John Foresi: Leading with Values and Continual Innovation7 min read
Great business leaders are driven by core values, and when those values are embraced entirely by an organization, great results are achieved. John Foresi, CEO and Co-Founder of Venterra Realty, a rapidly growing owner/operator of Multifamily rental communities with more than 60 properties across 11 major US cities, founded the company based on 7 Core Values. For John, those include Honesty & Integrity, Humility, a Never-Ending Pursuit of Excellence, Candor & Openness, Unparalleled Service Excellence, Team First, and Prudent Cost Management.
Honesty and Integrity are at the heart of Venterra Realty’s business decisions, ultimately leading to accountability and trust with its employees, residents, and investors. John incorporates Candor and Openness in everything he does and encourages those with whom he does business to follow. Venterra constantly strives to improve and lead the industry, resulting in numerous awards and recognitions – evidence of its commitment to its values, people, customers, and investors alike.
These values are the foundation on which Venterra has been built and are still significant in the company as John says, “It is ok if you do not believe in these 7 Core Values, but if you don’t, you just can’t work at Venterra.”
Leveraging Diverse Industry Experience
Prior to co-founding Venterra Realty in 2001 with his business partner, Andrew Stewart, John spent time in consumer-packaged goods, a boutique investment bank focusing on M&A, the logistics/supply chain industry, and software companies. Before Andrew and John founded Venterra, both worked for and led companies running the gamut of ownership and financing structures. Both have worked for large multi-nationals, small private firms, venture capital-backed companies, family owned/managed businesses, and public and private companies. Similarly, both have been employees, minority, and majority owners.
In the 1990’s, Andrew and John exited the software industry with a liquidity event prior to the Dot.com implosion, with several motivating factors for starting Venterra. They knew they enjoyed working together and they were too young to retire (late 30’s). As much as they projected and believed in the long-term potential of the software industry, they also saw the downside of “swinging for the fences”, so with their liquidity event, their focus shifted to finding a way to invest capital and earn “singles and doubles” with less volatility.
Real estate in general intrigued them because of its durability through economic cycles. Multifamily interested them in particular because of its necessity of life characteristics. Even though they both are Canadians, they decided to focus exclusively on Southern U.S. markets because they believed that select Southern markets exhibited the ideal combination of both natural endowments and policies to ensure long-term economic prosperity. To this day, Andrew and John have not been disappointed. Additionally, they chose Multifamily because it is a complex asset class to manage, where being a great operator makes a difference – and they knew they could leverage their software backgrounds to bring industry-leading automation to the sector. This has been the on-going strategy for Venterra.
In founding Venterra, Andrew and John wanted not only to leverage their diversity of industry experience, but they also wanted to use their personal experiences to draw on what they believed to be the best way to organizationally structure -and fund- Venterra to maximize the probability for long-term success for all stakeholders.
An important driver of the innovation at Venterra is the varied industry backgrounds of both leaders and their desire to bring the best-practices they learned from working in other industries and adapt them to fit into the Multifamily sector. John believes this to be one of the top strengths at Venterra: that its leaders have a diversity of industry experience outside of the real estate industry.
Choosing a Value-Driven and Talented Team
The 7 Core Values are the foundation on which Venterra has been built and it has been blessed to have people throughout the company who passionately espouse these 7 values and practice them every day for the benefit of all employees who work at Venterra and for the tens and thousands of residents who live at its properties.
Venterra’s 7 Core Values and its people are the key ingredients to making the company stand out in the industry. Venterra is a real estate firm offering a comprehensive suite of services for its residents, but at the foundation are its people. Honesty and Candor permeate its interactions. Whether it is a prospective resident looking to rent an apartment or someone investing substantial capital in one of its properties, Venterra has created an environment where people depend on and trust it more than they trust Venterra’s competitors.
Over the years, John learned that it is truly people that make the difference. The challenge for anyone in a leadership role is to attract and keep the most talented, capable individuals who want to be part of a team. Eventually, the best teams always win over the best collection of individuals. Venterra is fortunate to have incredibly talented employees who genuinely want to be part of a team.
Prioritizing Health and Safety in a Pandemic
Protecting Venterra’s employees and residents has been a major part of its strategy to sustain operations during the pandemic. The company is using contact tracing to proactively manage its response to exposures and send any exposed front-line employee home with pay for the CDC recommended quarantine period. All employees and guests in Venterra community offices are required to wear masks and social distance. Floor markers are in place to serve as a constant reminder, and residents are asked screening questions before maintenance teams enter residents’ apartments.
To help protect Venterra’s customers, self-guided and video chat tour technologies are being used to facilitate contactless apartment tours and leasing activities. To help ensure a safe move, its newest residents are greeted with a home that has been treated with L.A.S.T.TM, a hospital-grade EPA registered product that kills and prevents the spread of Covid-19.
In Venterra’s corporate offices, all employees have been encouraged to work from home, and travel has been greatly restricted. Microsoft Teams has kept its communication efforts at the highest level possible, allowing for quick connections across two countries and the organization.
Venterra Realty is not in a hurry to make any changes as of now and is dedicated to focusing on the health and safety of its employees and residents.
Investing in Long Term Success
Ensuring those employed at Venterra and its property investors succeed in the long-term is something Venterra spends a lot of effort on and believes is fundamental to its ongoing success. For Venterra, this means orienting the company’s business strategy to focus on the long-term. John believes that companies that can remain focused on the long-term will prosper. Venterra therefore constantly makes the kinds of infrastructure investments it thinks are required for the company’s long-term success, which is why Venterra has not gone public nor accepted venture capital backing.
Venterra has a solid grasp of the macroeconomic and demographic trends that drive its economy and business. Venterra is well established and does not need to complete acquisitions to be profitable, so it only buys when the right opportunity arises. Through this acquisition strategy, it has and will continue to obtain well purchased assets and turn them into well operated assets for its investors.
Driving Value to Renters and Customers
Innovation permeates Venterra’s strategy. One of Venterra’s Core Values is the Never-Ending Pursuit of Excellence, which encompasses its infinite search for innovation and paths to success and has proven to position Venterra as a market-leading real estate management operation. Whether it is investing in and developing industry-leading technologies, modernizing and centralizing operational procedures, or simply identifying new ways to drive value to renters and provide them with an excellent customer experience, all efforts are defined by its focus on innovation.
Unparalleled Standards of Service
Venterra takes great pride in maintaining a vertically integrated company backed by a culture of continual innovation. It is focused on delivering an unparalleled standard of service through sensible value-based decisions. In turn, this has generated an industry-leading customer experience for residents and a portfolio of Multifamily real estate assets that deliver superior cash flow for investors.
Driving Growth and Operational Success
In ten and twenty years, Venterra’s plan is to be the same company today in terms of culture and values; only bigger. If markets cooperate by continuing to produce attractive investment opportunities, it expects to have more than 40,000 apartment units by 2030 and be more geographically diverse with increased capacity for new apartment development.
Venterra will achieve scalability and create a Mobile Enterprise by transforming its operational processes, by building a stronger, more empowered workforce and creating a more enabled customer base. It will ensure employees and customers have the infrastructure and tools necessary to be productive from anywhere and at any time. Renters will be empowered to do more of what they want, when they want through DIY access. Also, employees will be empowered to be productive from anywhere, working from home, while traveling, or while out on property.
Venterra will engage renters and support employees in context (in the exact moment) by leveraging tracking and data collection efforts to extract new value in every interaction which prepares Venterra well to take advantage of AI and automation opportunities and scale for the next decade of growth and operational success. A mobile strategy is not its own silo or specific technology.
More simply stated, Venterra will pursue solutions that provide value to its employees and customers as they move through their days.
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