Ep. 45 Daniele Horton
Daniele Horton brings 23 years of experience in architecture, corporate sustainability and real estate to her leadership of Verdani Partners. Daniele is a licensed architect, LEED Fellow and a Certified Energy Manager. She is currently leading sustainability efforts for 11 real estate firms with over 800 million square feet of diversified real estate across 4,300 properties representing over $650 Billion in AUM. Most of Verdani’s clients have ranked among the top ten on GRESB.
With over 100 speaking engagements since 2008, and industry leadership with 14 organizations, Daniele was named one of the “Top 10 Most Powerful Women in Sustainability” in 2014. Daniele was recently featured as a USGBC LEED Fellow and was interviewed by Leaders In at Greenbuild 2019 and Nareit in their Jumpstart series. She also serves as an adjunct Professor at the University of San Diego where she teaches Sustainable Real Estate in their MSRE program.
Daniele actively participates on national sustainability committees such as the GRESB Benchmark Committee, ULI Greenprint Performance Committee, USGBC’s Advisory Council and the BOMA Sustainability Committee. She also recently launched a non-profit organization called the Verdani Institute for the Built Environment to advance global sustainability adoption in the built environment through research, education, collaboration and resilience.
Chris Rising (00:49): Welcome to The Real Market with Chris Rising. I’m really excited. Today I have on the podcast, Daniele Horton of her Verdani Partners. Verdani is a full service sustainability consulting firm based in San Diego. Daniele is an unbelievable leader. She's Brazilian, but lives here in the United States in San Diego. She's built an amazing business here.. Verdani manages ESG programs for large real estate portfolios on a global scale and has become one of the top sustainability leaders in the Real Estate Sector. She's a mother, she’s a founder, she understands technology, she has a big social media presence. I really think you're going to enjoy the conversation with Daniele Horton. Daniele, thanks for being on The Real Market.
Daniele Horton (01:32): Thank you. Yeah, I'm really excited to be here as well.
Chris Rising (01:35): Well, tell me and our audience a little bit about Verdani Partners. What exactly is it that you all do?
Daniele Horton (01:41): Sure. Yeah. Verdani Partners is a full service sustainability consulting firm. I bring about 22 years of experience. I've worked for a full service real estate firm for like about 10 years before starting Verdani Partners. We typically work with large real estate portfolios. We currently managing issue programs as an owner's rep. And we're currently managing about 11 real estate firms with over 800 million square feet of diversified real estate portfolios with 4,300 properties nationally and internationally.
Daniele Horton (02:19): So I think right now sustainability issue is really important. And we're actually seeing a big cap in activity with like more investor due diligence questionnaires. There's a lot happening with us trying to help our clients prepare and deal with COVID at their different property types. But yeah, I think it's a sustainability climate change. Sustainable real estate's very important right now.
Chris Rising (02:47): Yeah. I know when we started the year, we were very focused and still focused on raising money around sustainability. We call it impact. But I think the key at the beginning of the year was really more focused on carbon reduction for us and meeting lead requirements and fit well and healthy buildings requirements. But obviously in the last month or two most people's focus is moving towards health and wellness. So I have to imagine that your phone has been ringing off the hook and can you talk a little bit about what you are seeing from your clients in this COVID-19 pandemic? And what are the kind of questions and what are people focused on right now as we get thinking that we might be going back to work sometime soon?
Daniele Horton (03:31): Yeah. We've been working with our clients in developing like emergency plans for pandemic. We're working with a lot of different flyers and educational things, obviously trying to make sure we have proper... Because we do have like green cleaning policies and we do indoor quality programs as well. We're working with them to create a lot of cross-contamination protocols or cleaning protocols.
Daniele Horton (03:58): We're doing a lot of educational flyers right now. We're doing about 10 different educational flyers to educate tenants about proper cross-contamination protocols. We're also now working on even things that guidance for buildings that remain open with like low occupancy mode to make sure that we're also making sure they're being managed efficiently. They were saving operating spaces. We're also creating now, we're starting to create re-entry protocols as well to make sure that people are safe as they get back to work and creating kind of a phase approach in kind of bringing people back. Right now our focus is we're creating a lot of flyers to kind of work with our properties to make sure that we are following kind of proper protocols before bringing people kind of back to work.
Chris Rising (04:54): What do you think the highlights are, if someone's going to be bringing people back into a commercial property, whether it's office or retail or. What are some of the highlights that are just going to be a given going forward and that you're recommending to your clients?
Daniele Horton (05:13): Yeah. I think there's going to have to be some monitoring, making sure that you're disinfecting like high touch point areas. We're even talking to some of our clients about installing UV light filters, it's some of their kind of filtration systems because there are concerns that some of that could be... In terms of like HVC systems, making sure that they're safe, making sure that everybody's wearing masks. Even employer taking certain steps to make sure that someone sick, that they stay at home. The cleaning protocols are happening a lot more often. So tenants can also request additional cleaning. I think right now too is important when you do kind of your reentry checklist that we need to make sure that employees are going to feel safe coming to the building.
Daniele Horton (06:17): So it's important for us to communicate some of these strategies that we're putting in place. I think health and wellness is going to be very critical. So not only communicating, but we do need to still kind of limit access. We're not going to have any kind of food sharing or meetings where there's a lot of people sitting together. Limited sharing equipment. There's going to be visitors screening solutions. There's going to be a lot more control measures in place.
Daniele Horton (06:55): I think that we're not necessarily, it's not going to be like we're not going back to normal. It's going to be very different. Property teams have a lot of concerns right now because they kind of... There's a lot of concerns about legal ramifications if someone gets sick at work. So everybody's trying to be very careful to make sure that we have a cross functional recovery team in place and we're taking certain steps to make sure that we're keeping all the building occupants safe when coming back to the building.
Chris Rising (07:30): Do you think some of these more dramatic changes are going to be short term changes? There's a lot of people talking about a new normal. My personal opinion is I think it's a new normal for a period of time because human beings are a little bit lazy. But from where you sit, which is right at the ground level, do you think these changes really are a new normal that we're going to see over a year and over two years that we will be living this way? Or do you think it's a short term dealing with it until, three months from now people kind of, I don't need my mask. How do you see it playing out?
Daniele Horton (08:08): I think that's going to last a little while, especially because there's concerns of like second waves or third waves. I think that overall I do agree that things are changing and there's some emerging trends that are going to become part of the new normal. I think going to be, take a little while until things are back to the way before. They may never be totally back to the way they were before. I think that we'll be a lot better prepared if we see future pandemics about learning how to deal with that. But also there's a lot of familiar like pre-COVID structural trends that are affecting growth state. They're just going to be bringing force and are going to continue to shape real estate. Even for example, the trends of online purchases that have been affecting real estate.
Daniele Horton (09:01): Maybe we still don't know like how that's going to affect different industries and in terms of office. Are we going to see less demand or more demand for space as you try to spread people apart more instead of like putting everybody close together.
Daniele Horton (09:18): So I think that there's going to be a lot of changes, but we're going to potentially continue to see growth in corporate outsourcing. Urbanization like technologies, especially things that people adapt and try to do things remotely. I think sustainability is still going to continue to be very critical. But I do think that it's part of a new normal, it's going to take a while until things... I'm not sure if there'll ever be back the same way they were before.
Chris Rising (09:50): So as this all happened about six weeks ago, how prepared was your company. You're a founder and you run the company. How prepared were you to move towards a mobile remote workforce?
Daniele Horton (10:06): I think we're very lucky with the type of work that we do that we could mobilize very quickly. We actually put our entire team to work remotely a week and a half before they closed this school. So we were kind of ahead of the game. The lasting that stayed onsite was like our operations team. So we make sure we were preparing everything. We were even preparing the office have minimized touchpoints and have hand free devices. We had like a plan A, B and C. Say, okay, when this school is closed, this is what we're going to do. And so when that happened, we were ready to go. Our entire team's working remotely. We made sure that everybody had dual screens to work from home. And we also did a lot of other steps to make sure people were safe.
Daniele Horton (10:51): We've actually hired the grocery shop to get groceries for the team because it's been very hard even getting groceries delivered at home. We also provided subsidies. We're delivering fruits and vegetables to our team biweekly. We have put hazard paying place for a few team members that still need to kind of pick up stuff and drop off things at certain locations. And we provided protective equipment to our entire team, including hand sanitizers. We've been kind of actually making homemade masks for everyone. So I feel like we're very lucky and I think we're very well prepared for this.
Chris Rising (11:30): And for your team, are there people who are still doing onsite inspections and things like that. People who are really doing frontline work or are you able to do a lot of your work at this time remotely and not have to leave the house?
Daniele Horton (11:44): No, right now we're doing reporting Susan for sustainability. We're working on GRASP reporting and creating our annual issue reports. Luckily we could do most of our work remotely. We do have quite a bit of work that required site visits. So although those were kind of put on pause right now, but we are working with property teams should be able to do some assessments remotely. Even contacting a chief engineer and having face-time as in show some of the mechanical spaces. So we're working with them to come up with different... To kind of adapt as well and be able to continue some of those services remotely. But right now we're doing 100% of our work remotely. We paused all travel and we're trying to do everything we can to make sure our team stays at home and stay safe.
Chris Rising (12:34): It's an interesting world, isn't it? In the sense that we've spent so much time focused on what we're doing in the buildings and yet we're finding that there's so much that we can do at home. Do you think that having an office is still a value to what your team at Verdani Partners is doing? Do you think you'll keep an office space coming out of this or do you think you'll just work remotely?
Daniele Horton (13:00): No, I think there's still a lot of value in the office space. We've worked really hard in creating a really nice kind of working environment for our team. We used to provide lunches every day. We had a yoga teacher that came once a week. We create our office space as a lot of daylight and views. We have created a lot of things to have proper acoustic control and meeting spaces or having kind of devices. I do think that we are currently doing a survey with our employees to understand if there are a certain percentage of our employees that would like to continue working remotely once this is all over and we'll make sure to wait until it's absolutely safe to bring them back to work because we do have kind of a like an open office environment. So it's going to be harder.
Daniele Horton (13:51): But we do still have a lot of quarks in the office. And there's a lot of people that have kids at home. They don't have a great kind of workspace should be working from home. So I think we're going to see a mix. I mean there's people that are commuting far and they're saying they're very productive. They don't have to waste time getting ready for work, thinking, jump right in. But there's people that are not happy.
Daniele Horton (14:17): There's multiple people working from home at the same time, having calls at the same time. And the environment's not very conducive. So I think it's going to be a mixed bag of some people are going to want to continue working from home and some people are going to be like, "Please, when can I get back to the office?"
Daniele Horton (14:37): We're probably not going to need as much space, but our companies continue to grow so that may balance it out. But we are taking a lot of steps to like when we bring people back to work, we're definitely going to do a face approach. We're not going to have everybody in the office at the same time. Some of our team meetings where we had the entire team, eight person. We're starting to rethink how we can do those meetings as well to make sure we're not putting anyone at risk.
Chris Rising (15:06): We're doing very similar things with our team. We really want input from our team. It's okay to be nervous and scared and all of those kinds of things and we want to be supportive. But one of the things that I think has made our team work effectively during this time is we really had a great culture. And I don't think you can have a great culture if you're not spending time with people and you're not interacting in Zoom and Microsoft Teams. These are all great products, but I think they are effective when the culture's there. And I think it's pretty hard to do it without it.
Chris Rising (15:36): So from our perspective and obviously bit biased, owning as much office space as we do, I do think that people will look at offices as important. But I do also think that the baby boomer idea of your value in your work, happens a lot in Japan, presenteeism. It's just not going to be as valued as much as we have people like yourself. And we have this millennial and gen X leadership.
Chris Rising (16:06): I think people are going to say, I don't know if I'm going to force people to do a two hour commute just so we can start a meeting at 8:00 in the morning. So I think that's where I think the changes are going to be. And quite frankly, I have to imagine for me, and I have to imagine for you too as a senior leader in the company. I wasn't at the office 50 hours a week, I was traveling and I was working mobile. So I think it's a bit of a transformation where people who have other roles are going to have the ability to have a little more control over their schedule.
Chris Rising (16:37): But how do you look at it from an owner of a business. You founded this business, you've grown it. What are some of the concerns that you feel as we've gone through this about how you build company culture? By the way, I was going to ask you for a job the way you described your work set up. My team's going to ask where their yoga instructor is after they hear this. How are you thinking about that as running a company, as being a founder of your company? How are you going to keep the culture in this new normal that we've talked about?
Daniele Horton (17:09): Right. No, I think that's very important too. Especially what you said to have that company culture before. We do annual retreats and we do a lot of things together. We try to do happy hours and I think that having an effective team, it's feeling important to get to know each other on a personal level and even understand what each other, what we're going through so that when you kick the ball someone is going to be there to pick it up. So we're trying to do right now a lot of other things. We have calls just to like checking with people. We've called every individual, we have calls as a team or we can just vent. We created even resources for our parents. We actually have Zoom meetings for the kids where we plan the activities for them.
Daniele Horton (17:50): So the parents know that during that time they can schedule calling and do something. We have support to the parents that I think are struggling right now. We were having happy hours on Zoom. It's not the same, but we're starting to still keep a little bit of that company culture. We're making sure that sometimes when you have calls and you're like don't worry if you're wearing your PJ's, if your hair is not done, but like to see each other on video as well so we can stay connected. We're still doing our yoga classes remotely via Zoom. It was an adjustment for the yoga instructor, but we're trying to kind of maintain a lot of the things you were doing before remotely. I think we're still looking forward to be able to do some of those things in person.
Daniele Horton (18:36): Again, but we being able to kind of adapt pretty quickly. I mean it still takes a while to get used to that new routine. But I think we're doing really well right now. And we are using a lot of different tools. Like we use SharePoint and Microsoft Teams, which allows us to... We have a lot of different channels for different discussion points. We even have a COVID news topic where we share a lot of information about things that are happening in real time. We have even on entertainment one where we're trying to just help people, they can get a mental break and share fun things with each other. So we're trying to do a lot of things to help our team kind of cope with it. And we're leveraging all the tools like WebEx, Zoom, and all the tools that we need to make sure that we can continue to do our work in a kind of professional way, engage with our clients that way.
Chris Rising (19:35): Well, it's really interesting to hear how concerned you are about the team. I think it shows someone who's been a founder, who's grown a team and the leadership that you demonstrate. But let's talk a little bit about when did the vision for starting your own company. You were trained as an architect. You obviously were very well educated, but how does somebody who is from Brazil come to the United States and decide I'm going to be a founder of a company? Tell us a little bit about that?
Daniele Horton (20:08): So actually I created a company during the last recession. I had worked for an architect for seven years and worked in real estate sector for almost a decade. And at the time I think yeah, around 2008 we had the kind of market crash. As a mom, I was having my second kid. The company I worked for didn't have like a work from home policy. With our current company everybody can work remotely and we kind of focus more on performance versus you have to be in the office certain time. We kind of give people flexibility to kind of... If they're a night person or morning person. But I didn't have a lot of that flexibility before.
Daniele Horton (20:59): And I remember at the time I actually was in LA for like seven years. And my husband's family is in San Diego. So we moved down here and I was commuting back and forth between LA and San Diego, which was not sustainable. So in San Diego, there wasn't a lot of companies doing like... I was having a hard time finding a job, being a director of sustainability down here.
Daniele Horton (21:24): So I kind of made a bold move and kind of started the company and luckily my former employer hired me as a consultant so that they were my first clients. And that's how everything started. At the time I was interviewing with three different firms and I was able to kind of work for all of them.
Daniele Horton (21:49): And I was setting up, I was like why don't we help all of these potential employers as a consultant. And I started the company. So I think for women shoe, like the corporate world loses a lot of talent because of the lack of flexibility.
Daniele Horton (22:07): So I think that was one of the things I wanted to do differently with my firm is just have better environments so that you don't have to choose between your family and your career. So we do allow a lot of that flexibility and a lot of our senior leaders are actually women and a lot of them are kind of working moms. So I try to at least solve some of the problems that I saw in the kind of corporate environment. And right now we're doing really well managing 4,200 properties. We're sometimes growing faster than we want to. There's being a huge demand for our services and we're very happy that things are working out well.
Chris Rising (22:47): That's terrific. How many employees do you have now?
Danielle Horton (22:51): I mean, we're still very small. We have about 30 people, but we're continuing to grow and I'm still very proud of kind of how far we've come.
Chris Rising (23:04): And you said you use Microsoft Teams and your Microsoft Back. How do you find technology's ability to be a force multiplier? Do you find that using technology allows you to do more with less, or do you still find that you're just the nature of your business is very people intensive?
Daniele Horton (23:22): No, I do find that we can do more with less with technology. We did change, we tried a lot of different tools over the years. And I think right now with Microsoft Teams, we're very happy. I mean we've tried, we've started even sharing information so that you don't have to send as many emails. We've tried even WhatsApp and then switch to Slack. And now we're doing Microsoft Teams and there's a huge step up. But we also use SharePoint, which a lot of our clients use the same thing. So it is easy for us to kind of collaborate with them. We try to do a lot of things like even educational webinars that are pre-recorded, that we can send links to resources. I do think that you're never going to remove their need to have someone managing the programs and doing the work. But technology does help significantly so that you can do the work more efficiently, we can move faster.
Chris Rising (24:25): Well, I want to get more into it, but I'm such a software geek. I have to ask you about your experience with Slack. We don't use Slack. We tend to use Google products, so G Suite and Docs and such. But we also use Asana as a project management. I didn't want to add Slack because it just felt like it was just one more channel of noise. What was your experience with Slack and what do you like so much about Microsoft Teams?
Daniele Horton (24:55): I think Slack was a game changer for us because before we are using WhatsApp even to like communicate. I think that the good thing about it is that you can create different channels for different topics. So like we had a channel for each client, for general company announcements, for even whether it's fun topics. Each department has their own channel. So it just makes communication a lot easier. We can put links to documents on it. We can share pictures. You can access your calendar, you can make calls through Teams as well, like files.
Daniele Horton (25:33): It just makes it more efficient. For me for example, I get so many emails, my emails are just not a very effective tool for me right now. So with Teams I can go in and click on any clients, see what the team's talking about. We have links to documents I think as a game changer, really helpful. I think for companies that are not using a tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams right now, I'd highly recommend it. For us it was really helpful.
Chris Rising (26:05): That's terrific. As a founder as well and kind of a tech geek, I always like to jump into how people are running their companies and Microsoft has come a long way in the last few years and I was just before on a call with someone on Teams and it was the first time I'd done that video call there and really enjoyed it.
Chris Rising (26:26): But let's dive into what's more important. So tell me a little bit about your background. You're from Brazil. You went to Harvard and got an MS in sustainability. Tell us a little bit about what drew you to the United States and what drew you to sustainability?
Daniele Horton (26:42): Sure. Yeah. I was born in Brazil. I got my bachelor's in architecture there. I came here through [inaudible 00:27:22] competition. I was ranked second place among 2000 candidates to do an internship at a large architecture firm. And I eventually got my masters. I remember at the time, I was kind of one of two Brazilians at the architecture school. And I remember when I kind of got my degree, I took classes at MIT as well. We had classes where we're doing like global carbon simulation models. When I was seeing what was happening and the predictions that we have with climate change, I was terrified. I was like, "Oh my gosh, like we're leading ourselves third extinction. We have to do something about it. We have to act fast."
Daniele Horton (27:42): And I remember at the time I spent the entire time networking to go work for the UN or the World Bank. I was the president of a student group and I was very active at the university, even criticizing the university for not doing as much, not having enough sustainability classes. So my professors all kind of had a lot of energy. So they kind of dissuade me away from going to work for those organizations. They said there's a lot of bureaucracy, you're not going to move as fast, go to the private sector. And I had done a construction management degree at UCLA and one of my professors worked for Thomas Properties Group and offered me a job because they were starting at $500 million green fund. So halfway through my program they flew me in for an interview and I kind of fell like... I met my husband in grad school and he was studying real estate finance and we used to joke like, "You're a dirty developer." And he used to call me a tree hugger.
Daniele Horton (28:42): I fell a little bit like going to the dark side by going to work for a real estate firm. But I think that it changed my perspective because this is an industry that has to change. So I feel like by being an agent of change within real estate that I could make a bigger impact. And through the private sector you can make progress a lot faster. And the company that I worked for, Thomas Properties Group, actually some of our team and my coworkers actually work with you right now.
Daniele Horton (29:14): But we had one green building at the time and I helped them green their entire portfolio. We became number one on GRASP for three years in a row. We've accomplished a lot. So I also felt that I wanted to move faster and not just screening one portfolio but I didn't feel like the industry was moving fast enough. So that kind of inspired me to create a company where I could kind of scale some of those efforts to more portfolios and help other real estate portfolios effect change as well.
Chris Rising (29:51): Well, I mean it's such an amazing story and I did not know that connection with Thomas Properties. My father was partners with Rob & Jim, Rob McGuire and Jim Thomas when they were Maguire Thomas, but I didn't know your connection there to Thomas Properties, so that's great to hear.
Daniele Horton (30:07): Yeah, I was there for almost 10 years.
Chris Rising (30:07): Wow.
Daniele Horton (30:12): I's a great company. Yeah.
Chris Rising (30:12): So let me ask you this. Look, it's hard to talk about anything that doesn't have the pandemic, that's kind of the background of what we're dealing with. But if we can just pull ourselves out of that a little bit. We started the year, we're raising a large fund around sustainability and impact. What do you see as we get back out of this, people get back to work and whether it's commercial office or residential multifamily or it's retail. What do you see as the main drivers for sustainability in ESG? Is it coming from the investors? We see it a lot, I know in the European investors and stuff, but what do you think is really driving your growth in your business outside of the pandemic? What are the drivers that you see are making sustainability important to people?
Daniele Horton (31:04): Right. I think there's a lot of information that shows that the sustainable funds are outperforming the market. Even with what's happening with CIVID-19, those funds, everybody's negatively impacted, but those funds are doing better financially. And I mean, partially also because they have less exposure to energy. But we're seeing a lot of investors are paying attention. We're seeing a lot of pressure from investors. I mean, even before the pandemic pushing companies to address ESG. It's associated with higher management quality. There's a lot of evidence that shows that higher stock prices still companies are doing better financially. And even right now we're getting a lot more due diligence questionnaires from investors asking about it. So what are you doing about ESG? And we're seeing with even our clients. Clients that have been able to implement ESG program, getting large investments because they have an ESG program.
Daniele Horton (32:05): So I think that there is a lot of pressure and there's a lot of... We recently wrote an article about some kind of top ESG trends that are transforming our real estate. And there's a lot of in terms of resiliency and risk. I mean, if you have properties that are... Real estate is going to be heavily affected by climate change. I mean, if you are in an area that's exposed, that can be prone to floods or sea level rise.
Daniele Horton (32:38): But also dealing with droughts or hurricanes. The resiliency and risk management and risk planning is very important. There's a huge push also to kind a switch to a low carbon economy. So there's transition risks. If you have buildings that are heavily powered by natural gas, which is a fossil fuel, there's just a lot of pressure from maybe not as much from our federal government, but there's still a lot of pressure on a global scale to kind of switch to a low carbon economy.
Daniele Horton (33:10): So it's really important for buildings to prepare. And we're also going to... There is that and also push for electrification of everything including buildings, the transportation sector. Buildings should be prepared, making sure they have infrastructure like UV charging stations. We're going to continue to see a trend toward urban densification in occupant health especially. This is going to be really important. So making sure that buildings are supporting occupant health. I think that especially when we have down cycles, there's a bigger focus on greening existing buildings and they're kind of big part of the problem in terms of 98% of our buildings are existing buildings.
Daniele Horton (33:56): So they also need to be a big part of the solution. A lot of them are outdated, they need to be retrofitted. So there's value added opportunity to and from a real estate perspective and kind of making those buildings more efficient. And I think all of that is driving the push for transparency from investors and getting more serious about ESG disclosures. And sustainability too is breaking out of the silo. You do have to incorporate it and kind of penetrated in kind of all facets of the organization and work with a lot of different departments. So I think some trends are going to continue and they're only enforced by kind of what's happening with the pandemic and not going away.
Chris Rising (34:43): I agree with everything you said. I'm going to have to take you along with all my fun fundraising meetings. I think we're on the same page. One of the things I do want to get into is you are a founder, you're a woman, you're a mother. And real estate is a notoriously white male business. How do you feel, what pressures or what do you think about the fact that you're in a business?
Chris Rising (35:07): I have a wife who works at Gensler, she's in hospitality design. She spent many years at HBA in the hospitality group there and a senior manager there. So I've watched her grow up through it. I have two daughters. So whenever I have a woman founder that's in the real estate industry, I'd really love to ask you about what are the touch points about being a woman founder in the real estate industry and what are some of the pressures or challenges you've had to deal with?
Daniele Horton (35:37): Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah, real estate is 99%. What do I mean? Well, not even just like we lack diversity, not only gender diversity, but we lack diversity in general in real estate. It hasn't been totally easy, but I think I've been able to succeed in that environment. I've had to sit in boardrooms where I was the only female and tell the company you need more diversity in your company leadership. I mean, luckily at the time that was a part of GRASP. So I had something to help me kind of push them, nudge them that way. But luckily now there's a lot of companies that are vectoring boards that don't have the better representation. But I think that a lot of people see empathy and compassion or some of the kind of unique more feminine traits as being weak.
Daniele Horton (36:35): But that's actually, I see that as a strength and you can see that even with what's happening with COVID-19 response. A lot of the female leaders are doing really well and leading their countries because they have those straits. I've written a lot of blogs and I kind of... Even where I teach sustainable real estate and sometimes I have just one or two women students. Daniele Horton (37:03): I talk to the university and I was like, "What can we do to attract more women?" And some of them are not even applying for those industry to real estate. But I also like for International Women's Day wrote an article about women can kind of overcome some of the kinds of workplace challenges. And there's a lot of value kind of building your network and forming alliances.
Daniele Horton (37:40): In terms of when you talk about work life balance, I say there's no balance. We'd say it's about sway. Sometimes your family takes priority. Sometimes your work takes priority and sometimes it's just a war zone. You just trying to survive each one day at a time. But also like using your family maybe as an edge, as a strength. It's important to also gender bias, which does exist and kind of forming alliances internally to help you deal with that. It's also important to speak up, get a seat on the table, which sometimes we have a lot of like where someone else is kind of taking credit for your ideas, opening doors for yourself and others is important to us to have a results oriented mind and also take risks and be persistent.
Daniele Horton (38:30): We as women are often cuddled and protected since you're little kids, just say, "Don't know, don't do this." To make sure you're playing safe and that actually hurts women. So we need to make sure that we're not kind of setting women back and just telling women that you can take risks. I even see with resumes with Africans like, men, they're a lot more bold and confident even if they only have like 50% of the qualifications for the job. And women wait until they have 100% of the qualifications for the job, and that hurts women. So we need to kind of also kind of be more bold and kind of be okay with taking risks. And you're never going to know everything, but you can also learn a lot in the job and just need to go for it.
Chris Rising (39:18): I know in the brokerage side of things, I've often been frustrated that there aren't more women brokers and people often talk about the compensation structure being so commission-based that it's tough for women to have children and leave the workforce for a while and come back. I don't know. At the end of the day you're commission-based in the sense that you have to get new clients who were willing to pay you. What has been some of the tools you've used to raise two children but still stay committed and still working? Is there any secrets you have out there that you would share with the audience about how you've been able to do it and not lost your business because you also wanting to be a good mother?
Daniele Horton (40:06): I mean when they say it takes a village, it does take a village. So I try to make sure I have the infrastructure in place to get the help that I need. But I also try to plan everything. I put everything on my calendar. You have to be very organized. I think with especially working moms is like, sometimes you can procrastinate. When you're a mom it's you have no time to waste. You have that one hour to get that thing done and you just need to get it done. So a lot of the moms are actually very, very productive and they get a lot of stuff done. But I try to making sure I eat healthy. I think the sleep deprivation is a thing. Sometimes you don't get enough sleep, but I try to make sure I listen to my body.
Daniele Horton (40:54): I actually don't drink coffee. I try to make sure that when I need a break I give myself a break or even taking a nap so I get my second wind. But it's just important to, yeah... Also, sometimes you just need to get through the day, but just don't give up. Just be persistent. Do not give up and make sure that you have the infrastructure.
Daniele Horton (41:16): I think right now I'm in a more privileged situation where I have a virtual assistant that kind of go through, I have so many email accounts. She goes through everything and tells me where I need to focus on. So I'm at this point, yeah, answering my emails through a spreadsheet because there's so much with clients of running a business.
Daniele Horton (41:39): So I've put in place kind of infrastructure and kind of support group that I needed to get this done. But also even set time aside to spend with my children every day. But it's hard, but yeah being organized is really important to make sure you plan. I plan, even time I have to work on something, I put it on my calendar so that I give myself reminders. I have Excel spreadsheets with links to documents that I need to work on, with deadlines so that I can make sure I get through what I need to do.
Chris Rising (42:14): That's great. I mean, that's a really important advice about how you manage your schedule. I think one of the things that's interesting coming out of this, before the pandemic, we had just gone through the me too movement. And we're starting to set a new tone in the board room. There was also a big push into sustainability and now we've got the pandemic and we were showing that, well, having an office is important and having culture's important. There are things you can do mobile that I think will only open up more opportunities for women in the workplace.
Chris Rising (42:51): Our company is 60% women and about 45% nonwhite. I think we are a better company because we have more voices at the table than a company would have had 15 or 20 years ago. And I think it's really reflective in our tenants, our clients are much more diverse. So I think, and I'm forever an optimist. I am a developer. I do think that a new normal outside of whether we shake someone's hand or not is that there's going to be an acceptance for a different way of getting work done that's going to provide more opportunity. Daniele Horton (43:27): Absolutely.
Chris Rising (43:28): Would you agree with that or you think sounds so good.
Daniele Horton (43:31): No, absolutely. Yeah. All my working moms work from home 100% of the time. And that has given them I think the ability to be able to kind of join their kind of personal and kind of work responsibilities. But that's great to hear about the diversity on your firm. We also like got a diversity award. We have a very diverse team. We speak almost 10 different languages. And I think that gives us an edge as well. I think that makes companies more competitive.
Chris Rising (44:03): Yeah, I do too. I do too. Well, I have to ask you, so here we are. As we said, it was May 1st, it's 2020. What do you think May 1st, 2021 is going to look like in terms of our life? I mean, not that you're an epidemiologist or a doctor, but what do you think we're going to sit here next year and be talking about in terms of. Right now it's the pandemic, it's do we have mask? Do you think those are still going to be the concerns? Do you think a year from now we're going to move past that?
Daniele Horton (44:39): I think a year from now it's going to be a lot better, but they do say that we're still going to have to be very careful until a vaccine is in place, until they have figured out better ways to kind of deal with the virus.
Daniele Horton (44:50): So I think they say that would take 12 to 18 months. I think a year from now it's still going to be a lot of ramifications from what we're dealing with. I don't think we're going to be back to everything how it was before. But hopefully in much better shape than what we are right now. And I hope that by then we've had set place, cross-contamination protocols to make sure we're keeping people safe when kind of going to work. But I don't think it's going to be totally back to how it was even a year from now.
Chris Rising (45:29): So Danielle probably we will be living in a world that is a little bit more similar to today than we'd necessarily like it to be. But that probably also means that they're going to be other standards that kind of catch up to what we hadn't thought about. So do you think there'll be any changes in either GRASP or lead or health and wellness that are things that we've learned out of this pandemic that buildings and these standards are going to hold us to? Is there anything that jumps out to you? You go, "Oh, that's going to change in GRASP, but that's going to change and fit well because we didn't think about this before."
Daniele Horton (46:06): I think so, yeah. I mean, especially things that require you to be physically at a location like a prerequisite or something in terms of certification. I think everybody's going to have to adapt. I mean, GRASP certifications, the way we do work. I think everybody's going to have to adapt. I think that it's going to be a new normal and that's going to reshape society in a way that's going to last a long time.
Daniele Horton (46:34): And I think that companies that want to kind of try are going to have to adapt. If you're resisting change is like if there's a way, we have to learn how to serve. But I also think that the pandemic also presents a lot of opportunities for us to change the course and build a more sustainable, resilient driving future.
Daniele Horton (46:54): I think that's important to use this as a wakeup call. Like especially when you talk about climate change. We still have, that's a much bigger issue than the pandemic itself. And we still need to cut down emissions 7.6% every year to avoid like catastrophic environmental impacts.
Daniele Horton (47:16): So I do think that we do need to use this opportunities as a shape to be being able to focus more on climate protection and stop subsidizing fossil fuels. They're failing right now financially. Why would you invest in them and focus on what we need to have, more driving future, focus on renewables. All the things that we need to do in terms of invest in our public transportation system, climate protection, local food production, electrification, making sure our buildings are healthier. So there's going to be a lot of things that we'll need to have a more kind of sustainable, resilient and thriving healthy future. And so we should use this as an opportunity to really kind of reshape everything and kind of not go back to our old way. So I hope we don't go back to our old ways and we use this as an opportunity to be better.
Chris Rising (48:12): Well, thank you, Daniele. That was an unbelievable conversation. I so enjoyed it. It was so timely. I hope our audience will follow Daniele and her team at Verdani Partners. On Twitter it's @verdani V-E-R-D-A-N-I Partners.
Chris Rising (48:29): We'll put some of the other social media handles that Daniele and Verdani has. I really want to thank her and her firm. What an amazing and important things that they do for right now. Please don't forget to follow the podcast, The Real Market with Chris Rising. You can find us on any of the podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, and please subscribe. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter @chrisrising. And you can always go to my blog at chrisrising.com. Thanks so much.