For a long time, our company was a small, close-knit, family-owned and operated business—and in many ways, it still is. Yet, from April 2021 to April 2022, we added a number of new team members. Such a significant change in a relatively short amount of time can be a true test of how your team works together, and it’s what has inspired today’s letter.
You should know by now how seriously I take every new hire. As many other business leaders know, adding to a team is a delicate discipline because you are introducing a new personality to an ever-evolving company culture—and vice versa.
A company or team culture is born the moment a group of people start working together with a common goal. With every new addition or subtraction to that group, the culture changes, because the dynamic and responsibilities change with it. It’s the connection between you and the people around you that makes the work fruitful or fun, slow or tedious. We outline our ideals in a code of core values, but it's up to all of us, every day, to live it out.
I thought I’d talk a little bit today about the culture we have at REI Nation and Premier Property Management and invite a few folks on our team to share their experience in their own words.
The Long Haul
When I started working at REI Nation, the statement “average people can’t work here” stood out to me. After 5 years, I can say that statement is absolutely true! The atmosphere of positivity and encouragement push us all to be BETTER every day! I feel I’ve grown immensely in my professional AND personal life because of the wonderful leadership at this company. -Customer Service Team Member
I’m going to say something that might trip up my younger readers, but the studies back me up on this one: Millennials and Gen Z folks don’t often see themselves making a career at the company where they’re applying for a job.
There’s nothing wrong with that, either. But it makes for an interesting experience when young new hires walk into our company and see fellow team members who’ve been here five, ten, fifteen, or more years.
Millennials made up 50% and Gen Z 80% of the “Great Resignation” trend of the last year or so, and many job seekers are now upping their standards when vetting potential employment opportunities. That's fine with us, because we know that average people can’t work here, and we feel confident knowing that, no matter how long a person might work on our team, they’re going to give us their absolute best. When I go into an interview, I’m hiring for the long haul, whether they know it or not.
I don’t know whether people like Ryan or a Nate saw themselves working at this company for as long as they have, but I do know this: they were given a blank canvas, to work hard but also imagine and create a career here, and they took it.
I know because my team members say so. Recently, leasing agent (and all around rock star) Aushia shared a reflection about our company that stuck with me. She said that working here is about growing together, and that there’s a unique opportunity to learn and grow your skillset so that you can create a role unique to your strengths.
I’ll take that definition of our company culture any day.
Links in the Chain
When I think of the culture at REI Nation the word that comes to mind is FAMILY. We are one big family that works together to bring a WOW experience to our clients. It is a Pro Sports team mentality with Kent Sr. being the head coach. We have high expectations of each other and everyone comes in daily to do their job at a high level. We hold each other accountable and lift each other up when needed. We are not for everyone and that is ok and we do not apologize for it. We are our own competition. Our goal is to be better than we were yesterday. -Renovations Team Member
There are a couple of key pieces that make up a team culture, and to me they boil down to leadership, discipline, and communication.
It is my intention that every single member of my team feel empowered to do their very best in the role they occupy.
And let me pause there a moment, because I meant what I said: these are roles that people occupy. Nothing is written in stone around here. You might be an ace in closings, but if you want to try your hand at sales then we’ll be more than happy to give you a shot. There’s more than one way to grow and advance, and many of our most tenured staff wrote the book on their role because there was no predecessor for them. From entry level to executive team, your path is yours to determine.
Which brings me back to this feeling of empowerment. We count on every team member to be a leader in their own capacity, but we also know that every team needs clear leaders. You don’t expect the quarterback to also coach. Each bring their own talents and perspectives to the game. Similarly, I count on my executive team to focus on leading our team to greatness, both by example and by direct “coaching” as needed.
The culture of REI/PPMG is one where everyone wants to make each other better. Kent strives for greatness and we do too. Each person has their part to play and we work hard to make sure our personal link is strong. -Accounting Team Member
As you zoom out from the executive team, you see offshoots that lead to different teams and roles that span a number of different functions. Just as we expect our executives to lead, we expect every link along the chain to carry its weight, to execute consistently, and to report back when improvements can be made. That takes both discipline within and communication across roles to accomplish.
When there’s a four-car pile-up in your operations, I guarantee you that culture holds some of the blame.
Where is the break in communication? Where was a step skipped? Was something unclear or was there an unforeseen obstacle?
Diagnosing the root cause will often lead you to something that was a cultural issue all along.
Commit to The Grind
From the day I started, I felt a level of pride working for this company because I knew that everyone around me truly believed I had everything it takes to do well in my role. Since there’s such a focus on excellence and growth, I feel like any idea I have to help us get there is welcome. I love that it’s a company of big personalities, because it feels like I can be myself too. -Marketing Team Member
No one can tell you how to build a perfectly efficient company culture, because no matter what you do you’re going to be left with a group of imperfect, human people who have bad days, make bad calls, or drop the ball. In short, shit happens.
You'll know your culture is strong by watching what happens next.
Can you count on your team to lift each other up? To think through solutions when a problem arises? To not get defensive or begin finger-pointing? Does the mission feel bigger and more significant than any individual person’s ego?
At the end of the day, I want people to say they like the challenge of working here, feel like there are opportunities to grow, and feel like the people around them encourage them to be a little better each day. If we can accomplish this positive spirit among our team members, we can accomplish anything.
Until next time,
Chief Grind Officer
About Kent Clothier
Entrepreneur, Real Estate Investor, Husband, Dad, and Granddad. Through decades of personal experience, and a few other titles, Kent built a strong community around him at REI Nation. But it didn’t start there. It took 22 years of entrepreneurship – of losing money and making money, building small businesses and multimillion dollar companies alike – before he founded a family business-turned-empire. His sons Kent Jr, Chris, and Brett have worked alongside him, as well as leading successful ventures of their own. Real estate trends, managing towards efficiency, excellent customer service and leading the industry are what fuel him. Over the years, the skills he’s come to value are financial acumen, honesty, and forging new paths in business, investing, and winning.