Learning how to lead takes time. Some CEOs learn on the job, some learn in other fields, even books can take you so far. Extracurricular activities can also prepare you for tough leadership roles whether you realize it or not. In school you learn to deal with group projects. Sports are another fantastic way to learn the ropes when it comes to being an effective leader. Professional sports can be a great introduction into the high-pressure world of being a CEO and leader. Darius Kasparaitis, former NHL player, knows exactly how hockey can give much-needed experience for operating at the top. As president of Verzasca Group, Darius takes what experience he gained in the NFL and applies lessons learned to his current position. We spoke with Darius to learn more about how the two compare.
Having played professional hockey for two decades, what did you find was the key to success, and how does that translate to the real estate industry?
The importance of honest team work cannot be overstated. In hockey, even the best players are on the ice only a third of the game – that means you have to rely on your teammates to succeed on the ice while you are off it. And they're relying on you too; not wanting to let them down is a big part of what drives you to perform your best. No one wants to be the individual who lets the team down, but sometimes you do and a good team is there to pick you up. This applies to real estate development because the task at hand is so big and so important, that you must surround yourself with a team of individuals who each bring something unique to the table. A strong team is a constant among the most successful real estate developers and residential brokers.
How can you ensure that positive values and standards are upheld among your team, on and off the ice?
If teamwork is the engine that drives success, trust provides the spark. Trust means having the confidence in your team to respond the right way. It’s a common sight to see players blindly dropping passes behind them or throwing pucks into the open ice or wrapping up the opposing team if they come anywhere near the goalie. It’s a trust thing. They know their teammate will be there to receive the puck and where they'll be on the ice. The same goes for real estate. I may not have all the answers and I may not know everything, but I have teammates who know and understand things that I may not. I can trust that when the times comes to hand something off on a project, that my partners will be there to receive the puck. We are all here to supplement and complement each other and at the end of the day it works because we all trust each other.
Besides the obvious aspect of performance, is there anything else you consider when trying to achieve maximum levels of success?
One of the best parts of playing professional hockey is being able to see and listen to the roar of the crowd during a game. Looking out into a packed arena with fans wearing your color, chanting your name, and cheering you on no matter what, is all part of what makes playing the game so great. Similarly, in real estate, it’s about much more than just developing a building and moving onto the next one. You need to get the support of the neighborhood, get them excited about what’s to come. You need motivation to keep moving ahead with your projects and community support is a big part of that.
What advice can you give to other entrepreneurs\business owners, as they strive to better their businesses?
In hockey, you are more than just part of a team; you’re part of the community and that brings with it certain duties and responsibilities. Lots of players partner with local charitable organizations or participate in community initiatives, each team and each player is a part of something bigger than just hockey. So too, as a real estate developer, you are part of the community, which brings with it the charge of being a good citizen. This means giving something more than a building back to the community – identifying a need or an issue and helping to solve it altruistically.