The ‘mundane’ pieces are important, too

About a decade ago, the Jefferson Avenue Center’s campus, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, reached a maintenance crisis. The historic district hosts nonprofits in its buildings, while the Jefferson Avenue Center takes care of the maintenance and capital improvements.

“Anybody who has owned a historic house knows that’s just never-ending, and when you multiply that by 11, it’s a tremendous undertaking to stay on top of the maintenance,” says Executive Director Katharine Moore.

While the budget was balanced, relying solely on earned income, it didn’t have maintenance reserves.

The Jefferson Avenue Center, finished with buying and rehabilitating its buildings, had to get creative with funding, looking into grants and sponsorships. It also evaluated each building to create a deferred maintenance and long-range enhancement plan in order to get the buildings back in better shape.

“We tightened up foundations, we replaced roofs and we have done an amazing amount of work in the last six years on the buildings,” she says. “It has transformed the campus and bought us another 50 years, easily.”

Moore, who had started with the Jefferson Avenue Center around that time, was surprised there were no maintenance reserves, but she’s found that to be the case with many nonprofits.

It’s easy to focus on creating amazing programs, but sometimes that means the more mundane — building maintenance — gets left behind.

I think this can be the case in many for-profit companies as well. Sometimes business leaders, who are only human after all, can tunnel in on the exciting, innovative and new. They can’t forget the “building maintenance” of their organizations. It may not be as fun, but it’s just as important.

This also reminds me of a CEO I spoke with several months ago. When I asked him what was the biggest weakness he saw in his industry, he said it typically all comes back to not understanding every nuance of your business.

A lot people don’t really know their finances or inventory. They don’t do the little things that ultimately help them recognize whether their business is succeeding or failing.

Learn more about the Jefferson Avenue Center in this month’s Uniquely feature.