The lesson I’ve learned over the years is to hire and retain only A+ talent, which, in our organization, means high-potential performers, and grant them a tremendous amount of autonomy. Those kinds of professionals, at every level of the organization, thrive in the environment we’ve cultivated, while B players and C players drag down colleagues.

J. David Heller
Eric Mull J. David Heller

This focus, in turn, has enabled me to relinquish hands-on oversight and focus my time and effort on preserving our culture and attracting more A+ talent. A key ingredient of this virtuous loop is hiring and firing based on our core values. I’ve found that if you don’t have people committed to those core values, you get mission creep, a gradual shift in objectives, with initiatives getting started and commitments made that are unrelated to The NRP Group’s mission: Creating exceptional rental housing opportunities for individuals and families, regardless of income.

The proof this approach has worked can be found in our bottom- and top-line results, with The NRP Group performing at a higher level than ever before. If I had remained a micromanager, as I admit I used to be, The NRP Group would never have grown so large and successful so quickly.

Part of the virtuous loop is the truism that a rising tide lifts all boats. Because we’ve enjoyed continuous growth, we’ve been able to avoid the backbiting and backstabbing often seen in nongrowth or shrinking organizations. Everyone here has the opportunity to grow as a professional, and that’s enabled us to attract even more A+ players.

Our values-driven approach also extends to the municipalities with which we work. With the talent we have here, we like to work with forward-thinking, progressive communities that understand the need for income diversity and that providing multiple entry points into a community ultimately makes for more sustainable, livable neighborhoods. There still remain municipalities that either have a heavy NIMBY approach or don’t have an interest in learning about the benefits of income diversity, but we’ve learned to identify them and take a pass at partnering with them while focusing on forward-thinking, progressive groups.

J. David Heller is co-founder and CEO of The NRP Group, a leading developer of affordable and market-rate housing.