Building the vision Featured

12:23pm EDT August 31, 2005
When you are in charge of more than 470 properties comprising 109 million square feet of space located in 44 states and Puerto Rico, you’d better have a strong vision to keep everything tied together.

Scott Wolstein, CEO and chairman of the board of Developers Diversified Realty Corp., created a vision for his company that keeps it focused on strategic goals.

“I think any time you are in a leadership position, you have to have a corporate mission that comes with the vision that tells you what it’s all about,” says Wolstein. “That’s sort of the beginning of any corporate strategy. Without that, you are just shooting with a shotgun at a wall and are not really focused on any goal.

“For our company, our mission has been to be the leading owner, developer and manager of market-dominant community centers in the world. We have fulfilled that mission. Now it is our goal to continue to remain in that leadership position in the industry and keep getting better.” Wolstein says the formation of a vision and mission ultimately falls on the shoulders of the CEO.

“You can involve as many people as you want, but at the end of the day, the buck stops with you,” says Wolstein. “I recall discussing ours with others, but at the end of the day, I had to write it.

“Everybody has their part to play, obviously, and you need to create an organizational chart that articulates roles and what part they play in achieving the company’s goals and objectives. You don’t really break down the mission into sub-missions, but basically articulate what the goals and objectives are in the department, then use metrics to evaluate success.

“You set goals for each department to achieve on an annual basis that feeds up to the budget projections for that year and the next several years.”

The lines of communication have to stay open to keep everyone focused on their own goals.

“We communicate through a company newsletter what is going on in the business and how that relates to the goals,” says Wolstein. “What’s more important is that each person has to understand their role and what’s expected of them. It’s not as important for them to understand how it feeds into the overall mission; we, as managers, can create a staff that understands what they need to do on a daily basis.

“It’s no different than baseball: The catcher has a different job to do than the pitcher.”

But employees do need to know from time to time what the score is so they get a feel for how the team is doing overall.

“We do that every year,” says Wolstein. “We have a DDR Leadership Day with a slideshow presentation, where senior management talks about their particular aspect of the business and gives people a scorecard on what their achievements were during the year.”

They are compared to their peers and to other companies for reference.

“I think it’s important to have a meeting like that, if for no other reason than to promote morale and give everyone a sense of pride,” says Wolstein. “Fortunately for us, the communication with the employees has always been good news, but it’s also important to communicate the bad news. You have to talk about what you’ve accomplished and what you’re proud of.

“Let’s face it, on any given day, the accolades go to a few people. But we are a very deep organization in terms of contributions that lead to company success.”

Making a vision a reality takes a focused team and hard work.

“I think it all begins and ends with human capital,” says Wolstein. “To realize the vision, you have to have talented people who are bright and energetic, and provide them with a career path and the proper incentives to come to work every day and be excited about the mission. Attracting and retaining good people by creating an environment that is a stimulating place to work is the most important thing you can do.

“You also have to work hard to gain the confidence of your capital providers, the shareholders and banks, the people that give you the money to fulfill your mission. At the end of the day, capital is a very critical component to make it possible to finance your goals.”

How to reach: Developers Diversified Realty Corp., www.ddr.com