Edward P. Roski Jr. wasn’t born in Southern California, but
he’d be quick to tell you that he and his family made it their
home when he was just 3 years old.
And with the exception of a stint in the Marines that earned
him two purple hearts, he’s lived there ever since. In that
time, he’s become a billionaire and seen Majestic Realty Co.,
the private real estate company his father started in 1948,
continue to grow, as it now owns, manages and leases more
than 70 million square feet of property.
Working on notable projects, like the renowned STAPLES
Center, the company’s continued success has expanded to
other markets but has always started at home.
So, as Majestic continues to grow by nearly 4 million
square feet of property managed per year, it was logical that
Roski, who also is a minority owner of the NBA’s Los
Angeles Lakers and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, would
center his philanthropic endeavors on L.A. Of course,
Roski’s challenges go well beyond just thinking about how
to help the community.
“When you talk about the challenges in business, I think
having a company that has continued to grow over the
years and having employees that want to work with the
company and that really feel they’re being satisfied is the
big one,” says Roski, Majestic’s chairman and CEO. “I want
it so that it’s not just a job, they are looking forward to coming to work, even with the traffic in L.A., and want to put
forth a real effort.”
So as Roski redefined what his company could do to help,
he analyzed how a charitable contribution could do more
than just push good ideas back into his hometown. He realized that by building up the community he was in, he would
strengthen his company’s core. In that process, he created
avenues to ask the 650-plus employees within Majestic’s
businesses how they wanted to help out and created charity programs that gave employees a chance to help in different and engaging ways, giving them a new reason to battle
that rush-hour traffic every day. As a result, his company’s
growth has continued while the average tenure for top
managers in the company has pushed beyond 20 years.
The case for charity
Plenty of companies give to charity, but when Majestic
started the Majestic Realty Foundation in 2002, Roski wanted the company to do more than just write a check every
year. Instead of giving blindly, he wanted to use the company’s resources to help build strategies for nonprofit organizations and help with management initiatives. The idea was
basic enough: Don’t just give to charity, make an impact in
the community where you work. To that, Roski says you have to think of how your work will affect the community
and be sure to consider strengthening it wherever possible.
“I’ve always felt it’s critical to think in the long term in the
deals that you’re doing on a day-to-day basis, to think about
what you’re doing and what you’re building.” he says. “Our
growth pretty well depends on not just growing our business but growing in the cities and communities that we’re
involved with. We’ve always been committed to building
long-term relationships with our business partners, and I
think fostering solid partnerships with stronger communities kind of creates a foundation and you can really continue to grow.”
That brings Roski back to the evolution he made to start
the Majestic Foundation instead of just pouring more money
into local charities. Roski says the fact of the matter is
you’re probably going to be giving to a charity anyway, so
you might as well help that investment along as you would
any other. By taking a more active role in the process, you
might find that Roski’s theory about building a stronger
community will help grow your company.
“We’ve always been involved in the community, and we
wanted to take basically a more active role than just passively making donations and stuff like this, so I founded the
Majestic Foundation and that really gave us the opportunity
to actively work with the different nonprofits and to make
a real impact,” Roski says.
“Most business do try to contribute and give back to the
communities that they are in. And, as we became more and
more active in that side of things, we thought that we could
take that next step and provide some guidance and maybe
some business principles to help nonprofits accomplish
their goals, so it’s just the next step in an evolution.”
Ask employees what they want
Roski’s desire to build a charitable foundation doesn’t just
serve his love for Los Angeles, it also acts as glue for his
company. In order to keep growing, he knows that he needs
to do more things to keep his employees involved, and
charitable projects give employees a chance to do something more than the daily grind.
Roski has always had an interest in philanthropy, but he
found out that employees want in on the action, too. So as
he decided that the company should make the evolutionary
step to starting the foundation, he wanted as much employee input as possible. To do so, he did something many executives rarely have time to do, he walked up to his employees and asked for that input. In fact, Roski makes regular
communication with employees a part of his weekly schedule.
“I set it up so that I can spend time with them,” he says. “I
enjoy talking with them and finding out what they’re all about
and what their desires are and what they really want. In my
experience, everybody wants to be working in a place where
they enjoy working there. It’s not the money they make, it’s the
satisfaction they get out of where they are and if they’re really
doing something to make a difference. And you find that out by
just spending time with them to find out what they want.”
Of course, the chairman and CEO of a company can find it
quite hard to just talk to people and find out what they want.
There is no question that a barrier exists between employees
and senior executives, and Roski says the way you can shed
that is by making employees comfortable by being yourself.
“Everybody puts their pants on the same way,” Roski says.
“Everybody is contributing, so you just try to be comfortable
with who you are, and then they can be comfortable with who
they are, and you can try to communicate.
“It’s getting out there and talking with everyone. It’s really
spending time, not just with the individuals that are running
the office but spending time with everybody in the company.
They have to feel like they can talk to you.”
To Roski, the basic summation of his ability to open up with
employees comes from one word: empathy. He says he does-n’t always know what employees are thinking, but he’s willing to take the time to try.
“In other words, they are not operating out of fear or anything, they are operating in a situation where they feel their
contributions are being recognized and, in one word, there’s
empathy,” Roski says. “When you’re dealing with people, you
really can’t imagine how they think or feel, what you basically need to understand is what they want. You can’t just tell
people to do something, they really have to want to do it.
That’s the one thing that I’ve learned.”
Not only does the time Roski spends talking to employees
help fill him with ideas, but he says it also gives employees a
reason to feel empowered.
“I think it honors them, it gives them a reason to think that
what they’re doing is worth something,” Roski says. “Instead
of just coming in and punching the clock, they are coming in
and they have something to say and somebody is going to listen to it, too.
“You make them part of the process. The most important
thing is the role that the employees play in every aspect of
the company and that they are actually involved in all the
planning and execution. We’ve been very fortunate most of
these people have been with the company for many years,
and for a company, especially a smaller company, employees
are your whole resource.”
Build some company pride
Majestic’s employees were quick to take to the charitable
ideas thrown out by Roski, and even he was surprised by the
extent to which they wanted to help. Though he knew that he
wanted the company to do more than just sign checks, employees came back willing to work with nonprofits on many levels,
offering up time and energy as well as expertise.
As a result, Majestic began to build teamwork within the
company around this charitable work. The big business goal of
Majestic still existed for employees, but there was also a more
personalized charitable goal that made people feel good about
“We’re actively involved and hire consultants for them and
make sure they are really focused and accomplishing their
dreams because there’s quite a few nonprofits out there that
are founded on great ideas and dreams, and sometimes they
also need help to accomplish those things,” he says.
As a result of helping with different options in areas beyond
financial giving, Roski noted that involvement with the
Majestic Foundation is blossoming.
“Our company is extremely involved in all the foundation
work,” he says. “I would say we probably have 85 to 90 percent
participation from the company, whether it’s the fund-raisers
we do or actually working in different nonprofits, not just supporting their kid in little league but actually getting very, very
involved, and it’s kind of contagious — as people get involved,
others get involved.”
At the end of the day, Roski doesn’t get 100 percent of his
employees throwing themselves into the charity program, but he
knows that the foundation works when it comes to building
something for both community and company pride. If you can
make that step, he sees it as a big boon to your ability to fulfill
“I think people have to really be proud of where they work,” he
says. “If they are, and they think where they work is really making a difference in the community where they live in, with all
other things being equal, that’s where they are going to stay. And
I think in our company, it’s probably one of the reasons that people stick around so long is they really think they are making a difference.”
HOW TO REACH: Majestic Realty Co., (562) 692-9581 or www.majesticrealty.com