HOW BROAD STREET STAYS FRESH
The four-person executive leadership team at Broad Street Realty, the Bethesda-based commercial real estate firm, has a good thing going, says CEO Michael Jacoby.
“Some very bright, smart, talented, dedicated folks,” Jacoby says. “They all bring different skills to the table. Some of them bring their charm and personality, some of them bring pure intelligence, but the commonality is that they all exude the values of our organization, they promote them within the organization, they reward people who recognize those values within our organization, and as a result we end up with a pretty good culture.”
The challenge, Jacoby says, is that the team has been together a long time — so they have to look for ways to keep the dynamic fresh and exciting.
“I think the biggest challenge that management teams face is just getting stale,” he says. “You know, you get stuck accepting things, you get stuck accepting the status quo. We get stuck accepting mediocrity of performance and as a result we, as managers and leaders, we get stale. I think that is really dangerous and that’s why every so often you have to step back and take a look at things and be willing to make a change, be willing to rejigger people, be willing to do a new product from time to time, especially if you’re not growing anymore. Once you stop growing as a person, you’re going to die.”
In commercial real estate — Broad Street is a full-service firm that owns, manages and leases properties — you have to be able and willing to change direction when the market changes, Jacoby says. That could mean a change in geography, in product offerings, or even in the sales pitch.
“I think all business leaders to a certain extent are students of the macro world and what’s going on,” Jacoby says. “So you can see certain changes coming, or at least things you ought to be paying attention to. At our company level, we have certain key performance indicators we focus on, obviously things like the top line and the bottom line and everything that goes into that. And if we sense that our pipeline is drying up for one reason or another, or we sense that the world has the potential to go sideways, well, perhaps it’s time to investigate a change.”
Broad Street has broadened, or shifted, its focus a number of times over the years, Jacoby says, noting, “I think we do change really well. Sometimes it takes us a little bit to get there. We don’t make that decision lightly, we don’t make decisions to change quickly, but we are small enough and nimble enough that if we need to make the change, once the decision is made, we can go 100 miles an hour. We’ve recreated ourselves more than a couple of times over the years.”
That has meant business lines that, over time, have included office buildings, industrial buildings, multi-family housing, retail, data centers and self-storage centers. “That doesn’t mean we necessarily gave up on some of those other verticals,” Jacoby says, “it just gave us the opportunity to continue to move forward and execute, just with a different product.”
Jacoby also ensures that Broad Street staffers get a lot of training, with formal training for newcomers, ongoing one-on-one session for veterans, a regular annual meeting that includes a day of learning, weekly training sessions and manager feedback.
“We focus on teaching people the skills they need to be successful in real estate as well as in life,” Jacoby says.
The company also makes a point of giving its employees increasing amounts of responsibility, and helping them work through the learning process.
“We give people the opportunity to take responsibility and we see how they grasp that responsibility,” Jacoby says. “Are they able to grow, are they able to learn from their errors and learn from their mistakes? They’ll never be punished at our company for making a mistake as long as they learn from the opportunity that was provided to them.”
Jacoby, a triathlete and father of five, may be the biggest advocate of taking advantage of life’s opportunities. “Life’s too short,” he says. “There are so many things in life to see and accomplish and try. What keeps me up at night is running out of time to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself.”
Photos (L to R): Michael Jacoby, CEO; Tom Yockey, President; Alex Topchy, CFO; Kena Hodges, VP of Administration