Carlos Serra is the Managing Director and Head of Project and Development Services at the second largest real estate company in the world, JLL.
He manages and leads JLL’s West Region teams, comprised of nearly 400 people. They work with real estate developers, hospitals, industrial, retail, hotels, and offices to help them with everything involved in finding, selling, and creating new spaces. His role is to manage the profitability and quality of these services.
Carlos has worked in five countries. He was born in the South of Spain but grew up in England. His first job after university took him to Madrid where he worked with international clients in real estate. Eventually, he moved to work in Toronto and New York, before heading to the West Coast.
During these chapters, he learned the different ways culture and location influence business, from Spain’s hard work but lack of punctuality to L.A.’s relationship-driven business model.
“I would like to think I have an expertise in solving problems… When you talk about projects and real estate development, for the most part, a lot of the issues that occur in the future have been set up by poor management or poor discipline prior to the project even starting.”
This applies to any business or initiative, not just real estate. He likes to do a post-project review prior to beginning a project. This means that he brings in his whole team for each project before it begins. They talk about problems that may arise and how they will solve them so that they have a playbook to understand and manage risk.
Management and Motivation
It’s important to grow at a rate that creates a successful business that is also sustainable. Finding this balance is hard, but he has seen that having engaged employees is part of the solution.
“One of the things I’ve always spoken to my team about is motivation… if they tell me that they don’t have time to post on LinkedIn, for example, because they’re very busy dealing with client issues, my response has always been: ‘If I give you $100,000 next week will you have time to post 10 times on LinkedIn?’ Of course, the answer is always yes.”
Carlos emphasizes that everyone’s motivations are different at different stages of life. He likes to check in with his employees to make sure he understands what they are focused on at different points in time. Often, it is one of these three things:
- Job Title
When working with remote employees, he focuses on creating quality communication and figuring out what communication works best for different employees.
He describes himself as a servant-leader and strives to take his cues from the teams he is working with. Sometimes this requires more guidance and structure from him, and at other moments, he sees that people just want his support as a second set of eyes and reassurance.
Leadership is a very broad topic. He finds a lot of guidance and inspiration for his own leadership from outside his own industry, citing David Goggins and Gary Vaynerchuk as important figures he has learned from.
Carlos sees learning as a journey. You need to be exploratory and enjoy it as you go. Reaching your goals doesn’t always bring you satisfaction, it is the doing that brings fulfillment. It takes patience and tenacity.
“Part of it… is just understanding how you define success.”
For some, it is not their job title. It’s being able to go home and spend time with their family. For others, it is about moving up through the ranks to the top (which works out for some and not for others).
If you are looking at it purely from a business perspective, it’s purely hard work, perseverance, grit and having the ability to think 4 or 5 steps ahead. He says planning for all of the outcomes is crucial
Take action and take calculated risks. There is so much information out there, it’s important to remember to act and not just think.
LinkedIn: Carlos Serra
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