Why Diversity is Your Best Competitive Advantage
On November 14, I had the pleasure of speaking at Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurship Conference about entrepreneurial culture and how to create a team. While I was preparing for the panel, it gave me an opportunity to reflect back on my own journey and acknowledge how much entrepreneurship, diversity and culture have impacted it. Here are some of the key things that I shared, based on my own experience as the founder of Unison:
- Real estate investment is a very competitive industry where your main resources are capital, your relationships, and your track record. When I started Unison, I didn’t have those resources, having moved only a few years before from Lebanon. The question I faced was how to turn this disadvantage into a strength to get my company up-and-running.
- First, I hired a team of talented, diverse professionals who offered a variety of perspectives and areas of expertise. Our executives are made up of brilliant, ambitious women who were frustrated by the lack of opportunities for them in the commercial real estate world and the near nonexistent understanding of the need to achieve a work-life balance for moms. I also hired capable millennials who value their freedom and autonomy in the workplace and adhere to the concept that in a highly connected world, work can be done anywhere and at any time. As a gay dad who shares the parenting responsibilities with his partner, I understand the difference that flexibility can have, and it was important to me that my team benefit from that same flexibility.
- As Unison grew, diversity was not just a nice add-on, but was at the core of our growth strategy. While building a diverse team started at the top out of necessity, our openness to differences evolved into a company culture and a set of policies that promotes the hiring and retention of a talented, highly effective set of diverse professionals. I was able to counter the lack of diversity in real estate, which is inefficient for the market as it limits the viewpoints and backgrounds of people at the table, to create a competitive advantage by hiring employees with a wide range of perspectives and areas of expertise which in turn positively impacts our bottom line.
- It all comes back to talent. In order to outdo the competition and grow your company, you have to hire talented people and motivate and inspire them in their work. To make that happen at Unison, I tapped into a smart pool of “under-utilized” people in the real estate world, women and millennials, and gave them what they valued most: responsibilities, flexibility, autonomy, and collaboration. Through these opportunities, Unison’s employees can continue their professional development in a setting that fits in with their busy schedules and keeps them engaged.
Bottom line: diversity helps to foster an entrepreneurial culture, which can be your best competitive advantage. When you give your team the opportunity to develop new skills and perspectives, you are giving them the platform from which to learn, grow, develop, and invest in their future.
P.S. We are hiring at Unison. Check out our openings