Lon Tabatchnick

A few years back, Lon Tabatchnick was walking up and down Hollywood Beach when he had a simple realization. Seeing how
underdeveloped the area was, he saw a vision of his development company being one of the first in this new market. So, the
president of Lojeta Group decided that is was time to move to Florida to attack the opportunity. It was a big move for a developer
from New Jersey, but Tabatchnick moved swiftly and confidently, and his people followed suit. The results have been telling.
Lojeta Group pushed past $62 million in revenue in 2006.

Smart Business spoke with Tabatchnick about why he believes work
is important, but family should always come first.

Be an example for your staff. I go out every
day and look for new projects and talk to
my people. I get information and give it
to them and say, ‘Go check this out,
here’s what I see.’ It’s a confidence that
you show that other people believe in.

If you don’t have a certain sense of confidence in what you’re doing, it’s hard for
other people to buy in. A leader has to
lead not only by example but has to be
successful. People aren’t going to follow
a guy that keeps jumping off cliffs.

You have to believe in your vision; you
have to be a believer first. For people to
follow you, they have to believe that
you’re the man. You have to think outside the box and be willing to break the
envelope. That’s what gets other people
excited about you.

Bring fresh minds into your system. I try to
teach them to fish and not fish for them.
I’ve been very good over the years at
working with young people out of the
business and training them to our system as opposed to taking entrenched
people in our industry and having them
come work for me.

I’ve never been successful with those
types of employees; I’ve been much
more successful with young people, or
people who have not been in the industry, that I can teach them the way that I
see it. There’s a certain amount of loyalty that comes when you train somebody
from scratch. Everyone has their way of
doing business, and if someone is fresh
and new, they really don’t have any bad
habits.

Encourage employees. When they’re successful, you have to let them know that
they’ve done it the right way. That’s more
important than letting them know that
they’ve made a mistake because people
get the positive reinforcement. It’s easy
to chew somebody out for not doing
something right, but good leaders and
good businesspeople are able to let
someone know when they do something
right.

Then people feel good about that, and you get more out of them. Positive reinforcement is the key to firing people up.
If you go negative, it just doesn’t work.
No one likes to be torn down.

You have to be the one paying attention. You
have to circle back and watch your
chickens, because the minute you take
your eye off the target, it’s going to
move. So, unless you have your employees heavily vested with equity, you’re the
only one that cares about the whole.

You have to be mindful of that and
understand that there is only one guy
here who is concerned about the whole
thing. Everyone has their different job,
and they’re plugged in to do what they
have to do, but, at the end of the day,
they probably sleep a lot better than I do.

Be flexible to keep your employees. It’s a job,
but it’s not your whole life. My employees work for me because it’s more than
just a job; your family comes first. This
place is very important, but it’s not the
end-all, and for me to enjoy being here
every day, and to enjoy coming to work,
we all have to understand that.

That means you still have to be serious
about it and take the work seriously. But
I don’t want guys working 12 to 15 hours
a day; that’s counterproductive. My philosophy is we’re a team, we use the word
‘we’ a lot, not I, and I try to relate everything to sports and a team effort to what
we do.

As a team, if we’re successful, then
individual success naturally follows. So,
when you need a day or time or something comes up, the office will still be
here tomorrow.

Yeah, you’re important to the organization, but I want you to know you can do
other things. You take the time when you
need it. There’s no strict regimen that
you worked here for two years, so you
get two weeks.

But if I need you here after-hours to help
with a customer, you need to be here. If
you have a doctor’s appointment and you
come in a little late one morning, that’s
OK. I guess the thing is, I don’t count.

I give people respect, and if people don’t
take advantage of you and you don’t take
advantage of them, it tends to work out. If
they know there’s that give and take, then
they’re more apt when things get tough to
be there to help you out.

Everybody has family issues. Everybody has things that they have to deal
with outside of the workplace, and if you
don’t allow employees to do that and
know that they can do that, they’ll find a
way to take advantage of you to take
care of those things.

So, I’d rather everybody knows they
can come to me, and we can work
together to let them take care of things.

Don’t believe you’re the smartest person in the
room.
You can’t believe your own BS. You
have to know when you’re outdone and
try to listen to a lot of smart people.

I have a lot of smart people around
here, and I try to take their advice and
make myself believe that what I think
isn’t the only answer.

The more successful people you
bounce things off of — even though you
may not agree with them — you’ll end up
saying, ‘They could be right.’ There’s
something to be said for that.

Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and realize you’re not the sharpest
knife in the drawer.

HOW TO REACH: Lojeta Group, (954) 922-6491

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