As the COVID-19 situation has unfolded over the past few months, businesses across the real estate industry have been faced with the need to swiftly respond to a rapidly evolving set of circumstances. Given the face-to-face nature of the industry, many organizations struggled to adopt work-from-home policies while still effectively serving their clients, constituents and stakeholders.
Cinnaire is an MRI client that moved quickly to figure out what a “new normal” would look like amidst this crisis. The company planned its response long before much of the country went into lockdown, taking all necessary measures to protect its employees, clients and partners. Their response is an example of how communication, collaboration, and community can help an organization rise to the challenge that faces us all at this time.
An introduction to Cinnaire
Cinnaire is a full-service financial partner that supports affordable housing communities and economic development initiatives through creative loans, investments and best-in-class services. The company has an unwavering belief that all people deserve the opportunities provided by living in healthy communities, and as a part of their work, they match exceptional community investment opportunities with community-focused investors.
As a user of MRI Software’s Investment Central for more than 15 years, Cinnaire has been able to centralize their data and save significant time for fund managers. Boosting operational efficiency while maintaining data integrity has been crucial to Cinnaire’s ability to scale.
Business continuity in the face of change
When the pandemic first started affecting institutions and daily lives across the globe with shutdowns and closures, uncertainty spread fast. As many were trying to figure out what the next day would look like, the executive team at Cinnaire formed action plans to ensure business continuity and to stay focused on raising equity and closing deals. After reaching out to investors and assuring them that they’d be in constant communication, Cinnaire learned that investors were still looking for deals, despite the slowdown caused by the pandemic. The company has begun adjusting its financial expectations for the upcoming year but continues to stay the course.
Responding to adversity with the 3 Cs
In addition to external communications with investors and shareholders, Cinnaire has also taken steps to ensure the safety and continued productivity of their internal staff. Throughout the duration of this situation, Cinnaire has dealt with the challenges using a three-pronged approach.
During the week of March 9, identified by many as the tipping point of the pandemic’s effect on the US, the executive team of Cinnaire made the decision that all staff should prepare to work from home for the foreseeable future. Already equipped with the necessary technology and innovations that would allow their workforce to continue operating remotely, such as video conferencing built into their daily schedules, Cinnaire staff had several days to collect any remaining hardware to perform their duties at maximum capacity in their own homes.
The executive team also began taking the necessary steps to assure staff that even though they would no longer be in one centralized location, they would remain in constant contact about high-level decisions and other strategic communications. In short, Cinnaire made sure that their staff knew they’d be kept in the loop. In practice, these communications came in the form of a long-running and consistently updated Frequently Asked Questions document.
The Cinnaire executive team identified six high level questions critical to understanding the current industry environment and drafted a memo to keep staff updated. This was a fluid document that enabled leadership to address concerns surrounding the question, “How do these circumstances affect our goals?” and it was updated on a weekly basis. Instead of simply compiling this FAQ and sending it out to staff once, the executive team instructed each team leader to walk through the FAQ updates with their respective teams and report back with any results or issues.
Essentially, Cinnaire set up a clear chain of communication and feedback across the organization. The executive team would update the FAQ and team leaders would help the members of their teams understand the document and put it into practice in their week-to-week operations. If a team member had a concern or other valuable feedback, that feedback would travel back up the chain, from the team leader to the executive team. The feedback gleaned from the previous week’s updates would then be included in the next update of the FAQ. This clear workflow stream helped put staff at ease and has also helped them understand their place in the current situation.
Lastly, Cinnaire has encouraged a sense of community and fellowship outside the confines of industry-related matters. Over the past several weeks, teams have been partaking in virtual happy hours in their own homes, encouraging only “non-work-related” conversation. They’ve also been using Yammer to establish a communal break room of sorts, where the marketing team creates regular challenges for the staff. These activities help keep staff engaged in a time when everyone largely finds themselves in a similar situation – stuck at home, but working to make the best of things.
These are uncertain times for organizations across the real estate industry. However, responding with continued work towards shared goals, communication between team members and leadership, and a resolve that we can get through this will help businesses across the industry overcome the challenges.