13 October 2011 ~ 1 Comment

The big compliment: When your client says “Always be changing”.

Recently my client Nick Jekogian, CEO of Signature Community, wrote a blog post titled, Always be Changing.

What was special about this blog post? First, it was seeing how much my client appreciated what I helped them do. Second, it is understanding how much of an impact the process which I designed for them, has on how they do business, treat their customers and each other. Third, my clients have executed on this process reliably for the past two years (in their third year) and are changing their company without outside assistance. My role is now mentor and observer. They get it, they own it and don’t need my help.

This is a dream realized and I’ll explain why. In my last company, after more than a decade of very successful operations in a rapidly changing industry, we failed to change…and that company no longer exists. So, by helping a client succeed where I personally have failed in the past, is awesome! Past failures are the seeds of innovation and growth.

Innovation is about creating the new, evolving and growing. We when adapt, we thrive. When we don’t…you know what comes next. ABC, Always be changing.

See Nick’s Blog Below.

Always Be Changing – Wednesday October 5th, 2011.

Five years ago, anyone could buy a building, hold it for a few months, refinance out all their invested equity or sell the deal for a profit based on the appreciation. Apartment buildings, shopping centers, office buildings and homes were being traded like baseball cards. We were in the middle of a huge bubble and like most bubbles very few even realized it was happening until it was too late.  At the time real estate business models had nothing to do with successful operations and hinged on speed of the transaction and leverage.

That all changed in September 2008 with the financial meltdown. It was then that we realized at Signature Community that our business model needed to change drastically. Knowing that we need to change and knowing how to change are two dramatically different things, compounded by the need to meet the interests of many different parties.

In Fall 2008, Signature Community embarked on a radical new business process which we now call Si3 (Signature Ideas, Innovation and Implementation).  It started several months earlier, when I hired Jonathan Colton, who is a business strategist, to advise our Acquisitions and Management Teams.  After a few months, Jonathan and Dave McLain (COO/GC) convinced me that Signature needed to be a company where change and innovation are a necessary and regular business activity.  Jonathan designed Si3 based on ideas for change and innovation that I had hoped we would accomplish at Signature.  Jonathan worked closely with our management team as we began our journey into unknown territory.

Jonathan’s concept was that we needed to include the entire organization in the Si3 process, break out into teams led by front line managers and set a target role-out date for 90 days later.  I thought it was a radical idea to include the entire organization in the change process. Everyone was asked to work on ideas that would make Signature a better place to live & work, a healthier company. We faced big challenges and needed all of our collective talent on the same team toward progress to make Si3 work. We had to make sure we found a way to make everyone part of the successes and failures. The process is a very simple, yet very powerful tool for change.

The first step was to generate ideas on how to make radical changes in the organization. As the CEO, I asked everyone I could for their feedback on how to change for the better.  I asked our team members, investors, lenders, customers, outside consultants, friends, former employees, new team members and even military generals.  I read magazine articles and toured other companies. You name it, we included it in our research process.

We then filtered through the ideas and divided them into buckets (themes) such as customer service, Team Member experience, cost cutting, green initiatives and more.  We asked each and every team member at Signature to participate on a team focusing on one of these themes.  Leaders were elected for each of the teams with the only restriction being that the leader could not be senior management.  And then we set the groups free to make it happen. We borrowed an idea from Google where we give everyone on each idea team up to 20% of their week to work on these ideas.

What resulted in a few short months was nothing short of amazing. Innovative projects were implemented that saved us money, increased our resident satisfaction, helped our employees (now called Team Members) and led to greener communities at Signature. But the truly amazing part was the intrinsic value of this initiative.

We are an organization that serves thousands of residents in more than a dozen markets nationally. Our team is physically separated by thousands of miles. After our team members started collaborating on ideas that they were collectively interested in, they developed bonds that are even stronger today.

We saw an immediate increase in team member engagement.  Today, many companies are discovering that money does not motivate everyone like they once believed.  Second, money is not readily available to reward everyone like it was in better times.

We need to challenge people in ways that they enjoy and with which they feel connected. This is exactly what happens at Signature during the months where the Si3 participants work on ideas that each team picks on their own. These teams have the freedom to work on ideas that they are passionate about.

SI3 helped us find new leaders in the organization.  We had maintenance team members, managers and even residents step up to lead initiatives and teams, which allowed us to see people in a different light and move them into greater leadership roles in the organization.

While our initial goal was to save money and increase customer service, what we really gained at Signature, was a much more engaged Community of thinkers and doers. We learned to embrace and create change.

Thanks for making change happen at Signature Community!

Nickolas Jekogian
Signature Community
Blog –http://www.nwjceommm.blogspot.com/
“Si3” Signature: Ideas, Innovation, Implementation!
Send ideas to: ideas@asignaturecommunity.com

One Response to “The big compliment: When your client says “Always be changing”.”

  1. Ginger Jenks 22 November 2011 at 11:59 pm Permalink

    Well done, Jonathan! Would love to see more organizations embrace your process.

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