Leading in Tough Times: Robert Hart, TruAmerica Multifamily

Throughout the month of August, Connect CRE is running a series titled “Leading in Tough Times.” We’ve asked leaders around the U.S. and across the commercial real estate spectrum to share their wisdom and discuss lessons learned. In this installment, you’ll hear from Robert Hart, president and CEO of TruAmerica Multifamily. 

Question: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about leading in challenging environments?

Robert Hart: The most important lesson I’ve learned over the years is to provide explicit direction and to have a plan because there’s no substitute for good planning in thriving or tough times. In troubled times, planning becomes even more valuable because the train is going in the wrong direction. And in order to counter that, you need to be vigilant about asset management, operating expenditures, or debt management to control the revenue and expense side of a national multifamily platform like we have assembled. It requires the right team with the right focus because it’s not enough to just analyze the problem, you must also have an action plan that is accompanied by the will and determination to carry it out.

Question: What leadership advice would you like to give to your younger self?

Robert Hart: I would advise myself not to be afraid to take a big step. Don’t be hesitant. Believe in yourself and continue to learn and grow from your collective experiences that then culminate in a big step. Sometimes people hold themselves back because of modesty or fear and there’s no need or reason to do that when decisions are approached with confidence and trust in yourself.

Question: What’s the best decision you’ve ever made as a business leader?

Robert Hart: Probably the seminal decision for my career was in 2013, when I came to the conclusion that it was time to start my own larger company. That resulted in the creation of TruAmerica Multifamily. I spent a few years thinking about it and putting the pieces in place to do that. I probably could have done it even sooner, but I had to move through my own comfort zone and resistance to change. That was probably the most important decision of my business career because I formed what has become a successful and enduring real estate enterprise that holds roughly $16 billion of assets under management and today has formed close partnerships with many leading institutional investment firms. We’ve hired some exceptional people along the journey, and it is rewarding to see how we’ve built a legacy company that’s ranked among the top 25 apartment firms in the country in just the span of a decade.

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