“I’m really good at putting ships in the water and starting them moving. Innovation Guelph showed me how to align them as a fleet and get them moving in the same direction.” — Harsch Khandelwal, CEO, The KAIN Group
A Kitchener-based real estate investment firm is getting in shape for a breakout year after the Innovation Guelph (IG) team helped reorganize its business units and develop a new corporate vision and mission with employee support and buy-in.
The KAIN Group invests in and manages residential and commercial real estate across North America, primarily retail and office space in Ontario and multi-unit residential properties in Florida. Established in 2000, the family-run enterprise also includes a tech-sector arm that provides software development and IT consulting services, and a U.S.-based construction company.
However, while its assets were growing, the company’s structure was challenging to manage. CEO Harsch Khandelwal knew he needed help, and after bringing tech-sector start-up veteran Anne Dixon on board as VP Operations in 2016, The KAIN Group leadership team approached IG.
“I’m really good at putting ships in the water and starting them moving,” says Khandelwal. “Innovation Guelph showed me how to align them as a fleet and get them moving in the same direction.”
As an IG Fast Lane client, The KAIN Group worked with a team of mentors and industry specialists on a three-month Tune Up Project focused on three key areas:
- CEO and leadership team skills coaching: with IG mentors Mark Goldberg and Steve Barrett
- HR strategy and organizational design: led by IG industry specialist Ian McGinty
- Financial practices: with CFO coaching provided by Roman Ciecwierz, IG industry specialist
“It’s amazing how far they’ve come in just a few months,” says Goldberg, who along with Barrett worked with The KAIN Group as a part-time embedded executive for six weeks. “Their success is a great example of the power of the Fast Lane program. We were able to bring together a diverse group with a wide range of expertise to help Harsch and his team reorganize their five business units and think strategically about how to solve the challenges that they face.”
Goldberg and Barrett recommended a 90-day “strategic sprint” designed to break up a complex change process into focused, achievable goals in key areas including: articulating a vision and achieving buy-in across the organization; conducting town halls with employees and stakeholders in Tampa, Fla.; developing key performance indicators (KPI) to measure progress, and aligning the goals and expectations of each business unit to support change and the overall priorities of entire organization.
“It’s mind-blowing how much you can get done in these strategic sprints,” says Barrett “And it gets better the more you do it. The organization begins to thrive on the cadence, and it’s really good for the leadership team because you run hard for a short period of time, then give yourself permission to take a breather before the next one.”
The Fast Lane project also addressed some key HR gaps, such as hiring two experienced Spanish-speaking property/operations managers in Florida, developing current and future organizational charts, guiding development of team mandates, and documenting best practices for compensation and hiring.
The town hall meeting in Tampa brought together the company’s Florida-based construction, maintenance and property management units to address issues that were impeding growth. For example, blurred lines of responsibility and reporting — and in some cases, language and cultural barriers — were making it difficult to co-ordinate maintenance efforts to deal with a backlog of work required to make vacant units fit for occupancy. Frank discussions and focused breakout sessions made the town hall a big success.
“Those sessions are hard, especially the first time around. But they ate it up,” Dixon says.
Working with the IG team has brought total clarity into the organization, she adds.
“Now we know who does what, we know exactly where the money comes from and where our expenses are,” says Dixon. “For the first month, my weekly call with the team in Florida was just painful because I didn’t even know what to ask. So I changed my approach and turned it into a ‘thank you for educating me’ type of conversation and they became more open to talking with me and explaining what they do. It’s not so much me checking on them but them educating me about the business.”
Barrett and Goldberg praised The KAIN Group for being a highly coachable team. Being open to new approaches has led to a new corporate vision, values, strategy and structure that will enable The KAIN Group to scale its business well beyond Florida.
“They really sold me on the idea of core values and vision, and the importance of having people within the organization align with that vision. That led to buy-in for the strategic planning process,” says Khandelwal, adding that the company will apply strategic rigour to all its business practices as it continues to implement change and that everything is on the table.
“It’s starting to feel like our individual ships are turning into a formidable fleet.”