in the business of client engagement.
Oh, and one more thing: Remember that your most important prospect is your existing client.