Episode 156 – Seasoned Advice From a Seasoned Businessman
Steve: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. Wherever you might be in the world today, this is your host Steve Shallenberger and we have a terrific guest with us I’m excited to have this interview I’ve been looking forward to it. Lukas rose from an entry-level position to an executive role for the Real Property Management franchise system and he was named the real estate industry rising star by Housing Wire and achieved a lifelong dream of playing professional baseball with the New York Mets. Our guest today is Lukas Krause. Welcome, Lukas.
Lukas: Steve, thanks for having me.
Steve: Oh I’ve been looking forward to this and in addition to all these things Lukas and I are friends we’ve known each other for a number of years, and this is going to be a treat today in this podcast and before we get started, I’d like to just tell you a little bit about a little bit more about Lukas’s background. Like I mentioned he is the CEO of the franchisor of Real Property Management and this is the nation’s leading full-service property management organization with over three hundred and thirty locations in the United States. And in 2015 Lukas was named by the Housing Wire as one of the 40 young leaders driving the housing economy. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Indiana University and an Executive MBA from the University of Colorado. He lives in beautiful Park City with his talented wife, Valerie. And so let’s just start out by getting a little background on you Lukas. Tell us about your story, your background and maybe some significant events that may have led to where you are today. Help us to get to know you better.
Lukas: Great. Steve as you captured quite well I had somewhat of a colorful background, an eclectic set of experiences. Probably starts at my first job. I worked at my parent’s restaurant on the grill at age 7, which probably violated some child labor laws at the time but did teach me very quickly about having a work ethic and working at a pretty young age. I’ll tell you that that baseball journey was kind of an unconventional path. And it’s funny because that was probably one of the most impactful experiences that I ended up translating into my professional career. To kind of give you the short version of it. I reinvented myself as a pitcher at age 22 and I chased down that dream of playing professional baseball while working full time, and I learned some amazing lessons that kind of forever changed my life in the trajectory of my career from it. And you know as you think about it from a professional athlete, you take complete ownership of your skills and your development. And it reframed when I went into, kind of re-entered the workforce about being a driver not being a passenger in your career and how you pursue it. And funny because that’s kind of the backbone of the book in “The Business of You” and I know we’ll touch on that later but you should treat yourself and your career like a top performing business because you’re the one responsible for developing your professional skills. You should be thinking strategically about how you pursue opportunities and how they fit into your broader objectives. Also about how do you market yourself, and the other elements that took away from that journey or about conquering, you know, obstacles external and self-imposed by doing a lot of the unglamorous work. It’s funny how you know the day doesn’t end when you shut down the laptop and go home you need to continue to work and develop your skill. And another thing is it’s important to not be afraid of failing. Throughout that whole journey and you know baseball I got cut dozens of times and every time I came back and persevered, I got back up and everyone tells you that persevere, get up every time. But the important thing is to get up wiser, to learn from those mistakes so that you can grow and to dream big is kind of the last piece that I took from that experience in that journey and apply those to the career. And it was amazing. I went from an entry-level job to the C-Suite of an industry leading company in a less than ten year period and in large part, it’s because of those lessons that I applied from really an unconventional pursuit of playing professional baseball.
Steve: Okay good. We’re gonna get back to that in just a minute. I would like to just give you a little background on Lukas’s book “The Business of You.” This really explores an important topic for all of us, not only young professionals but every one of us, especially in today’s economic climate. Like how to find and be successful in a career. And this book really gathers the practices and approaches that helped Lukas go from this entry-level job to the C suite. And so I’m excited to hear more about this. And this is going to be really helpful. So tell us about what were the highlights of your baseball career? How do you do that? How do you decide to…
Lukas: There weren’t too many. I’ll say the highlight was spring training I got there and it was amazing. It was a whirlwind. I went from an office job on a Thursday to having to quit my job on a Friday, flying out Saturday and Sunday morning and being thrust into spring training and got to do some fun things. I threw a bullpen session and I looked to my right and it was Al Leiter multiple time All-Star to my left, it was future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, and it was just kind of a whirlwind experience. Got to play in some split-squad games which are a lot of fun, but you know I got hurt pretty quick and so it was I say not the overly successful career because I was just not in the right shape. I got hurt within the first couple of weeks and grinded through for about a season and a half through injuries and then eventually I had to re-enter the workforce and retire and I’d like to say retired but in all reality, baseball retired me because my body just couldn’t handle it.
Steve: Oh my goodness. But how many people actually rise to that level and could wear a professional baseball uniform. So congratulations on that and let’s go ahead now and take these experiences that you’ve had and I know that our listeners will be interested from the different aspects of this and your insights. Let’s talk about first of all coming in on a business turnaround. I think you’ve been involved in some of those. How do you attack that situation?
Lukas: I have been in quite a few I have made a career of jumping into difficult situations that whether they needed a turnaround or a realignment of resources to support growth. And what has served me well in these situations because they’re really highly levered because they’re stressful, the business is either not supporting the growth that it needs to, or is in trouble. And so to me what’s happened, what’s served me well is to get to the ground level and understanding the business end to end. Don’t rely on anecdotes just from people who bring it to you, engage every level every stakeholder in the business. And you need to do this quickly to get a great sense of reality. From there, you need to be strategic and move swiftly to gain momentum. But you have to position it, get some early wins and start to build up your advocate base you know within a franchise concept obviously giving your franchisees aligned with you, but it’s also your staff and making sure they’re seeing the vision. From there is getting the right people in the right seats. I know that’s kind of as most people know in business but it’s amazing how you don’t take the time of maybe reallocating or realigning resources that are talented just might wrong see from there you have to empower your stars because those are the ones who are going to carry the preponderance of the load then communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure that everyone knows what you’re doing and most importantly, why. You will have to give that message multiple times because it takes time for it to register and for people to fully grasp a broader vision because they’ll grab a bit of the information and then have a preconceived notion you need to beat the drum consistently to make sure that everyone’s aligned with where you’re going and why because you’re still trying to restore trust. A lot of times trust isn’t there and so you need to over-communicate so that everyone understands why. Because there are no perfect decisions but if everyone understands why the decisions being made and all of the considerations around it and the tradeoffs you’re willing to live with, those people will jump on board.
Steve: Those are great. I love these five things to really go around and be sure you get everybody’s perspective, their feedback. That’s so powerful. And then moving quickly getting the right people in the right place and then let them go. Be sure it’s clear and then you’re just always communicating where we’re at. So how long does this take?
Lukas: It depends on the situation. The Real Property Management one was when I jumped into where it was I would call a healthy turnaround. It was growing and we were a victim of our own success after the housing bubble. We had about 100 locations and it took us to retool and get the foundation built a good 12 to 18 months to get the staff right and get the basic elements of what we were trying to build in place. But as you know it’s business is an evolution. And so what we did in 12 to 18 months was build a sturdy foundation. But we continue to frame that house out. And now the fun thing is we’re doing kind of the high-end finishes because we invested heavily in that foundation and now we’re starting to thrive as a business which is almost seven years later.
Steve: Yeah terrific. Well, I think that will give encouragement to our listeners that this is a set pathway, a process of what it takes to really have any enterprise be successful. It’s ongoing but there are certain things that you do. It sounds like you put a plan in place that you set the vision you know here’s the strategy. How are we going there and then you just really worked it and worked it with the right people. Is that right?
Lukas: No question. That is correct.
Steve: Ok. Well, that would give encouragement. This is not something where you’re just shooting in the dark. There are specific things that you do. Now, how about you? This will be really important for our listeners what role does professional development play in your approach to leading businesses?
Lukas: I think it’s an important piece because talent is the backbone of any growing organization. As a leader, you should be developing your skills and continue to embrace the growth mindset of continual learning and have that kind of permeate throughout the rest of the organization. So that it’s part of the culture because your people and talent is your biggest asset. And so the key is to establish game plans for all of your talent and because obviously, you can increase their output which is great for the bottom line and the shareholders but increases employee satisfaction. It gives them a reason to stay and keep them engaged in the business. Whereas creatures we want to grow and evolve. You know that’s just human nature. The key is providing a platform to do that. And it pays great dividends when you do it. I’ve seen it better than anything else that we invest in the business. Invest in your people. It can go a long way. And this comes with not only developing a formal plan but being informal with it. There’s always those organic opportunities to develop talent. How many times have you been approached with a business problem and someone just asking you a question? “Hey, we have this problem” and it’s reflexive. You solve the problem for them, well you’re not doing them any benefits by just answering it and taking the problem off their shoulders. That’s a great opportunity for you to step back and go yeah, ok. Help them go through critical thinking skills. What are the problems here? What are the potential solutions? What are the tradeoffs? What would you recommend? And now that opportunity might have taken two minutes when you just answer the question, you blow it out to a five to 10-minute conversation. It’s hard at first if you’re busy, but the dividends that will pay down the line as you help them think through situations, maybe younger leaders who haven’t gone through some of those opportunities. It pays just great dividends and it’s hard. A lot of times, especially in turnaround to have that discipline because you just need results quickly but you have to walk that fine line of investing in your employees deep in those informal situations because that’s where real growth can occur.
Steve: That is a really powerful insight I think into creating highly successful businesses, is this particular perspective. And as we go all over the world, Lukas, this is exactly what we see, the very best companies in the world make an investment in their people and in themselves. I mean they realize the world is changing so quickly, they simply cannot afford to sit back on their laurels and hope whatever they did yesterday is going to make it work for tomorrow.
Lukas: That’s a great take into consideration that this new reality of this learning growing culture is everything is getting digitized. The evolution process has just accelerated and just puts even a greater importance on evolving and growing as individuals.
Steve: Right. Well, let’s turn our sights to another dimension of being successful and that is being able to prioritize your time. Be a good time manager. I mean time is such a precious commodity. So what’s been your experience? How do you find time to get things done and especially to really make a difference?
Lukas: It’s a great point right? Time is the commodity that is just getting less and less as the demands on us grow. And as you know we want to be more efficient with output. Have a plan every day and prioritize and getting comfortable with the idea of having to re-prioritize as necessary. But as I start my day, I build realistic lists of what needs to get done for the day from you know what my annual plan is, what my quarterly objectives are, what my monthly and weekly and so it cascades down naturally into what needs to get done today to move the needle on the big objectives. The other part about it is not only prioritizing your day, is manage how you deal with communication. Now with email, text, it’s so easy to get pulled down that rabbit hole of responding to emails. You just kind of push paper around. Now to me what has helped is to actually be disciplined and set times where I will check e-mail and voicemails only at three or four times a day. I know I’m fortunate to be in a position where I’m not directly a customer facing role though it’s so important to be disciplined and check only during certain windows to avoid kind of that trap or pitfall that it pulls you into. The other is fighting human nature and procrastination, is removing distractions. How easy it is to get pulled into our phone whether there’s a notification or an alert. Set the time your schedule what needs to get done. And when you do, give yourself a break. Give yourself a treat, go walk around, because it’s human nature to put off pain, we avoid pain and so sometimes a project that looks daunting like cleaning out the garage. How many times have you gone through that and then once you did it, you’re like oh that wasn’t that bad but you had built it up in your mind and naturally procrastinate because you just don’t want to have to deal with the work? So those are some key things I’ve done that have helped me. I always try to you know evolve on how I set my priorities for the day and how I manage my time but those are some key ones that I’ve been working on recently that have helped me.
Steve: Lukas, are there some things, you know we live in such a hugely stressful world. I mean so many demands, so many things pressing in on us. And you can almost feel like you’re being suffocated sometimes with them, you have texts going on and e-mails and Instagram and Facebook and phone calls and projects to do. How do you manage your stress so that you replace your stress with peace and confidence and you feel more centered, more deliberate as you’re going forward if you have you been able to find something that works for you?
Lukas: It’s a work in progress, always an evolution. I always try to find harmony and balance which to me is kind of like a mythical creature that I always chase but I have found there are a few tactics to managing kind of my own stress. Working out’s an important piece. That’s a great way for me to diffuse. Ideally, you know, it’s a great way to recharge. I try to do a midafternoon but given where my schedule has been I’d say over the last few years, I haven’t been as good at that. So I’ve worked on just doing it in the morning, getting it out of the way because it was getting lost so I had to force that discipline. The other is understanding yourself; what our core values are and it’s more of an emotional response and so when you see some triggers to engage more of the rational part of your brain. You know with meditation are great vehicles to use but left me with a whirlwind of your day just stacking up because if you look at my calendar you’d laugh you know from pretty much about 7:30 to most days 4:00 or 5:30. It’s booked without a break. But one thing I do is try to wrap meetings around five minutes early so that I can transition, I can digest what has occurred and then focus to move to that next appointment so that I don’t let maybe that stressful bad situation you know fall into that next meeting and then it comes as dominoes where then I come into that next meeting and I’m not my best self I’m not truly engaged. And it’s like bringing that baggage into that next thing. That’s not fair to anyone. And so trying to create those transition periods I have found helped, jotting out what needs to occur from that digesting it and then going focusing on what’s my objective for this next meeting or this next interaction.
Steve: Okay. Good. Yeah well that’s really great advice and in the world of Becoming Your Best and I know this is a common issue for all of us because it’s so easy to feel like you’re a firefighter and many days, is one of the principles of highly successful leaders is doing exactly what Lukas is talking about which is to find healthy ways to prioritize your time. And so one of the things that we have found that’s quite helpful, you may do this already, Lukas, is doing some pre-week planning before the week ever starts. In other words just sitting back sometime during the weekend from Friday afternoon but before Monday morning and reflecting upon what matters most through your roles and then sketching out actions that are most important and sketching out your week. So before it ever starts you have a framework that you can mentally get prepared for and say I’m excited about this week, rather than kind of retreating and not sure if that resonates at all but that’s something we found to be quite helpful.
Lukas: Very much so, I had a great mentor recommend that and so it’s a typical Friday afternoon exercise right before you wrap up, just reframe, digest what works for the week and what’s ahead. And like you said framing it in a positive lens. All too often we can get fixated, right, where human creatures will get fixated on the negative but celebrate some of the wins. It’s almost optimism reconditioning in a lot of ways of the highlights of the year and what you what you’re excited about next week, it goes a long way because it does frame it as, okay I got a lot to do next week and I’m excited about we’re going to knock out these things so that Monday morning once that alarm goes off and you get into the office you’re ready to run.
Steve: All right awesome. All right well good, good thoughts. Now what have you found is a great way to diffuse conflict type situations? Stressful, awkward, difficult situations in the workplace? How have you dealt with that? What are your thoughts?
Lukas: This is one that’s gone over I’ve used different frameworks and I’ve worked with a lot of individuals who have helped me and take courses. I believe it’s just simple places with a safe environment. Whether it’s just you having a conflict with someone else or you’re in kind of a moderator-mediator role. Create a safe environment. That means to acknowledge that upfront, share what the objective is from the get-go because typically it’s an emotionally charged situation and let everyone know the goal is here to resolve this, get to a good place that everyone can move forward from. To do that, you have to give every op, give each side the opportunity to share the facts and the difference is not their interpretation of the facts. And so as a moderator you may have to help correct course because we can cherry pick certain facts that will tell our narrative. But once you get that out and you help kind of correct course with the true facts that everyone agrees on, the next piece you can do is get both parties to at least appreciate the other perspective because if ever and if you get to all the facts you can see and maybe understand how the other individual views it this way. The other is engaging the problem-solving part of the brain by asking for potential solutions to all involved parties. Get that shift towards, hey this is the reality, this is where we’re at, now how can we move forward. And you want to engage both sides because you want a vested interest in the solution. From there find where there are common ground elements of the solution and kind of ferret them out so that you can get to a true commitment from both sides. And the key is to secure commitments on what both parties are going to do and then the last piece is the follow through. Because you’re coming from a, I’ll say a fractured situation on the relationship if everyone makes those commitments and does not see this through on their commitments, you’re gonna be in an even bigger hole. I’ve seen when this is managed well and correctly you can have come out of it with even stronger relationships where that conflict kind of started what you know kind of healing process and moved everyone forward to, they have a stronger relationship because they’ve gone through some wars together. So that’s the typical framework on how I’ve attacked conflict as I’ve evolved through the years.
Steve: Oh so healthy. So that’s terrific. So really listening, being sure you understand, frame up the issues so you agree upon what it is, inviting them to provide their feedback and really give their thoughts about it and then move to possible solutions.
Lukas: You nailed it.
Steve: Good stuff. I mean nice model. Nice pattern there.
Lukas: It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of say a lot of mistakes, right? You learn the good way that builds on a lot of a lot of mistakes and mismanagement of other situations.
Steve: Exactly get to a good place. Well, that’s a good model that works. Let’s just think about your book. I’d love to have you talk a little bit about “The Business of You” and this is a guide for finding, managing and succeeding in your career. Can you just give us a few highlights from your book there, Lukas?
Lukas: Yes. The book is really designed to be a guide to help people manage their career like a high functioning business. And so what it lays out is a framework for how to establish clear set your goals, your vision for your career. Then go through the process of finding your skills, your strengths and how you can develop a plan of growth to accomplish your objectives. Then it goes to more of the practical elements of how to prepare yourself for interviews, your marketing materials and refining your resumé to show it’s tailored to your audience like a high-end marketing collateral piece of collateral because that’s really what it is. From there then it evolves into once you secure employment. How to optimize your day. Be efficient with the use of your time. How to do you know some of the basic things like conflict management, how you’re managing your day to day business, how you market your brand your personal brand and then from there tapping into kind of this key skills you need to have like reading body language, how to present, lead a project, and also how to prepare. One of the things I think is often neglected is the preparation elements for whether you’re giving a presentation or presenting in a meeting or even meeting with your manager. How to prepare so that you’re organized and getting you to maximizing your output but also how you’re perceived within the organization. So it’s this balance of how to set up and prepare your structure but also with practical elements on how to be more effective in your day to day, I’ll say operations like your day to day out you know execution of your job and your role.
Steve: Ah that’s great. And so it really contains a number of the things we’ve talked about. And it sounds like really quite a bit more as well.
Lukas: It does. It does, really the guide is about giving you a leg up from the other individuals if you’re in Corporate America so that you can maximize your output and put yourself in the best position to succeed. Because often I think people are assessing opportunities and not only just what the company is but who you’re working for. What’s the quality of the manager? Are they going to put you in a position to grow expand? So there, it also helps on strategically lining up your positions to help you kind of climb through the ranks so you can achieve your goals.
Steve: Okay. Good stuff. Well I’m always amazed at how time flies and we’re at the end of our visit today that’s the end of this show but before we leave this interview I’d like to ask Lukas if he has any final tips for our listeners that you would like to leave today.
Lukas: The final tip I’d like to leave with is just the power of incremental improvement. I cover this in the book but its one that’s often neglected, especially in today’s instant gratification culture. We want to get better now. And so when we look at a skill that we want to develop if we if it doesn’t come to us naturally we almost become deterred and quit too early. Before we even get proficient and so to me it’s just embracing the power of concentrated focus for 15 to 30 minutes every day you can get better at something. That has served me so well and in a lot of my pursuits. That’s how I focused on baseball while I was working full time that I dedicate more than 15 to 30 minutes but every night I worked on a skill. For my book, I wrote in a six month period but I dedicated at least 15 minutes to 30 minutes every day and it’s amazing what you can do by just with concentrated effort and consistently chipping away at something whether it’s writing a book, developing a skill, and if you really dedicate the time and energy you will be blown away with what you can accomplish with just committing the time and energy and in discipline.
Steve: Fantastic. Okay well, how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Lukas: A couple places. My book, “The Business of You” is available at Amazon and at retailers like Barnes and Noble. The website also from my personal side on that is masterthebusinessofyou.com. To learn more about Real Property Management and our services that are at realpropertymgt.com, and those are probably the best ways to find out what I’m doing.
Steve: Well thank you Lukas for being with us today and being part of this show. It’s been fabulous.
Lukas: Thank you for having me.
Steve: Oh you bet. OK. Well, we wish each one of you who is listening with us the best as you are making a difference. These are great ideas that we have. These are the things that actually help us to get to a better place. It’s at the very heart of Becoming Your Best. In other words, it’s both the mindset, but it’s also the skill set and that’s really what we’ve talked about today. We thank Lukas as part of that contribution that he’s made, but it’s also something that each one of us keeps working on and it radiates out as we just humbly try to keep learning, making a difference to everything and everybody that we touch. So to all of our listeners, we wish you all the best. This is Steve Shallenberger wishing you a great day.
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