Employee engagement — Productive people are happy people. You value something more when it is earned. Studies show that employees work harder when they are engaged and connected to their work. The younger generations want to understand and feel connected to a bigger picture. If a company cannot paint this picture for its team, this will directly impact the bottom line with a disengaged team and higher turnover.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Neil Solomon.

Neil Solomon is President and CEO of PropertyForce, a real estate investment firm established in 2006 and focused on simplifying and reinventing the process of real estate investing. The company is headquartered in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

Solomon began at PropertyForce in January 2020 as president and was later promoted to CEO in 2022. Under his leadership, the company’s revenue has grown from $7 million to $17 million as of December 2021. He also brought on 40 additional team members in 2021 and expects to add another 60 by the end of 2022, increasing the team by more than 600% in two years.

Solomon has nearly 30 years of finance, operations and sales management experience in South Florida and has held executive leadership roles for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PropertyForce, Solomon was at City National Bank of Florida in Miami, where he served as Chief of Staff, Chief Development Officer and Chief Investment Officer and helped to implement the bank’s strategy and key projects to support its development.

He also served as Managing Director of Sandler O’Neill + Partners and Managing Director of KBW, both located in New York. At Sandler O’Neil + Partners, he successfully led his client at the time, City National Bank, to purchase TotalBank, a Spanish-owned South Florida community bank, for $528 million. Solomon also founded The CRA Qualified Investment Fund to assist financial institutions in making community investments. As of today, the fund has more than $3 billion in assets under management and serves more than 500 financial institutions across the United States.

Solomon’s extensive experience also includes the roles of president at Bankers Mortgage Lending, and president and CEO of Community Capital Management, Inc.

He is committed to giving back to the community and helping serve those in most need of support.

Solomon holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from the University of Florida.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

Regarding the life experiences that have shaped me, there is not a specific experience I can pinpoint. Rather, there have been moments of adversity that have had the greatest impact.

The first was the passing of my father. With the loss of my role model, my biggest fan and supporter, life truly changed for me. But I knew I had to continue moving forward. Lessons I learned from him when we spent time playing and watching sports, as well as his mentorship, established the foundation of my work ethic today. I will always work harder than anyone else — it’s in my DNA. I know it would make my father proud.

Another moment occurred between the summer and fall of 2017. I had to undergo treatment for a brain tumor. After the treatment was completed and I was walking out of the hospital, my wife and I received the call that she had a match for an organ donation and could receive a heart transplant. We ended up recovering together while supporting each other during two very challenging health scares. This impacted me professionally, personally and in my marriage — but we are both stronger because of it, individually and as a couple.

Character and integrity matter in everything we do. I love the quote, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” It speaks volumes about an individual’s work ethic, grit, determination and resilience. I certainly needed that resilience to pick myself up and continue my path.

Looking back, I can connect the dots and it becomes clear that even those challenging times in my life led me to where I am today — leading a company of 14 employees two years ago and now numbering almost 100.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

Right now, we are seeing a host of important and impactful issues in the workplace. Some of them include:

Flexible work options, such as remote work and training

  • Equality, diversity and inclusion.
  • Health and safety policies.
  • Employee benefits, such as parental leave, daycare plans and medical insurance.

These trends are here to stay. So I see them continuing for ten years and beyond.

As for what will be different –

Digital transformation and artificial intelligence are the future. If a company has not invested in technology, it is way behind the eight ball. Automating processes will increase efficiency and output, which will be crucial for every business to be successful now and in the future. I can see technology playing a massive role in the future with the metaverse and avatars migrating into the workspace.

Additionally, smart companies will make themselves more attractive not solely by offering competitive salaries but also by offering employees an opportunity to have a socially meaningful impact through work.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Invest in your people and the culture of your company. Technology will “never” be able to replace the human element. Keeping employees happy and engaged will always provide the best outcomes.

Empower human connections, break down barriers between people and data and allow for more flexible workplaces. This is not just theoretical, as I’m proud to say that for the third year in a row, PropertyForce has been recognized as a Great Place to Work-Certified™.

By providing your people with what they need to excel and when they need it, these resources will empower them to perform at their very best.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

Greater work-life balance and better personal well-being are very important to employees. For example, we learned from the pandemic that a hybrid model was desirable and effective. It is critical for businesses to be aware of this and embrace it as a business priority. It is no longer solely left up to the HR department but must come from senior leadership. The very top of the organizational chart must champion this evolution.

With this comes the challenge of keeping employees engaged and productive while maintaining a satisfying balance to both the employee and employer. Building trust, giving employees real responsibility and sincere recognition will motivate them to do their best.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

Working from home is here to stay — much to my dismay. I am “old school.” I believe everyone is more productive in person. However, I acknowledge that work-life balance is very important, and people want the flexibility of working from home, particularly as traffic patterns in and around metropolitan areas continue to worsen.

We can still achieve high-production goals from our remote workers, but we invite them to come into the office at least once a month to participate in our culture which is very important to our success, who we are and what we are all about.

With the emergence of technology and AI in the relatively near future, working from home will almost feel like we are all working together, in one place.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

Embrace the hybrid model. The post-pandemic outcome is clear: a hybrid work model in which part of the workforce works outside the traditional office for part of the time is highly desirable. Transparent and frequent communication, with managers and executives playing a key role and fully engaged, can help ensure that the organization moves in unison. Additionally, coming together to celebrate successes, for team-building activities and even additional training will help foster a sense of employee pride and belonging.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

Work of the future will be different from that of the past. And that is a good thing. Technology may eliminate certain jobs, but I think it will create many more.

Technologies and the resultant information, such as data analytics and artificial intelligence, will not make humans obsolete. Rather, employees will meet organizational objectives by combining their unique skill sets with technology and its ability to process and analyze volumes of information faster. Technology combined with work-life balance will be the key to an organization’s success. But we need the human element first — to drive passion, which drives performance and productivity.

Our collective mental health and well-being are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and well-being?

I firmly believe employee well-being is linked to employee engagement and productivity. At PropertyForce, we strive to make this a priority. Even before the pandemic we realized how critical it was. We have a gym in our office so employees can take a break and work out with weights, ride the Peloton or play a game of ping-pong. We also offer yoga, Pilates classes and boxing sessions. Additionally, we cater lunch daily so employees can spend time together and bond over a meal. These types of “perks,” if you will, are almost a requirement nowadays to recruit and retain the best talent.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

Culture is everything! You can’t have a successful organization if you don’t have a great culture. Having a strong company culture motivates everyone to do their best work. As I said before, caring about our employees’ well-being fosters a feeling of family. Employees who feel appreciated will do more than those who view their position as just a job. Productivity will be elevated, and turnovers will decrease. I am proud to state that since I became CEO, employee turnover has decreased to almost zero! Before, it was almost at 99%.

We also provide T-shirts for our team with motivational sayings, and they enjoy wearing them. A favorite is one of our mantras, “Compete Every Day.” Outfitting our team, nearly 100 members strong, is a significant investment. These shirts and the thoughtful motivational statements have provided the foundation of our evolving ethos and culture.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

Technology and AI — As I’ve mentioned above. Ten to 15 years ago we could never have imagined how far technology and AI would come. Private companies entered the space race, self-driving cars, NFTs and more. Tech is evolving rapidly. Therefore, companies need to keep their finger on the pulse — specifically having to do with the data analysis of the resultant information gathered to measure and monitor performance.

Culture — At the top of the list of any future work trends, I sincerely believe culture is number one! If I have learned one thing in my 52 years of life, and 35 years of work, CULTURE is not just a word, a quote, or a saying. More than any one element, culture truly defines a company, a group or a team. It sets the tone for how people show up, how they interact, how they work, separately and together, how they deal with adversity, and just as importantly, how they react to success.

Culture, and related concepts such as core values and ethos, must have its genesis at the top and only then can it cascade down throughout the organization. I am a firm believer that the CEO, perhaps only together with their executive team or a subset of such, must fully embrace the essence of the culture that is being intentionally created. It must be authentic for them.

Without this true belief and commitment, a CEO could never be effective in building a dynamic, living, breathing, evolving culture. A leader of an organization must be completely invested in the culture being created.

The idea that a ground swell of opinion from the broad base of employees should rise up the organizational structure and suggest to the CEO what the culture should be is unreasonable.

I have been on both sides of this scenario, but it wasn’t until I was the CEO that I truly appreciated my position above. Once the culture, the values and the ethos are established, it is the CEO’s job to cascade the message down and recruit, train and retain the team to make their vision a reality. Here is the moment of truth — when you know if the CEO and the team were right or wrong. They are wrong if they can’t recruit, train and retain with their intended and expressed culture. If they can, and they are successful, they are right!

Today with everyone being allowed to freely express themselves without regard to facts, legitimate thoughtfulness, responsibility or accountability, I believe the above position may be at risk. It does set a CEO up for failure when everyone is treated equally in setting the tone.

Only one individual is responsible for investing every minute of their life in implementing the culture, and that is the person at the top. How can they effectively do that when it doesn’t come from deep inside their thoughts and feelings through the years of experiences that have put them in that position?

Flexibility to work remote — As the metropolis becomes more expensive and unattainable for the average employee, companies of all sizes should consider the right hybrid option for their company and team. As mentioned previously, between the traffic patterns in and around metropolitan areas worsening, the cost of living increasing and other factors, employees are looking to maintain a balance of in-office and at-home. We also have a new generation entering the workforce with Gen Z. Gen Zs were exposed to attending school via Zoom because of the pandemic. This younger generation is more adept at managing the responsibility of working remotely. However, a hybrid model or full time in the office works best for hyper-growth companies, like PropertyForce, that need to remain agile. Water cooler conversations, hallway questions, and whiteboarding sessions will continue to play a vital role in a company’s growth, and these interactions are missing when teams are remote.

A hybrid schedule is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Companies need to find the right solution for the team and organization to maintain its culture and productivity levels.

Human soft skills — Tech and AI will be essential, but the human element is still there. The softer skills — such as emotional intelligence and creative thinking, will be essential to productivity. Teams want to feel safe at work. Safe to be their authentic self, which is one of our core values. We are a team of people with different viewpoints and interests from different backgrounds and experiences, but we can always find common ground through our shared values of togetherness, respect and integrity.

Employee engagement — Productive people are happy people. You value something more when it is earned. Studies show that employees work harder when they are engaged and connected to their work. The younger generations want to understand and feel connected to a bigger picture. If a company cannot paint this picture for its team, this will directly impact the bottom line with a disengaged team and higher turnover.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

I love quotes as well. And I send quotes to the entire company, almost daily — including weekends.

One of my favorite quotes is: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?”

People often don’t take a chance because they only think about the endgame. I can’t run that marathon. I can’t get that promotion at work. I can’t get a date with that special someone. It keeps you from even trying. But if you knew you would be successful, what would be your approach? Small victories elevate you to obtain the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Once I started thinking that way, making the climb the focus of the goal, everything fell into place.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

I am in awe of and respect the talent, drive and work ethic of many great athletic coaches, for example — Phil Jackson, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick.

But if you were to ask me who I would want to sit down and talk with, it would be former President Barack Obama. All that he has accomplished in his life is truly awe-inspiring. The fact that he is a Harvard-educated lawyer, served in the U.S. Senate and was the first Black president of the United States is remarkable. Outside of his political career, he has natural speaking abilities, connects with people of different backgrounds and has broken down barriers — forever changing the country’s perspective.

I would love to have the opportunity to gain his perspective on so many topics. And to top things off, he loves to play basketball and is an all-around “cool” guy.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Visit PropertyForce.com to learn more about what makes our company unique. Stay connected with me on LinkedIn, Instagram (@itsneilsolomon) and Facebook, or send me an email to [email protected].

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.