Real Leaders

Leading a Ground-Zero Company Through a Pandemic

Invesque is a publicly-traded healthcare real estate company with 121 properties in 20 states and two Canadian provinces. They own medical office buildings, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing facilities. I asked CEO Scott White about his leadership philosophy throughout the past, difficult year.

What is your history at Invesque?

I was part of a team that raised capital and assembled a seed portfolio back in 2015. Then, I was one of the founders who took Invesque public in 2016. Today, I’m the Chairman and CEO. We started with eleven properties and approximately $300 million in gross book value. Today we own 121 assets and roughly $1.8 billion in gross book value. From the IPO in 2016 through 2019, we were among the fastest-growing public real estate companies in North America.

That’s an impressive track record. Let’s talk a bit about your leadership philosophy. How did you take this company from a small private start-up to an almost $2bn public company in less than five years?

My leadership philosophy is simple. I surround myself with an exceptional and talented team from different backgrounds and experiences. I encourage open discussion and debate to challenge everyone to reach outside their comfort zones. I don’t need a team that looks the same, acts the same, and agrees with each other all the time. I often hear leaders talk about building a team of “like-minded professionals.” I think that’s the worst thing you can do. Instead, I need to be continuously challenged by different perspectives. At the same time, I also need a team of people to work together productively to achieve extraordinary outcomes.

The other key component of my leadership philosophy is empowerment. To succeed, you must empower your team. Really empower them. We live in a world where people want to contribute. They want to make a difference. More than anything, they want to think independently and be challenged. All of this leads to empowerment. Empower those around you to think, decide, and act.  

In terms of rapid growth, it’s part of our DNA. We are “deal junkies” and love M&A as a tool for value creations. We are restless and active, and we don’t wait for ideas and transactions to come to us. We go out and aggressively look for opportunities and, in some cases, even create deals. We know our markets well, and we leverage our extensive network of relationships with owners, operators, and developers.  

2020 was a crazy year. The pandemic presented almost insurmountable challenges to leadership and running a company. What were your scariest challenges?

As a starting point, we operate in an industry that was on THE front line. I mean, really on the front line. The facilities we own and, in some cases, operate were ground-zero for COVID. 

First and foremost, we dealt with the day-to-day life and death issues of keeping our staff and residents safe. We had to think fast, work fast, and execute quickly as COVID beat us in the trenches early on.

Our residents are among the most vulnerable segment of society. This was a full-on, lights flashing, sirens blaring, all-hands-on-deck crisis that we had to navigate. We worked tirelessly to assess our risks and find ways to effectively mitigate them quickly. The industry was caught off guard, and we had to make sure we had adequate PPE, staffing, and safety protocols to protect everyone. So, we prioritized health and safety, and it required a massive team effort.

Then we had to think about communication and execution while managing remotely. We operate in 20 states and two Canadian provinces. We have a corporate staff spread across four states. Now, everyone is working from home. Communication, coordination, and execution became that much more challenging. But not insurmountable. When you go back to my leadership principles of building and empowering the right team, everyone knows what the challenge is and what is expected. We worked tirelessly to keep everyone safe and keep our business moving forward.

As you look back on the pandemic, what do you think are three key lessons you’ve learned?

Humans are meant to interact in person. We all need to belong and to be a part of a living, breathing community. For the first time in my life, I recognized the cost of social isolation. I realized what it was like for our residents to be separated from friends and family for a prolonged period. I also learned what it meant to have our team apart and not meeting face to face. My key takeaway from this experience is how important social interaction is to our society, and recognizing the extreme toll social isolation takes. I think coming out of this, we will reorient our beliefs and expectations around human interaction.

I think we also learned how much we could do remotely. I have worked in a remote environment for eight years. With technology, discipline, and the right mindset, it’s very doable. I think the world is now recognizing this. No, we are not all going to work endlessly from home full-time. However, I think we will approach things with an eye toward what can be accomplished effectively and efficiently remotely via technology. Industries will change. For example, telemedicine is just one of many sectors where I saw significant reservations before the pandemic. Like work from home, it took this transformative event in history to show people you can do things differently, remotely, efficiently.

And finally, decision-making does not have to be as slow and arduous as it has been historically

During the pandemic, I witnessed decisions being made in hours and days rather than weeks and months. Many companies pivoted strategies, took calculated risks, and made significant investment and capital allocation decisions with less time, data, and analysis than has been the historical norm. We learned that decisions could be made more quickly, with less information, and with better outcomes rather than the pre-pandemic world of analysis-paralysis and risk mitigation as the leading elements of decision making.

And finally, what does the world look like post-pandemic?

We will live in a much better world post-pandemic with a lot of positive change. We have had a chance to pause and reflect during this crisis and develop a greater sense of who we are and what is important to us. Gratefulness will return in significant ways. Gratefulness for the little things we all took for granted before the pandemic. Also, appreciation for what a great world we live in, what a great company we work for, and what great friends and family we spend time with.

Indeed, as an industry, we will be better prepared for future pandemics and more robust protocols around the containment of the spread of infectious disease. Even the flu will be better contained and dealt with in the future, and saving more lives.

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