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Martin Saidon on How To Navigate Uncertainty.

Martin Saidon is the CEO and co-founder of Fortec, a real estate development company dedicated to enhancing urban neighborhoods through build-to-suit educational and commercial projects, and a thought leader on leadership topics.

Could you please share a bit about yourself, your background, and the journey that has led you to become an entrepreneur? What makes your perspective unique on the subject of leadership and navigating uncertainty?

I moved to the United States from Argentina 22 years ago, driven to find a country that offered ample opportunities. It was the best decision, and I’ve cherished every moment here. My journey in entrepreneurship began at a young age. After completing college, my fascination with the real estate industry led me to become a commercial mortgage broker. This role gave me a deep understanding of real estate investments, including construction loans, acquisitions and refinances. After a few years, I started making actual real estate investments. The valuable tools I acquired early on still guide me today, demonstrating the lasting impact of a solid foundation. One key lesson I’ve realized on this entrepreneurial path is that investment tools are not confined to what I initially learned. Continuous learning and adaptation have been pivotal in achieving success. The world is dynamic, and staying current is crucial. My unique perspective on leadership emerges from this blend of experiences, which has taught me the value of seizing opportunities and embracing change.

In navigating uncertainty, I have learned the importance of resilience and adaptability. Moving to a new country required these qualities, and they remained integral as I built my career. This perspective is deeply intertwined with my leadership style, as I strive to lead by example, showing that embracing change can lead to innovation and growth. Furthermore, my approach to success extends beyond business. I believe in maintaining a balanced lifestyle that includes gratitude, exercising my body and mind, and quality time with my family. These habits not only enhance my personal well-being, but also contribute to my effectiveness as a leader.

You and your business have presumably faced some interesting challenges and changes over the years. Can you describe a key moment when you felt uncertainty was at its peak?

Certainly. Opening Fortec in April 2020 was a significant moment of uncertainty, especially considering the challenging circumstances that year brought. Drawing from my almost two decades of experience in real estate, I’ve learned to recognize that times of change hold both challenges and opportunities. This understanding played a crucial role in navigating the uncertainties we faced. As an entrepreneur, I’ve always believed in staying forward-focused. Despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic and the real estate landscape at that time, I saw potential for positive change. I approached the situation with a mindset that embraced challenges as opportunities for growth. While some decisions made during those times may have seemed unconventional, they were rooted in the belief that challenging moments can be the breeding ground for innovative solutions.

Our leadership approach at Fortec is a testament to this philosophy. We’ve cultivated a culture that thrives on adaptability, always seeking the best outcomes under any circumstance, regardless of the economic climate. This mindset enabled us to navigate the uncertainties of opening a business during a pandemic. It empowered us to weather the storm and build something unique and valuable to help communities through the development of schools. Our ability to transform uncertainty into opportunity has been a driving force. We constantly seek the silver lining, acknowledging that positive signals can lead to positive change even in challenging times. This approach has allowed us to overcome obstacles and position ourselves for long-term success. We’ve created a leadership style that’s flexible, innovative and focused on the positive potential hidden within uncertainty.

From your experience, what are the core principles or values that guide a leader during uncertain times?

In challenging times, my leadership approach has centered on being a detail-oriented planner. I find value in meticulously considering different paths and potential outcomes, which enables me to guide my team toward the best route. However, it’s important to acknowledge that circumstances can change, and adaptability is key. Embracing the ability to reroute and make necessary adjustments has been a shared skill among my teams. From my experience, several core principles and values are crucial for guiding a leader during uncertain times:

1. Aim High with Small Goals: Striving for ambitious goals while breaking them down into smaller, achievable milestones allows for adaptability and the flexibility to reroute if needed.

2. Resilience: A resilient attitude is invaluable during uncertain times. It’s essential to lead by example, demonstrating the ability to bounce back from challenges and setbacks.

3. Service to Others: Leaders should always strive to be of service to others. By assisting team members and addressing their needs, a leader fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose, which becomes even more imperative during uncertain periods.

4. Giving Back: Contributing positively to the community or industry can be a guiding principle. Giving back not only reinforces a sense of purpose but also helps establish a support network that can prove invaluable in navigating uncertain times.

5. Surrounding Yourself with Complementary Individuals: Surrounding yourself with people who complement your skills and outlook can provide diverse perspectives that aid in decision-making during uncertain times.

6. Transparent Communication: Honest and open communication with your team helps maintain trust and fosters a collaborative environment, which is essential for overcoming challenges.

How do you cultivate a culture of resilience and adaptability within your team? Can you share a practical example where this culture made a significant difference?

The principles I mentioned earlier have been pivotal in shaping critical decisions. Aiming high with small goals ensures our decisions are purpose-driven and align with our overarching mission but also remain flexible enough to accommodate unexpected changes. Also, resilience as a core value encourages me to approach setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth, guiding my decision-making toward finding innovative solutions. A practical example that underscores the impact of this culture involves our team’s practice of wearing Fortec caps in some of our meetings. This simple gesture unifies our team members and signifies that we’re all working toward a common purpose. Whenever a challenging situation arises, the sight of these caps reminds us of our shared commitment and our collective goal. This small but powerful symbol reinforces our culture of unity, resilience and adaptability.

Many aspiring leaders struggle with the fear of failure, especially when the path ahead is unclear. What strategies or mental frameworks have you developed to overcome this fear and embrace uncertainty as an opportunity?

The fear of failure is a common challenge that aspiring leaders often grapple with, particularly in times of uncertainty. I faced this fear and developed several strategies and mental frameworks to overcome it:

1. Set Realistic Expectations: I’ve found that setting realistic expectations for me and my team helps alleviate the pressure of achieving perfection. Recognizing that not every decision will lead to immediate success allows me to approach challenges with a more open and patient mindset.

2. Visualize Success and Failure: Visualizing positive outcomes and potential setbacks helps me mentally prepare for various scenarios. This practice reduces the fear of the unknown and allows me to approach uncertainty with a sense of readiness.

3. Focus on the Process, Not Just the Outcome: I’ve found it easier to stay grounded and motivated by concentrating on the steps and strategies I can control rather than fixating solely on the end result. This approach allows me to appreciate the journey and the progress made along the way.

4. Seek Support and Mentorship: Connecting with mentors and seeking advice from experienced individuals provides valuable perspective and guidance. Learning from their stories of overcoming challenges and uncertainties reminds me that I’m not alone in my journey.

5. Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledging and celebrating incremental successes, no matter how minor, boosts confidence and reinforces a positive attitude. This practice helps counteract self-doubt and encourages me to keep moving forward.

6. Redefine Success: I’ve realized that success isn’t defined by avoiding failure. Instead, I focus on the effort, learning and resilience that I bring to the table. This broader definition of success helps me detach from the fear of failure and embrace uncertainty confidently.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes leaders make during uncertain times? Can you offer a real-life example where recognizing and avoiding such a mistake led to success?

Avoiding hesitation and inaction is paramount, especially during uncertain times. A strong leader and a cohesive team of productive individuals must possess the courage to embrace the unknown. It’s about maintaining a mindset that welcomes challenges and seizes opportunities. I have consistently applied this philosophy to my endeavors. And while it’s not always easy, the results have been rewarding. During periods of uncertainty, I’ve deliberately chosen to take action rather than stay passive. This approach has led me to make well-timed investments that have proven successful in the long run. It’s important to acknowledge that caution is necessary in uncertain situations. Yet, with meticulous planning, favorable timing and skillful execution, remarkable outcomes can be achieved. By maintaining a proactive mindset and recognizing the potential for growth amid uncertainty, I’ve turned challenges into opportunities and created substantial value in my investments.

Looking towards the future, how do you plan to continue evolving your leadership style to meet new uncertainties and challenges? What advice would you give to others looking to do the same?

As I gaze into the future, my commitment to evolving my leadership style in response to new uncertainties and challenges remains steadfast. Adaptability has always been a cornerstone of effective leadership, and I plan to further develop this trait to navigate the ever-changing landscape. At Fortec we specialize in enriching neighborhoods across the U.S. through build-to-suit commercial projects, specializing in various sectors, including educational facilities. The pandemic proved that schools are one of the most critical infrastructures. We need schools to build communities, support the workforce, and provide children with the education and socialization they need to thrive. Although the construction industry experienced challenges, as most industries during the pandemic, we adapted and accepted each challenge as an opportunity to get closer to our end goal of helping to uplift urban communities. In addition to adaptability, in 2021, I embarked on a journey to expand my knowledge by immersing myself in the realm of the fintech revolution, including blockchain and asset tokenization. Recognizing the transformative potential of these technologies, I enrolled in a comprehensive course at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to gain a solid understanding of their intricacies and implications. As time progresses, the integration of blockchain and asset tokenization is poised to play a pivotal role in reshaping how we approach real estate transactions. These technologies will potentially enhance liquidity, accessibility and transparency within the industry, offering a new dimension of opportunities. I believe that by proactively immersing myself in this field, I am better prepared to contribute to the changing real estate landscape. I envision a future where traditional practices are augmented with technological innovations, ultimately benefiting all stakeholders. As I look ahead, I am excited about the prospect of combining my newfound expertise with the evolving needs of real estate. I trust that staying well-versed in these technologies is not just beneficial but imperative for anyone aiming to excel in real estate in the coming years.

You've clearly demonstrated a willingness to learn and grow through experience. Are there any books, mentors, or resources that have particularly influenced your leadership style? How would you recommend others to approach their leadership development journey?

“The Lehman Trilogy” by Stefano Massini is a captivating choice. By delving into the history of Lehman Brothers from its inception in the early 1900s, you gain a deep understanding of how business dynamics evolve over time. This historical perspective provides valuable insights into adaptation, resilience and the importance of staying attuned to changing market landscapes. “Greenlights” by Matthew McConaughey is an intriguing addition. This book offers a unique angle by identifying “greenlights” in business and life. These greenlights could symbolize opportunities, favorable outcomes or moments of alignment that can guide your decisions and actions. It’s impressive how this book has resonated with me on strategic decision-making and navigating challenges. Lastly, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho is a classic that transcends time. Its allegorical storytelling approach imparts profound lessons about the journey of life itself. The notion of following your dreams, seeking personal legends and embracing the process of self-discovery is undoubtedly applicable to leadership. The book’s emphasis on intuition, resilience and the pursuit of meaningful goals can be instrumental in shaping your leadership style. These books show receptiveness to historical context, practical insights and timeless wisdom. They draw inspiration and highlight a holistic approach to leadership development.

For those who want to learn more about your leadership philosophy or explore the products and services offered by your company, what's the best way to connect with you or find out more about your work?

LinkedIn: Fortec Modern Real Estate; Instagram: @FortecNow

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