Culture is more than a business buzzword. Discover how you can improve the personality of the company in this interview. Today’s guest is Marc Betesh, CEO and Founder at Visual Lease. Inc Magazine ranked his company #941 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Visual Lease brings together powerful tools and expert services to help you handle complex scenarios and take advantage of every opportunity. Marc gives us why he believes culture is the personality of the company. We look beyond the normal aspects of culture.
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Marc Betesh: The Transcript
About: Marc founded Visual Lease in 1996 and has led the company ever since as the CEO and chairman. He is an expert in lease negotiation, lease management, and lease accounting negotiation and has been featured in Forbes, The Real Deal, GlobeSt., and more. Additionally, he often lectures on lease topics at New York University’s Real Estate Institute, AECRE, American Bar Association, Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Practicing Law Institute, ICSC, and the Institute of Internal Auditors, and is regarded as a top faculty at CoreNet Global Learning. An attorney by training, he practiced law in New York City and negotiated commercial leases for some of the largest companies in the country. He is a member of both the New York and New Jersey Bar Associations and holds a J.D. from Georgetown University.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Marc Betesh: Two different stores sell the same exact product. What’s the difference between the two? Why do you go into the one on the left and not to the one on the right? And it’s because the business has a personality has a culture that feels good to you. That resonates with your value. And when I look at companies, every company has a personality and it’s, and I don’t care how small or big it is. IBM as a person. Every single company has a personality it’s set at the top and it permeates the employees. It, it is driven by how people treat each other inside the company and therefore how they treat people outside the company. So I look at culture as really the, an alternative word for personality in this context.
Intro: Welcome to. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moment of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: When you think about the culture of your company, what are the major things that you think about the drive, the culture? Well, today we look at a very different aspect of culture. We dive into some of the things that you’ve got to pay attention to, but we really do believe here that culture is the personality of the company, our special guest today is the founder of Visual Lease fast-growth company on the Inc list many times. And we’re talking with Marc Betesh, and he really goes into some of the details of which they think about how they work together, how they communicate, how they engage with each other, the respect and trust that goes back and forth. And all of these things make up some of the big parts of culture. We do look at values because you can’t have a company that has, what’s called a great culture without understanding that they put a lot of emphasis on values.
They’re hiring, they’re onboarding, they’re leading people through these values and you want to make sure that you pay attention to some of the ways they use it inside today’s conversation with Marc. Now your journey to extraordinary leadership probably is something that you don’t think about very much either, but if you want to be a better leader, if you want to actually be extraordinary someday. I want to help you create that game plan, which means you have to look at what’s holding you back. The blind spots were getting your way and they’re getting in the way of the growth of the company. So the sun just about you, it’s about everything that’s going on inside this company, you’ve got to lead by example. My job is to help you figure that out. If you want to have a conversation with me, just go to GeneHammett.com schedule your call. I’d love to help you become an extraordinary leader, or at least give you a game plan. I will promise not to sell you anything at all, but I will serve you to the highest level possible to be the leader that your team deserves. Just go to GeneHammett.com and you can schedule your call anytime you want.
Now here’s Marc.
Hey Marc. How are you?
Marc Betesh: I’m well, how are you, Gene?
Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. Excited to have you here on the podcast.
Marc Betesh: Glad to be here, glad to share.
Gene Hammett: We’re going to talk about culture and we’re going to talk about the company and kind of where some of your thoughts come from, but tell us about Visual Lease.
Marc Betesh: Visual Lease, those releases the, a culmination of a lot of use of a kind of different work that, that, that led us here. I started out practicing law in New York City, for a number of years, I’ve done some other entrepreneurial things in my past, but I started out practicing law in New York City and, one day, one day came to a realization around commercial real estate leases that despite all the work that was going into negotiating the leases and making sure they were perfect and making sure they said the right thing and the T’s were crossed and the I’s were dotted and everything was perfect. The documents ended up in a drawer someplace and no one ever looked at them again. And it became very frustrating to me because leases were, are expensive. They’re major transactions. There’s, you know, there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars sometimes spent just to get them in the right place, just to get them signed. And then for no one to pay attention to them after the fact just seemed to me like an awful waste. So I formed a consulting company to, , I left my practice. I formed a consulting company, to, to analyze commercial leases. , on behalf of tenants to make sure that they were getting a fair shake, getting what they negotiated, you know, not, you know, whatever they got, whatever they got at the negotiating table.
My job was to make sure they got that. And, so we’re kind of, sort of, enforcement, financial enforcement of leases. For lack of a better term. And, and we did that for a while and we helped a lot of companies. We saved them a lot of money. We found that they were, they were being billed for things that they never expected. They, the landlords were misinterpreting the, you know, the, all those words that, that, that, that I and my colleagues worked so hard to, to, to, to fashion people. Weren’t reading them or. And paying attention or they weren’t, they weren’t, interpreting them. Right. And so we, we did a lot of cleanups. We saved a lot of money for companies where the interpretations were wrong. And, after doing that for about 10 years, I realized that we were not even making a dent in the problem. , the problem was that the lease that to get to an answer on a lease on any major contract, you got to pull out a million documents.
Right. You got to pull them out. You’ve got to read them. You gotta make sure you have them all. And, and it wasn’t easy to do that. And so I decided to form a tech company, a software company, and build a product that managed commercial leases on behalf of tenants. And we built it. It was designed to bring the lease to life, to make it transparent, to keep it organized so that when the questions came up, like the ones we were in, the problems came up. Like the ones we were fixing, you get an easy answer. You wouldn’t have to go through people like me to figure it out. It would all be done for you in advance. So that was the origin of Visual Lease. , I started the consulting company in 1985, believe it or not in the dark ages. And, and, I started the software company in 95 96, like that.
Gene Hammett: Well, I appreciate you walking us through that history. We came here to not necessarily talk about the technologies and what the in your industry is, you know, really impressed with the growth that your companies had. But we want to look under the cover. And you had said something to me a few weeks ago, culture is the personality of a company. What do you mean by that?
Marc Betesh: I was just thinking about it. And actually, in anticipation of talking to you today, I bought a car recently and I looked at the car at two different dealerships, the same exact vehicle. I could’ve bought it from dealership A or from dealership B. I didn’t like the feeling and the tone and the attitudes of dealership A and I went instead to dealership B and we’ve all experienced this. All of us, you go to one gas station versus another. Maybe that’s a little bit different because it’s pretty much price-driven, but you know, you go to two to two different stores that sell the same exact product. What’s the difference between the two? Why do you go into the one on the left and not to the one on the right? And it’s because the business has a personality has a culture that feels good to you. That resonates with your value. And when I look at companies, every company has a personality and, and it’s, and I don’t care how small or big it is. IBM has a personality. Every single company has a personality it’s set at the top. And it permeates the employees. It is driven by how people treat each other inside the company and therefore how they treat people outside the company. So I look at culture as really the, an, an alternative word for personality in this context.
Gene Hammett: You know, you, a lot of conversations that have about culture, go into different aspects. What are the top aspects that you think about for culture?
Marc Betesh: Look, what we do is we set, you know, we’ve thought a lot about this for us. And, and we have defined, we’ve gone through and said, what are the things that make us who we are? And you can isolate anything this way, right? You can come up with metrics and whatever you want to do, but, but what are the things that make us tick? What are the things that we’ve value? Right. Everyone’s going to say we value honesty and integrity and all of the wonderful things. And, and those are the right things. And then you, you start going into rarefied air and you’ll start looking at things that may not be so obvious to people. And one of the things that we, that we focus on, one of our core values is having poise. Which is kind of interesting, right? I mean, what is, what does having poise mean? And to us, it means handling yourself professionally, operating well under pressure, right?
Not, not cracking up, being cool, collected, and competent in what you do. Right. And we’ve all encountered people with poise. We may not focus on it. We may say, boy, that guy was cool or she was really cool. Like they, we could see it. We see how. We see their demeanor and how they present themselves, how they, how they interact with others. And we know what it looks like, and what we’ve tried to do is just call it out and we call that other thing as well. But that’s kind of when we talk about, you know, the connection between this culture and personality and what the values are, that’s where it is. It’s in these nuances. And everybody wants to be honest. Everybody wants to be hardworking, but what are the things that you look at that, that make you say these people are hitting it out of the park? They are, they are doing the things that, that, that we wish we all could do. Right. And obviously, nobody’s perfect and we make a gazillion mistakes like everybody else does, but at least we know what good looks like.
Gene Hammett: I love that. Example is poise one of the values you have.
Marc Betesh: Yes, it is. Yup.
Gene Hammett: And did you when you were coming up with that, did you guys kind of like, immediately say that fits us, or did it take some time to get to that one?
Marc Betesh: Well, we have, I dunno, it’s, it’s, it’s, we, you know, we debated all of these, you know, one of the other ones we have, we call. We’ve debated actually what the call it. But, we’ve called it understanding, which is also kind of unique. I mean, we call it to care now, but the concept behind whatever word we use is understanding your counterpart’s perspective. Right? I’m talking to you now, what are you thinking about what I’m saying? Not what am I thinking about what I’m saying? How is what I’m saying landing in your head and in your ears. And if, if we all could understand. Have the care to understand our counterpart’s perspective. We will be much more effective in dealing with them. They will resonate with us and we will resonate with them. And that’s another one of our values kind of off, off the beaten track, right? It’s not the thing that you, that you normally look at, but these are the unique things that, that we try to push to make sure that we are in sync with the people, with whom we deal. Right. Like, you know, our customers for our colleagues and we promote these things internally as well.
So all of these things are important to us and we look at them and that’s why you need to go back to your initial question about personality. This is what makes personality, this is what makes the personality of your entity.
Commentary: Now Marc, just talk about understanding people know you as a leader, you’re probably listening to people, but are you really understanding their perspective? Do you have empathy for what’s going on? I was recently talking to a client who had to have a difficult conversation with an employee. You got feedback that the employee was not communicating very well with the client and the partners that they had. And so he was thinking about, you know, pulling away from the responsibilities from this one employee and giving them to another. And we had this conversation and I asked him to reflect on how would you feel if someone had feedback on your performance, but didn’t tell you he didn’t like that. You would want to know he would want open transparency. And so when we actually talked about this and got to the heart of it, he realized the best thing he could do is not to take away the responsibilities, but to have a conversation, to allow the employee to re-commit. To serving that partner and that customer in a different way. And that’s part of the understanding part of leadership. This is just a simple story that I want you to reflect on about the next difficult conversation you have to have just think about how you’d want to be treated and treat that person the same way. Now, back to Marc.
Gene Hammett: Getting back to that topic of personality, there’s probably more stuff too, than just the values. What else would you kind of throw into that?
Marc Betesh: I think, well, I don’t know. I mean, we, we use the values as, as the straw men for this, right? We, we, we, we look at that as, as the way to hang our hat, but the, the other things that we look at are really how each of us interacts with each other. You know, we were trying to try to figure out what the key, , with the key performance indicators were with our effectiveness, with our, with our clients and our customers. , we look at our service. The services that we provide and are our customers happy with them? And one of the key things that we look at is whether our employees are happy with each other, right. Because we all know we’ve all been there. You’ll walk into a, to a, to an establishment and the receptionist is miserable. Right? And then you get treated miserably, right. And you walk away and you go, what’s her problem, or what’s his problem. Right. You walk away from that. And, and if you just reverse engineer that you realize that employee satisfaction is a key leading indicator for customer satisfaction.
We’ve, you know, I, I was just listening to, the comedian Bill Burr the other day. And, I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to him, but he doesn’t. He does, he does a skit on, you know, calling up somebody and there. And there he’s being, he’s being treated badly and he gets very, very frustrated with the person. Right. And that’s what happens. And we’ve all been there. We’ve all been on the phone or we’ve, you know, we’ve encountered people and they’re unhappy and therefore they treat you in a bad way. And, and that’s also part of it. So we look for, we look for the internal indicators, as well as the external, we look for ways to make sure that our employees are. Respected. One of our leaders said the other day he builds his org charts from the bottom up. He puts the leader at the bottom, not at the top, right. Because it’s really the employees. It’s really the team that makes everything work. We do. We’re just leaders, but the team they’re the people on the ground. They’re the people that are interacting.
Gene Hammett: Yeah. I love this concept. And you know, speaking of Bill Burr, he’s always frustrated. So that’s true. That’s true. Are you measuring employee satisfaction in some way?
Marc Betesh: We do. We have a, we have a, an employee value proposition and we survey our employees, from time to time on various topics. We did not on this topic. We just did a survey recently. About going back to work, but we’re always asking them we, and we’re always, it’s not only surveys because surveys are kind of, I don’t know. I mean, if they’re good for, for, for measuring purposes, but we empower our managers to make sure they really listen and, and have their ear to the ground. Especially in, you know, in this remote working environment, it’s, it’s extra hard to make sure that you’re not only listening and you, you, you understand your team well, but that the team understands each other very important. It really it’s really, it’s a hard, it’s a hard thing. I mean, hopefully, it lens it’ll end soon and, we’ll go back to crazy normalcy. We’re always checking in, we measure where we can. And we, but we’re always, we’re always evaluating employee side.
Commentary: So employee satisfaction is something you can measure. Another alternative to what Marc suggested is this. You want to look at the employee net promoter score. So, net promoter score is something that we use with customers, but the employee side of it is what’s going on inside the organization. So thinking about it, the internal aspects of this, would they recommend your company to someone else. Now, if they were able to rate that, how they feel on that from one to 10, nine, and 10 are counted as positives. And so you get credit for those, and then you have negative scores. That would be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and eight are new civic, neutral. And they don’t factor in. And you want to make sure you look at the percentages of positive and the percentages of negatives to give you a score, to determine are your employees having the kind of experience where they would refer their friends, the people in their network to come to work for your company. And if you are positive, fantastic, higher, your positive score better, but you want to make sure that you understand what employee net promoter score is. If you want to measure employee satisfaction, I just thought I’d share that with you today because a lot of my clients use this as an exclusive number to determine how they’re doing inside the organization, check it out. Hopefully, it’ll help you become the leader that you need to be back to. Marc.
Gene Hammett: I want to switch gears just a little bit here. Marc. Is there one time in your life when you look back and you say this was an inflection point in my leadership that you could share with us today?
Marc Betesh: We grew very rapidly. We were a small team of 25 people, 30 people at best. We were, the Marcet changed a bit and we grew from 25 people to 150 people in the course of a year or two, very, very rapid, very rapid growth. And I, you know, when, when you, when you’re running an organization of 25 or 30 people, and you pretty much have your finger on everything, you’re telling people what to do. And, and you’re checking in to make sure they’re doing it when you get this big. They’re telling you what to do, right? So we talk about an inflection point for sure. You go from, you, go from distrust to trust, and maybe that’s a little harsh, but you go from having your finger on everything to really trusting your team. And I heard a great expression. , last week someone said, you know, A players hire A-plus players, B players hire C players. Okay. Yeah. And, and it really is a, it really is, a great expression on what I’ve come to realize is that the better the team is beneath me. The more I can step back and trust them.
And, and fortunately, I have a phenomenal team. , my leadership team is, is, and, and it’s funny. Everybodys. When we interview people, we’re always asking the questions around our values. We’re always trying to figure out what makes this person tick. And I constantly reinforce this with, you know, our, our employee meetings. We know we have a, we have a full company meeting every week and we talk about the values and we talk about all of these things, but I look to see that, that, that, that, that people are treating each other and with respect and, , and, and are letting them flourish.
Gene Hammett: You mentioned your executive leadership team and you didn’t say that they’re high performing, would you say that they are high-performing?
Marc Betesh: Absolutely. High-performing, all of them.
Gene Hammett: Then this question is going to make a lot more sense. What do you think the common elements of the high-performing executive team that you have?
Marc Betesh: They all are. And I think by the way, and I think most people are this way too, but they are all, they really want to do the right thing and we don’t have time for nonsense. We don’t have time for politics. We don’t have time for any of that stuff. We’re all just, and I think it comes from trusting each other. You know, if people have a disagreement, if people get into any kind of conflict, the way I look at it is, and the way we kind of handle it is we’re all reasonable people. Like if you have an unreasonable person, that unreasonable person is not going to last. And nine times out of 10 would never have gotten hired in the first place. So everybody is rational and they’re reasonable. And if they have poise and can handle pressure, They work it out, whatever it is. They work it out, right?
It’s communication. It’s understanding the other person’s perspective, right? It’s, it’s, it’s having that care, that understanding and being able to appreciate. Look that person didn’t mean anything nasty they’ve they had a genuine concern that they’re raising and don’t take it personally. It’s, it’s an issue that we have to resolve together and we do that and we resolve them together. And if so, the common thread that I see is. People are cool under pressure. They are smart and they’re rational and they’re well-meaning and the well-meaning part is like a that’s what I was thinking about before when you asked me, I said, I think everybody’s well-meaning 95% of people are well-meaning. You just got to bring it out. You have to bring it out of them and you have to not let them get caught up in a lot of nonsense.
Gene Hammett: Well, Marc, I really appreciate you being here to share your wisdom and your journey of entrepreneurship and leadership. We learned a lot from you today.
Marc Betesh: Well, I’m glad.
Gene Hammett: My name is Gene Hammett. I work to create the best shows I can, and I want to highlight something at the very end of this conversation with Marc today. And it really is. Well, he talks about the value as being so important and being the personality of the company, really important to understand that the executive leadership team should exemplify those at the highest level because you got to lead by example. And what he described about why they’re performing at this level is because they are exemplified being poised and understanding and all the other elements that Marc talked about. So if you’re struggling at all within your team, within the relationship, You’re going to go back and look at the values. And you’ve got to look at yourself too. Are you leading by example, if you’re curious about where you are next in your journey of leadership, make sure you check out the free content with GeneHammett.com.
If I can help you in any way, we need to have a conversation to help you identify the blind spots that things are getting in the way of you leading the company to the next level of growth. Make sure you reach out and schedule a call with me. I’d love to. I’m not going to sell you anything, but a promise to serve you with the highest level of integrity I can. I’d love to help you become the leader that your team deserves.
When you think of growth and you think of leadership, think of Growth Think Tank. As always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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