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Leadership in a Post-COVID World

Adam Ifshin Headshot
Episode #: 211
Leadership in a Post-COVID World

Guest: Adam Ifshin
Topics: COVID-19, leadership, retail real estate, DLC Management Corp.


Chris Ressa 0:00
This is Retail Retold, the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa, and I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC Management.

Welcome to Retail Retold, everyone. Today is a special episode, I am joined by my partner and friend Adam Ifshin. we are actually not in the same place today. Adam is in Burlington, Vermont, and I am at my house this morning on this lovely Sunday. I’m excited for him to be here and have a great conversation. I think you will all have many takeaways. Welcome to the show, Adam.

Adam Ifshin 0:47
Hey, Chris. Good morning on an early Sunday morning from cold and snowy Burlington, Vermont. Good.

Ressa 0:53
Good morning, Is it snowing?

Ifshin 0:55
It is not snowing now. And sadly, and in the world of global warming that we live in. There hasn’t been there was there hasn’t been much snow here recently. And we did get some snow a couple of days ago, which given why I’m here turned out to be nice to have.

Ressa 1:16

Most people know who you are Adam. But for those who don’t? Can you give us a little color about who you are and what you do?

Ifshin 1:26
Sure, well, I’m Chris Ressa’s partner. That’s the easy way to describe what I am. But so I think most people in the industry certainly know for those who are not industry practitioners. I’m a serial entrepreneur. Except I’m a serial entrepreneur inside of one platform for 32 years. 32 years ago, I founded DLC Management, which started as a property manager and a leasing agent for retail real estate. And we’ve built it over the years and built the team over the years.

And today DLC encompasses a bunch of businesses under the DLC umbrella, all up to about 120 people. Everything those businesses do have to do with the intersection of creating value, where a retailer and their physical presence real estate, usually their store intersect.

And that includes everything from buying and redeveloping underperforming and distressed retail open air retailer to third party services for both retailers and owners who don’t have their own operating platforms, to institutional joint ventures with large institutions to help them deploy capital into the space, new development of single tenant net lease development and select markets for select clients programmatically.

And then mostly, it includes a general contracting business that we have built up since the start of COVID. To provide a reliable on time and on budget, construction performance, not only for our own business, but for our retailer clients.

Ressa 3:03
That is quite a list. The I find it always interesting and I’m gonna I’m just going to ask you a bunch of different questions, and then we’re gonna have a conversation. So no, nobody This is not planned. Well, before I get there, let’s let’s back up to bro. So what are you doing in Burlington, Vermont.

Ifshin 3:30
So I’m in Burlington, Vermont pursuing philanthropic and visiting them in business aligned passion, which is I am a sponsor, a lead judge and a speaker at an event. That is the largest enterprise Case Competition at a business school anywhere in the world solely dedicated to family, business and family business matters. It is an event that my father, who I co founded deal was the original sponsor of 10 years ago, as many people know, we lost my dad six years ago.

And since then, I’ve become very involved here with a cadre of global academics who focus on family business, as well as a number of other people. And a case competition for both undergraduate and graduate students with top business schools around the world. And it is an extraordinary opportunity to dive deeply into the issues and challenges and opportunities really an incredible opportunity to actually that family businesses provide to us in societies around the world.

It is an opportunity to use my brain in other ways, which you know, but having to deal with being my partner is something I’m always looking for. And it’s a way to recharge my batteries. around thinking about not only DLC, but other businesses and how we can grow and adapt to the times around the challenges that family businesses face, both now and in the future.

Ressa 5:16
I honestly have no idea. And I’m someone who I consider pretty well read, what is a hot topic and family business today from an academic perspective.

Ifshin 5:28
So this isn’t what I what I’ve tried to do here is help draw it from the purely academic to the intersection of academia and re and and the real world. And I will say this, and perhaps this is the reason why I enjoy it so much is the academia here is rooted in the real world. This is not ivory tower stuff.

So the big the big challenges and family business, historically, are things like intergenerational succession, sure. allocation of resources as you move from the first generation to the second generation, hopefully, if that’s what you want to do to the third or the fourth generation. At the end, and these businesses are large, I mean, some of the most successful businesses in the world are family businesses.

It is estimated that family businesses create and generate somewhere between 70 and 90 people gross domestic product globally, of the global economy. So that means that in the 10 to 30% category, you aggregate up Google Amazon, Facebook, GE General Motors, Tata, Ali Baba, and the entire world of conventional large, publicly traded, you know, non family businesses, public and private.

But they are dwarfed by the impact the economic impact and the societal impact their family businesses bring.

Ressa 7:02
That’s a wild stat. So Wild Wild stat. That’s a wild stock.

Ifshin 7:06
It’s crazy. Well, it’s so true.

Ressa 7:09
Well. Well, how did how are they defining family business? What it was, because to me, that feels that step feels a little bit like it’s every business other than public companies. That’s what it feels like.

Ifshin 7:25
It’s really big. It’s not at all. So if two unrelated people give you a very classic example, right? Two unrelated people start a tech company. And they grow that business and they take private equity, and that business gets to be very big. And one day they take that business public, whether whether they think it or not, they are not related. That is not considered a family business. Okay. An example of that, right? is Sergey and Pierre at Google, right? That’s right.

So, you know, Elon Musk, nine children, notwithstanding Twitter, and Tesla and SpaceX are not family. So what generally defined the family business is that there are one or more members of the same blood related family who start and then ultimately run a family business. So if you think about our industry, just to tie it back to the retail real estate industry, our industry is family businesses. Builders family DLC is just one of about a billion family businesses, right?

Some of the biggest owners who you and I talk about frequently, your family businesses, right? Benderson. Right. So Randy Benderson is the second generation his father and mother, Nate and I forget his mother’s name, started the business. And now his son Shawn, and his other son whose name escapes me are in the business. That’s a third generation family business. But many, many, many of the retailers are or were family businesses.

Sure, any of them, right. In fact, the Business School here at the University of Vermont has two buildings. Right. The first building is named after a gentleman who’s alive and in his early 90s. His name is Eugene calkin. Jean calkin. I’ll get to Jean in a minute. And the expansion of the Business School is named after Stephen F. Shin, who you knew well my dad. So calkin Jean calkin was the founder of linens.

He was also the founder of the home furnishings business in New Jersey, not far from where you live. Now, Chris, in Paramus had Oradell called calkin which he ran with his wife after he created and sold linens and things. Many family businesses started family businesses and they get sold, right. Jean sold linens and things initially to even to a majority owned entity of Kmart and they ultimately took it public.

Right and then they spun it off. But there are many, many I mean, the REIT the retail business is all about family business, right? wife, Alicia, who you know, well, right. She and her mother had a family business and her mother and a father and another pop business before them in the retail pharmacy space. Most retail chains in America started as family businesses. Got

Ressa 10:18
it? Wow. That is super interesting. So you’re at this, this event in Vermont? I don’t know if you can share. Are they these are they in this competition are they like, theoretically starting their own business and that’s the competition. This is what are they is the competition is so.

Ifshin 10:40
This is a case competition. And the way case competitions work, and their case, around a lot of different subject matters. So there are just generic case competitions glow held globally. A team, a team from UVM is currently at a case competition at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University on the same weekend, and that case, competition is all about diversity, and business.

So now here’s the way a case competition works. The way a case competition works is a panel usually as much as a year in advance puts together a strategy of what the competition is going to include. And generally what happens is, students are given a case like they would be given a case to work on in business school.

And they and they have a limited amount of time to prepare for that case, and to present in 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes of q&a to a panel of typically four judges their view on the case if they were advising the business in the case, that’s the way these work. This is no different than if you go to a business school, undergraduate or graduate that uses the case method to teach.

So this is famously places like Harvard, Dartmouth, Kellogg, well, who rely on the case study many, many, many businesses rely on the case study method. So the cases are generally timely, in the family in a family business competition, they are focused on family businesses, and usually about inflection points in those family businesses.

And how and and how the the team comes about to craft the strategy using usually theories and concepts that they’ve been taught in class, amongst other things to come up with cogent, defensible, durable, and oxidative recommendations and solutions for challenges that a particular business in the case is facing.

So I agreed after calling off the the IPO, to be the son of a case, that would be written by the then dean and now chaired professor of family business and entrepreneurship here at the University of Vermont. Wow, that ultimately led to her and I being co authors of that case, that case has never been a subject of the competition for obvious campaigns. It’s right, it would be unfair for me to be both a subject and a judge.

Ressa 13:25
Did anyone ever say you were stupid? Why didn’t you go public?

Ifshin 13:30
No, actually, for the most part, not to toot my own horn most people thought I mean, most of the wasn’t people who have read or use the case to teach thought that I made the right decision. Now, there’s not disclose what happened. Right.

So that’s part of the challenge for the students. The other case very there, there are a number of very famous cases in the family business world, but perhaps one of the most famous family business cases is about a company you know, which has all the you know, and all the some extraordinary blow ups in the 2000s after the patriarchs passed on, and they passed on with a lot of rules that turned out to be way too restrictive and a bunch of other things.

Interesting how and I mean, I’m all the legal Trader Joe’s, I mean, move into when you move to Europe and then to Asia. You think about the dominant really dominant players in the retail space. They are overwhelmingly family businesses.

Ressa 14:39
It’s a really interesting perspective. I you know, not what I work in a family business but you know, outside of this, of our four walls, I don’t think about it is in the same way as you so when I hear you speak about it, I’m just fascinated because I it didn’t even I know all those companies?

I know a lot of what they do well, I know. They’re the how they actually generate for while EBIT up pretty well, but to go the next level and just think of them as family businesses is not something that I do often. So it’s pretty good context.

Ifshin 15:19
So, well, and by the way, some family businesses in become many times multigenerational they move, a move to where family members may or may not still be involved in the management of the business. They may be involved in the ownership of the business and not the management of the business. I think, certainly the example in the United States that most people relate to the most is Cargill.

Right, the massive conglomerate out of Minnesota, that now I think, has north of 150 cousins in various generations, who in some way, shape or form are owners of the business in this country. Cow, but Cargill, I believe is now mostly externally managed. Sure, I mean, these companies, what about what about the Koch family and the Koch brothers, right? Yeah.

Now, they’re just massive, extraordinarily huge family business, with obviously massive impact in many, many facets of American life, both economically and politically and otherwise. So Oh, yeah, no, I knew the structures, and the nature’s of them can get incredibly complex.

And they have an added dynamic, right, which is that you have to contend with generational transfer of wealth, divergence, perhaps of family goal, both values. And you also have to deal with at a certain point in time, Is it logical for the the management and leadership of the business to be separate from the management, the leadership of the family’s business, and welfare? Right.

Ressa 17:05
I would say that piece, just little inside baseball, and I honestly don’t know, and I think I have a lens through those are pretty separate at DLC to an extent.

Ifshin 17:16
So you know, turning this to DLC and the concept of family business for, and I’ve spoken about this, you know, not really in public before, but it’s no secret. I, and this aggravates to some extent of the family business practitioner crowd, I have always taken the view that DLC, our goal is for DLC to be best in class and what it does, if it happens to get to that place better, because it’s a family business, that’s great.

But I’m not. I’m not saying oh, well, we’re only benchmarking ourselves against other family businesses in our space. We’re competing, right for our three most important stakeholders, and they don’t care for if fair or not, right. For the most part, team members looking for a great career in our industry, with a great company with a great culture. They’re not saying oh, I’m only going to work for a family business, right.

And we have many people who’ve gone from family businesses to non family business and back again, retailers, generally, and yeah, there may be some say, Oh, I love doing business with longtime, you know, owners, private owners, and those may be more likely to be family business.

But by and large retailers are focused on location and deal economics and the ability to landlord to execute not whether or not your family business, and institutional capital, I think we can make an argument is probably less attracted to family businesses. See that there’s a lack of alignment between family businesses and their investment, their investment needs criteria, particularly around things like duration and control.

So if you think about all that I spent 20 plus years of my career at PLC, a business that I co founded with my father, expressly saying, we were not a family business. And I did that for a number of reasons. One is because I think, and you know, this, because you’ve been, you’ve been on the brunt end of this sometimes, which is, I believe that we we should grade ourselves on an absolute basis to be the absolute best we can be in our industry, irrespective of our ownership structure.

Ownership structure gives us a competitive advantage to get there. Fabulous. If not, it can’t be an excuse. That’s number one. Number two is, you know, for a very long time, and you and I lived through this, the world believed that we were in a business that didn’t have a great future. Right, and by the way, you know, I shared the awards last night with one of the senior most executives from Amazon was a UVM alum, great guy.

And, you know, the world would come to us and say, Well, isn’t Amazon gonna put you out of business? Isn’t Amazon gonna make you bro? And you know fervently I never believed that. And first and proven to be right. And our contrarian thesis around investing in open air retail space turned out to be the solution, not the victim of E commerce. And you and you and I and our whole team wrote a research piece about physical distort one.

So I you know, one of the things, though is that good on drawers family are not right, their risk managers and then their risk mitigant. So, I always, I didn’t want to commit that, and I didn’t want to ever pressure my children, good business or not, that they should have to come into the business to keep it a family business. In part because of the landscape we are in be because the business is not easy.

As you know, it’s complex, it’s challenging, and I wanted my children, hopefully, to be able to follow whatever passion and whatever dreams they had, and make them a reality. And I told my children consistently, that if you’re interested, I’m interested, the business is interested, if you’re not interested, my my fervent hope is that if you do have an entrepreneurial desire, and remember my children are the are the are the children of to entrepreneurs.

If you do have an entrepreneurial desire that our family visited, my goal would be that our family business be successful, that if you wanted to start a business, you could come home to the table that you grew up having dinner at, and that all of the angel and seed investors you would ever need to start a business would be in and around that table would be your mom, your dad, your siblings, and your siblings significant others.

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Ressa 22:10
Fascinating. Okay. We’ve been chatting a while but family business, I think it’s really good con content, I have a simple question for you on just a leadership view and maybe just a self identity. And you’ve even done it on this call. If you go and I don’t care what asset class it could be in self storage, office, life science, retail industrial, most of the leaders in our space in the commercial real estate sphere.

In conversation, they’re probably referring to themselves in some way shape, or form as a landlord or a real estate investor. And I rarely, rarely hear you say that when someone asks you like, what do you do? You immediately say, and it’s instinctive. I think it’s who you are, that you’re an entrepreneur, which I think is super unique in the real estate space. Take me through how you think about that. And and why you identify like that versus and I this is no, this is no slight as just a real estate investor.

Ifshin 23:39
Right, we shouldn’t fight that. You and I both know a lot of real estate investors. And last time I checked, either you or the last prior president or billionaires. Right. So I think

Ifshin 23:53
we should we should give credit where credit is due. So you know, I started a business when I was 19 years old, which was which is not DLC today. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I always wanted to start my own business. I believe that

Ressa 24:10
and you wanted to start do that before it was the cool thing to do, which obviously you go on tick tock or Instagram and now it’s sexy, when you want it to be I wasn’t sexy.

Ifshin 24:20
I started my first business in 1985, which was at the time. If you think about it, the goal of gold while I was in college was at the time. You know, they were very diverse goals, but they were things around I want to go to graduate school. I want to be a doctor, I want to be an investment banker. I want to be consultant.

Yeah, I want to be I want to be a professor, you know, I want to be an artist, whatever it was, but there were there were a few people 500 Person class in college that were actively considering starting a business, you know, sometimes it’s before they were 30 if at all, so I always and I looked at, I looked at starting and building a successful business as one of data. Look, I’m blessed, I think I’m think I’m pretty bright. I think it’s one of the ultimate challenges in America in America.

And capitalism, to be able to build a successful business, where you generate more money you need to live, so that you can raise a family, so that you can do good deeds, so that you can become philanthropic. So that you can build I enjoy, right? I get you notice, I mean, I really enjoy things that a lot of people don’t around business.

And when I say building a business, it’s not about you know, becoming dominant in a space, it’s not about building a castle to the sky, it’s not about being the biggest, to me, it’s about building a team of people to do stuff. That’s not easy. And to me, the motivation is, when you take on a challenge, as an entrepreneur, you’re not only taking on the execution risk, you’re taking on the financial risk.

And now Now we’re talking about you know, that’s that’s chess, not checkers. And to me, that is like the ultimate challenge and the ultimate. And I, I wanted to control my own destiny, there was no, there was no doubt I have a high degree of self belief, self confidence, the self awareness came later. And I, I’ve always said, Look, I ended up in the real estate business, because my father had been a real estate broker. And it was sort of a natural grab, hold.

But I could have been, I could have been an entrepreneur in any number of different businesses. And, you know, it ended up here. There’s a lot of logic to that. I mean, if you look around the United States, in particular, the number of people and their families who may have started with very little or nothing, who had been able to accumulate wealth and the real estate business, the real estate industry, it’s far easier to, to make an impact and generate real success in a highly fragmented space, right?

I mean, you know, if I wanted to go start a car company from scratch, like some other entrepreneur that’s in the news frequently, you know, the odds of that are really long.

We know 1000s, you and I know 1000s of people who have who are, they may not relate to themselves this way, who in one way or another have, you know, have met some reasonable, you know, bar of being successful entrepreneurs in real estate, real estate provided an extraordinary area of opportunity and love, you’ve had many of them on the podcast.

I remember way back in the beginning, some of the people you’ve had on the podcast, when you started the podcast, you know, right before the pandemic, and a lot of those people. A lot of those people, you know, they had a vision, they wanted to start something. And and you look at their passion. And I think that I had a lot of the same thing. Yeah.

Ressa 28:23
Super helpful. You, I think you hit on a point that I want to stick to, which is you want to your biggest passions, and you think about being an entrepreneur, like one of the top skill sets you need is being able to build teams. And everybody might have their view on building teams and what that means. What’s it like building a team and growing the team in a post COVID world? Because I think it’s super different than a pre COVID world.

Ifshin 29:05
So it’s definitely different than a pre covered world. I think there’s no question about that. So I think part one point it is. I think that real and this took me a long time. I did not get this right. At the beginning, I think it’s really important to recognize that entrepreneurs who successfully have a business as long as we’ve had DLC, they get you, you look, you better learn how to learn from your mistakes.

Right, because the world changes really fast and it only gets harder and more complex. I did not recognize this in the beginning. The backbone of any successful entrepreneurial business is not the brain of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur cannot do it by themselves, no matter how brilliant no matter how talented, no matter how little they sleep, not possible.

The absolute key to the develop the successful development of any business, I have come to learn through trial and error is your ability to build a team. If you can build, motivate, and, and, and create a talented team that can add value to whatever it is they do above, they ought to be compensated, then you’re creating that equity.

Without a team, there’s a limit to how much of that you can create, if you want to create it and scale it, you successful entrepreneurs better first and foremost, be team builders, and incredible people, people. It’s an absolute requirement, in my view, it is the most the single most important skill set, I believe today that any entrepreneur needs to have to be successful. And now turning to the second part,

Ressa 30:54
it’s not coding, it’s not coding.

Ifshin 30:57
By the way, by the way, as you know, I am a frequent venture capital investor across see Angel seed series A and growth with different, you know, professionals, and independently. The, if you look at it, right, there are people with incredible ideas. That doesn’t mean they’re gonna be incredible entrepreneurs. That’s very, very different. Now, there are people with great ideas, too, that, you know, hey, building a team isn’t for them, or it’s not their skill set.

And they very often, right, the really smart ones, they they step aside from some of that stuff. And they, they, they, they go and get the best and the brightest to go do that. Because they realize that they’re better off, right thinking about thinking about the next iteration of the innovation, as opposed to the execution. And that’s not uncommon. And I think that’s fine. It’s just different. Right? But true to your point about COVID.

So if if people are willing to take the leap of faith with me, consider building a great team. And a great culture to keep that team together, is the single most valuable and important thing to both succeeding and to excelling. Then you turn to COVID. And the thing about COVID? is, it stressed every part of your ecosystem in a business in real time, in ways that were not foreseeable. And it’s taken us a long time to figure this out.

But one of the things that he did, was it placed after the initial phase of just adrenaline, right, run through the wall, save the business, which you and the team did a phenomenal job of when you get to the sort of endemic stage, that you’re not going to snap your fingers and it’s gonna be over. And that the effects of this are going to linger a long time not even talking about the medical and societal effects.

I’m sorry about the effects on a business for the moment, then you get to the question of how do you keep your team together? How do you keep your team motivated? And the big challenge has been around leadership and those issues. That’s where the supercharged, biggest challenge, in my view has been.

Ressa 33:36
I think the simple follow up to that is, what are the challenges as you see it in leadership? And then how do you think some of the solutions will, what will some of the solutions turn out to be today and going forward?

Ifshin 33:54
So so it took me it took us a long time to get to this place, but I think and it’s gonna sound simpler than it was in the journey to figure this out. Most businesses are not enterprise. Most businesses and probably family businesses are somewhere in the middle market. And successful middle market businesses. Typically, we’ve been taught since the 80s. In the United States need to be flat. Right?

You need to you need to focus on a handful of people who are driving revenue and leadership and a whole bunch of people who are driving execution, you need a flatter organization versus hierarchical one. So that you can generate more you can generate better margin lower costs, more productivity, and ultimately write more more EBIT da and more equity.

The challenge is, and this was a challenge pre COVID is as your business grows, and as people move up and experiences move up, you’re moving doers into managerial roles and leaders job roles. So that’s a challenge and of itself. Now, go do that, and COVID. And you are really stressing, you’re really stressing that part of the ecosystem. That’s what I’ve learned. On top of it all. COVID specifically created immense challenges.

So most people who get to that point, right, you come into a middle market business, you’re a doer, you’re really good at it. You’re a leasing agent, and you’re a senior leasing agent, then you’re a director, then you’re a VP, or same path and property management, same path and construction, same path and acquisitions.

Now you’re up to a point where your next move is, you’re gonna manage a team, you’ve been a great doer, all this time, you could have managing, let’s say, you started doing that at 25. Now you’re 35. Right? That’s a round numbers, generalization. You’re so let’s say you’re out at whatever, five to 10 years, you’re in your 30s. And you’re doing great.

And now this is what you’ve always wanted, I’m going to be, you know, I’m going to be the vice president of leasing for region, or I’m going to be the head of leasing, or I’m gonna be the head of proper whatever it is. Well, guess what? So now, how you do it of being a manager, we already talked about that pretty good challenge, right?

You got to and people like me, and you have to give people, the time to mentor them and help them get the skill set, they need to make that transition, which is not an easy transition you and I’ve had that conversation 100 times. Now comes COVID. Well, guess what most people in that age bracket are givers in their personal lives. Now their caregivers too. So not only is their business life changing, but their personal life is changing. So maybe they have children.

Maybe they have an elderly parent or two elderly, elderly grandparents that they need to care for both physically and financially. Now layer all of that. Your job, we’re asking you to do more, your jobs harder because of COVID in general. Right? Well, scrambling for all the things we had to do collect the rent, figure out how to lease space, you would supply chain issues, I can go on and on and on. We could have a separate podcast about that.

But now, later, that would the fact that the acres closed, take your 40% more expensive. My mother used two days a week and my mother is 70 immunocompromised, and the other three days a week my child goes to daycare, which is a Petri dish. And I can’t have my mother watch my kid two days a week. So what am I going to do? So think about, think about what I’ve just described.

We have we have COVID has taken up a demanding career inflection point, that many people couldn’t figure out how to navigate, even with great help and support, many did something before COVID. And now we’ve added all these other things on top of it. It should come as no surprise to any leader of any organization.

People in your organization who are probably not necessarily but probably under the most stress, struggling the most, and are the most worn out from the combination of the events that I’ve just described, are those who are frontline and first time managers and leaders who also happen to have people other than themselves and their significant other that they are responsible for.

Ressa 38:36
Yeah, I think you hit on a great point, right? And for those to unpack with Adam said again, you have these people who are in this major inflection point in their career, which is going from doers Dewar’s to management and leadership. And as that was happening, we now added all these outside complexities outside of the professional life, to that making it even more challenging than it already is, because it’s a really tough challenge that many do not, are not successful at. So I think the question that everyone’s wondering is, okay, Adam, we buy all that.

Ifshin 39:27
What do we do? So the so the answer is, I think, you know, you have to, it’s not as simple as calling up some consultant and saying, Okay, give me a toolkit. There was no toolkit for this. And this is where I think the intersection of entrepreneurship and leadership is so fascinating, and so demanded, by it had never led a company through a pandemic, you had love never led the company through a pandemic.

I don’t think we knew anybody who would ever lead a company through a pandemic, right. So you You’re out there, and it’s time to go innovate and create and try a bunch of things. And you know, I always a huge believers, you know, Jason Jennings may Rest in Pieces theory that you try a lot of small things to minimize their risk, keep the ones that work through up quickly throughout the ones that don’t.

And I think that that’s the case, I mean, it came, it’s everything from creating a super set, you know, creating the safest possible environment you can at work, so that you feel safe. Coming to work, we created as you know, flex plays flex time, which is probably, you know, short of 100% remote, the most family friendly, flexible approach to hybrid, straight. We amped we effectively shut the business down for a week, a year, right between Christmas and New Year’s.

Because if you think about pickup thing, just think about it, right? When did when two people, given the circumstances I described get the most? Well, you know, holidays, right? When it’s really extra demanding to be a parent, and the child of an elderly person, and it’s your ending your business is super demanding. So what did we do, we gave people more PTO, right, so that they could rest and recharge. And I think we saw this the last couple of weeks, right?

People came straight out of the gate. People keep storming out of the gate in a good way at DLC, and all of our other affiliated entities in and I think that’s important, because we, you know, I think the first thing, first thing that leaders need to do is they need to be cognizant of situation. That’s the first thing, you need to have compassion, right, you need to have absolute compassion, you need to put yourself in the shoes, you need to walk a mile and in that person’s shoes, then you need to help them.

Right and help can be more PTO, or good hybrid work policy, all of those types of things, those can only go so far. The real help is the mentorship. That’s where the real is really helping people going to people and saying, I see you’re struggling, it’s okay. What maybe I’m not saying I’ve been through exactly the same thing before, but tell me what’s going on. And maybe I can help you solve the problem faster, and you can learn. But you can also be more productive, missed out.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve taken a lot of time in the last 90 to 120 days, right to spend much more time more time with our people internally in person whenever possible, because some of these conversations, I think really do benefit from being in person, but also remotely saying, okay, what can we do to help? How do we tackle this, and I think they’re going to be much bigger, longer term solutions as well.

As you know, we’re we’re in the process of rolling out a program to revamp all of the systems processes and procedures that we use with, of course, the post COVID world, and how to make them more efficient, easier to use, how to simplify and streamline the workflows, so that we take out of our workflows, anything extraneous, so that if people have a lot of massive time demands, they can’t just be, you can’t just stop to somewhere else, right? You can’t.

Because it COVID You can’t have you use it live in health is not working for you on the childcare side, or because you can’t just go hire 10 people because there aren’t 10 people around to hire, who would be great teammates for the roles that are open, we need to simply and wipe out the non productive, extraneous workflows using systems using technology using just being smarter and playing smarter and using what we’ve learned.

And I think a lot of it comes down to really making a difference. durably post COVID comes down to those things we need to rethink and rework. Why, and we’ve already started this, I mean, just look at the difference it’s made when we went to a document management system at the first of the year from what we had before. I mean, it’s going to save 1000s People 1000s and 1000s of hours across the entire organization.

And that will hopefully help lower their stress, which will help make them more productive and more contributory.

Ressa 44:32
For sure.

Have you have you been? How much have you been playing around in the new document management system?

Ifshin 44:40
The answer is I’m the dinosaur not enough. Not enough. I am I have I have one big. I have one big like an internal in my brain commitment of what I’m going to do from a technology perspective this year. And I’m I’m trying to carve out enough space that I can be a good user of that product, because I think it’s the place where I can have the most positive impact on the organization.

Ressa 45:09
But, you know, I will say this,

Ifshin 45:12
if you want to get humbled that 58, leading your company, walk into a meeting where you really someone’s asking you to make a decision about a piece of software, and you realize that you really know very little about it. And you have to really have to rely on the skill sets of the people that you’ve brought up in your organization to make a good decision.

Ressa 45:40
For sure, the I think those are some one, I think you articulated some of the challenges in leadership, post COVID. And some of the solutions.

One of the things you mentioned on creating the team, and and you mentioned about, you know, these doers moving to management and leadership, I think one of the things that maybe we can end on is, from your perspective, what, what are some things, people who are in roles where their execution based, or as you’ve called them doers, can do to help themselves as they transition into management leadership.

Ifshin 46:38
So I think the single biggest thing that people can do is, if you believe that you’re going to get that opportunity, or perhaps you get to the unexpectedly in an organization, I think it’s, the first thing you can do is, you need to go, and you need to look in the mirror, and you need to be incredibly honest with yourself. The single biggest thing that I think takes leaders down before they even get out of the starting gate is a lack of self awareness.

So the first thing I think is really important for people to recognize is, is to become more self aware to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are honestly and open. And to ask other people. Too often I people who are doers who move into a managerial role, typically take the position that they want people to do it exactly the way they did it, because it worked for them. But guess what? People working for you.

They may be from a different generation, they may have a different educational background. They may they almost certainly have a different behavioral makeup, they may be motivated, motivated by different things. I think the thing that most people fail to recognize is that that self awareness is the beginning to becoming a really good people person, as a leader.

I’ve seen lots of people being great leaders, who know very little about what the people who they’re leading do. Experience can only get you so far. People skills will get you a lot further. And I think that’s the single biggest thing that people yes, if you look at the people in our organization, and obviously it would not be appropriate to name names, right. But the people who have moved across that divide from being a doer to being a leader.

And you’ll notice I’ve left out words like employee and manager, because those are words we don’t sociate with our culture DLC, but people who have who have moved across that divide from being a doer, or a contributor or even an impact player to being a leader. They’ve done that because their people skills. We’ve helped them in many instances, develop their people skills, and they’re motivated by seeing their people do well, more than they are by their own personal accolades.

And I think you see that across. And by the way, if you think about it, some of the people that have become leaders in DLC, they do not have a behavioral makeup that says that they’re going to be a prototypical leader. But some of our most successful leaders are just are not, don’t have that prototypical behavioral makeup, but they’re successful because they have phenomenal people skills, and they’re really motivated. They’re motivated to teach, but they’re also motivated to learn.

Ressa 49:51
Well, that is excellent. I really, really appreciate you taking the time. I know you have Do run to the case competition in Burlington. Actually, I

Ifshin 50:04
gave the awards out last night. I’m running a plane to come home.

Ressa 50:08
Got it? Got it. Well, super, I’m

Ifshin 50:12
super excited to I am super excited to go. I love being here, but it’s always nice to come home. You’re ready.

Ressa 50:19
Got it? Well, you’ve done this once before. But I’m going to ask again since it’s part of the show, I got three fun questions for you at the end of the show, Adam. Okay. Are you ready?

Ifshin 50:35
I am for a question from you Chris. Whether I like it or not, I always have to be ready.

Ressa 50:39
All right. Here we go. Question one. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?

Ifshin 50:52
I’m so bad at this question. I would love I would love sort of the not jumbo discount or to come back. I would love I think that there’s a role still for you know, I changed my mind. You know what I would like you I would like to come back. I would like to, I wish and it’s not going to happen, I don’t think and they’re not extinct yet. But I would like the old bed bath and beyond to come back.

Ressa 51:23
So great answer the

Ifshin 51:28
Bed Bath and Beyond and be more than toys r us more than defined the category killer. Bed Bath and Beyond had 50,000 foot stores doing 300 hours of footage 15 years ago. Think about selling sheets and towels. It would be good for America.

Ressa 51:54
Love it. Question two.

What is the last item over $20 You bought in a store?

Ifshin 52:04
The last item this is going to this is going to be awhile, especially since I gave an Amazon listing the last item that cost over $20 in this in a store that I bought in a store and carried out of the store was a book a printed book.

Ressa 52:21
What book?

Ifshin 52:23
Well, I bought a whole pile of them. But the book that I the book that I bought for myself to read was called and then there was light. This is the historian at Vanderbilt, Jon Meacham, his latest book, it is about President Lincoln. As you know, I was a historian and now I’m an amateur artist, or and I find micelles ability to pull leadership lessons from historical people to be too be extraordinarily valuable.

And I will tell you the entire pile of books really revolved around the latest biography about Churchill. Meacham spoke about Lincoln, John Mac’s memoir about saving Morgan Stanley. And the book I’m reading right now, which is a book called Hearts touched by fire, which is a book about leadership by a gentleman by the name of David Burke, who served in four white houses.

Three Republican one democratic he’s the last person to have a senior role in both a Democratic and Republican White House and after that, he spent 20 years running a Leadership Institute at Harvard

Ressa 53:52
excellent, last question. Adam, if you and I were shopping at Target and I lost you what aisle can I find you and

Ifshin 54:06
So the answer is, you would probably find health and beauty aids section. I’m currently in the market to find as you know I am a shaved head bald man. I’m currently in the market to find a shaving cream that is less hard on my head. So that’s where you would probably find

Ressa 54:27
amazing. Really appreciate you doing this on a Sunday morning and safe travels back and I will see you soon.

Ifshin 54:37
I will talk to you tomorrow.

Ressa 54:41
Thank you for listening to Retail Retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show, please reach out to us at This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney Also don’t forget to subscribe to Retail Retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode.

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