Gems of Idaho: Casey Lynch, CEO and Co-Founder of Roundhouse

Reading Time: 19 Minutes

In this interview, Casey Lynch, CEO and Co-Founder of Roundhouse answers our questions about his mission and approach to leadership.

After the Interview

About Casey Lynch

Casey Lynch is the CEO and co-founder of Roundhouse a fully integrated developer and operator of multifamily housing focused on elevating the built environment. He focuses exclusively on providing high quality housing options in emerging cities in the Western United States. He constantly pursues thoughtful, boundary-pushing design that enhances the quality of the built environment and gives identity to the spaces in which we live, work and play.

Read the Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.

0:06 

The Deliberate Leaders podcast I am Allison Dunn, your host. Today’s segment is part of our Gems of Idaho series where we’re featuring an Idaho deliberate leader who inspires hope for a brighter, bolder future. Our guest today is Casey Lynch. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of Roundhouse, a fully integrated developer and operator of multifamily housing focused on elevating the built environment. They focus on exclusively providing high quality housing options in emerging cities in the western United States, in constant pursuit of thoughtful boundary pushing designs that enhance the quality of the built environment, and gives identity to the spaces in which we live, work and play round has been has been recognized for their contributions to the built environment, and sustainability by Bloomberg, the LA Times and the American Institute of architecture, among others. Casey, thanks so much for joining us here today.

1:10 

Thanks for having me.

1:11 

My pleasure. I love to kick these off with a quick deliberate conversation. And it runs the gamut. So there’s no wrong answer, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners today?

1:28 

That’s a great question. And I think it would be to clearly articulate your goals, values and mission as a company. As you probably have seen on our website, our mission statement and our values are prominently displayed. These are things that we talk about regularly amongst ourselves, internally and externally. And as a, as a leader, I think that’s the number one thing that you can do, which is create that framework for your team members so that they can constantly make decisions based upon your clearly articulated set of values and an admission for the company.

2:12 

I would agree that, that that’s very important. It’s a that’s a great focus point. And one of the things that actually drew me toward our interview with you today, I, I have about two dozen years of experience, working in built environment type industries, so architecture and engineering. And I just think that what you are doing as an organization and the mission that you’re around, you’re just you’re changing the landscape of our community. And I love the focus of it. So in your own words, how would you describe your mission? And that is around we put humanity into housing, which I love.

2:55 

Yeah, thank you for asking that. It’s not a question I get as often as I would like. But yes, our mission statement is to put humanity into housing. And really, just to take a step back, you know, in terms of what we do is we build and operate multifamily housing around the western US. And we target what we call the middle market. So it’s not necessarily luxury housing, we were aiming to provide housing options for, you know, middle income families, you could be a nurse, you could be a teacher, you could work at Jimmy John’s, and you could afford to live in many of our communities. But our approach is basically to put dignity into the into the, you know, the experience of living in a rental home. And so much of our industry has been financialized. You know, this very, you know, Wall Street mentality where it’s really just numbers on a page. And we look at it through the lens of what is the experience that our resident is having living in this community? And so that has everything to do with the aesthetics of the of the property? Is this a beautiful place that inspires me, and when I come home every day, it obviously has to do with the interactions that you have with our team members that work on site. You know, you’re interacting with these people regularly, when you pick up boxes from Amazon or your mail or you go to the gym and one of our communities. Are you having positive experiences with these people? Are these are these people enhancing your quality of life? sustainability in the environment is another big part of it as well. I mean, you spend a lot of time in your home. And you know, you’re breathing in the air in your home and in we want to make sure that that we’re providing healthy living environments that again, respect the health and wellness of our residents. So when we say put humanity in housing, that’s really well It is just about recognizing and honoring the people that live in these communities and acknowledging that they’re not just a financial commodity for us to make money on.

5:10 

I love the I love the fact that it is very like residential like living focused versus asset portfolio driven.

 

5:21 

In addition to that, I would like to just name a couple like what would you say is your most proud property? And maybe it’s hard to say like, which child do you think is, you know, which one do you love the most, but what maybe is most renowned anyone listening certainly from our listenership here in the in the Treasure Valley, that they go, Oh, I’ve seen that building. It’s beautiful. And, you know, correlate it back to this interview.

5:44 

Oh, that’s a tough question to answer. I’ve got a lot of favorite, favorite children. But I would say probably the one that’s most recognizable in the Treasure Valley is the Fowler, which is located on four issues may 5 and broad by the Trader Joe’s downtown. And I’m proud of it because among other things, it was really the first mixed use housing project developed in downtown Boise and many decades. Okay, so the city had been doing study after study about, you know, how can we get developers to build housing downtown so that we can live in downtown Boise and, and I remember very vividly My partner and I, you know, probably 10 or 11 years ago, we flew into Boise, and we got off the plane in the middle of the day, and we’re walking around downtown, and it’s super vibrant, or, you know, people milling about and it’s beautiful and clean, and just has all the attributes you’d look for. We went to check into our hotel room and came back out for dinner. And it was like tumbleweeds in the streets. Like Where did all the people go? And they all went home to the suburbs where they lived. And so that’s where the light bulb went off for us. And in the fowler was really the first ground up kind of large scale mixed use project that we, we did, we worked very closely with the city of Boise. There were some historic homes on the site, when we acquired it, we actually paid to put them on trucks and have them relocated to other parts of the city, so they weren’t demolished. We brought in a fantastic restaurant operator who’s become a great part of the community as well, and now operates a really popular restaurant on the ground floor of the property. And I think a lot of people in Boise have been to and really, really love. I know I eat there every Tuesday night.

7:36 

You’re welcome to drop their name here if you’d like.

7:39 

The Wilder restaurant. It’s operated by David and Lizzie Rex

7:44 

Fantastic pizza? Yeah. I’m from so just from a like the understanding of the number of units that you’ve, you’ve done like what are the total number of units that you’ve done as an organization?

7:58 

Yep, so we’ve, we’ve developed and acquired over 5000 units. We focus mostly on the mountain region. Now we started the business in California, we actually relocated our company to Boise. A year ago. We’ve had an office in Boise for a long time. But we moved our headquarters to Boise. It’s become such a big part of our, our company, and we love the city. We love working there. But we’re also active in Montana, Utah and Colorado. And that’s one of the things I’m super proud of, you know, we’re I think of us as a net exporter of our services from Idaho, you know, so we’re based in Idaho, but our team is working all over the US exploiting our services. So I’m really happy that we’re able to provide that kind of economic growth to the city of Boise. But yeah, so we currently own about 4000 apartments. I think close to 2000 of those are in the Boise market.

9:00 

  1. So about half of them. That’s, that’s fantastic. What, what do you think makes we see a great city to develop in?

9:14 

Well, I mean, it just has so many natural attributes that if you were just like, sit in a room and think about what you would want in an ideal city, you know, Boise just has a lot of them. I mean, it’s the nature of the people is fantastic or people are friendly people are welcoming. You have in the downtown you I mean, you have a beautiful river running downtown of Boise with the Greenbelt, which obviously many people take advantage of for recreation. You have just the kind of the planning that’s been done around the city of Boise is fantastic. Just the scale of the blocks and the buildings. works really nicely. And it just has a great feel to it. Obviously, there’s all the other aspects of the outdoors access to the outdoors and recreation that people love that, of course we do too. And, and, you know, I’m sure you’ve heard about a lot of these trends that people are talking about now with respect to the pandemic and people moving. But this stuff has actually been going on for quite a while. And in Boise is one of the big beneficiaries of that.

10:29 

Oh we’re sure, I think one of the things that I’d like to highlight, you know, I, I know that you’re talking about, you know, doing a quality of living for folks, can you can you share with us, kind of the things that you’re putting into place based on the size of, you know, your units and things that you’re taking into consideration for sustainability and whatnot?

10:53 

Well, the number one thing is actually location. And so it’s actually building housing close to jobs. So in Boise, you don’t think of that as much because you could live almost anywhere and have a relatively short commute. But in other cities that have grown the wrong way, like Los Angeles, for example, where we came from, you know, many people, including some of our own employees had hour and a half commute each way every day. So think of the impact on the environment of that. But also think of the impact on the individual have that experience, you know, what price tag do you put upon being able to leave work and go see your son’s soccer game, versus sitting in a car for an hour and a half? You know, these are, these are things that people obviously really care a lot about. So, so location is one and that’s, we do lots of types of development. But our main focus has always been urban, urban development, and certainly within the Boise marketplace, a lot of our marquee projects have been downtown.

11:57 

Fantastic. And what are some of the things that you personally are continuing to learn and focus on in your business?

12:09 

Well, you know, our industry is pretty archaic. It’s hard to be a real estate developer, which is why most of them are old. Because it takes a lifetime, honestly, to gain the experience and the network. And, you know, the ability to put together these complex, expensive projects, we were just really fortunate that we started at a young age, and were able to gain those a lot of that experience earlier in life, and then some of our peers, but it gives us a special vantage point where we’re making these really big, large scale decisions that, you know, literally impact whole cities and communities. But we’re doing so, you know, from the vantage point of being younger people. And so, you know, we think a lot about technology and sustainability. You know, we look to see what other industries are doing, to incorporate into our business. And there’s a lot happening behind the scenes in terms of innovation in the construction industry right now, which is another, you know, obviously very related to what we do, but just a very kind of old school business that’s super inefficient and opaque and so I think we’re just really at the very, very tippy, you know, edge of breaking through and to some interesting ways that that can address some of the challenges our industry faces, like housing affordability being a huge one. But, you know, again, I think you need, you need a fresh set of eyes, you need, you need younger people, frankly, making some of these decisions. Because the residents that we’re addressing are themselves younger people and they and the needs that they have today are different than they were 10 years ago. So I mean, one of my favorite examples is actually a woman in our industry, she worked in the property management side of our business. And when Amazon’s the you know, started becoming popular eyes, you know, she would just notice that in the in the staffs offices, they would just be piled with boxes, you know, from Amazon, and it became a huge time suck for the staff on site to sort through these boxes and call or email the resident and say Hey, Joe and unit for a you’ve got, you know, a box from Amazon here. So she invented a company called parcel pending, which are actually these locker systems where the delivery person will put your put your box into a locker that will then lock and close. And it will send you a code via text or email that says, you know, Alison, you have a package delivery, and then it will give you a code, you’ll enter the code and the locker will just pop up. And it’ll be, it’ll be there waiting for you. So it’s been, that’s a great example of something that is an innovation, both the benefits both the owner and operator of the community, but also the resident, because the resident can now come home at 10 o’clock at night and still access their package. Whereas before, if the office was closed, you know, sorry, Your you gotta wait for your toilet paper till tomorrow.

15:43 

Personal management is a real challenge, especially in a multi community and, you know, thinking it’s left at the door box, you know, like, right outside the door or in someone else’s hands. So that’s brilliant. And I appreciate you bringing up the season, the seniority of the industry that you’re in, and just want to quickly highlight that your team overall is a fairly young group, correct?

16:13 

Very, yes.

16:14 

That worked for you.

16:16 

Very young. Yeah, I mean, I’ve just had a lot of success, recruiting, just high aptitude, hardworking people that are coming from different backgrounds. That, you know, they learn on the job, you know, and again, like, I started out by saying, you know, what I do is I set forth the framework of the values and the mission. And it says, Look, these are our values, if you’re making decisions that are aligned with these values, you can just assume that you’re making a good decision, you don’t have to come to me, you know, to authorize every choice you’re making, if you if you look at this framework, and operate within that. So it could be anything from a development manager or construction manager saying, Okay, are we going to choose brick siding? Or are we going to choose, you know, stucco, siding, and, you know, brick might be more expensive, but it’s much more durable, and probably is going to have a better aesthetic, and they can look at our values, and they can see, hey, one of our values is you is investing for the long term. And, and, and, and they can know that selecting and more durable building material, as an example is the right choice to make. And it’s just one small example out of multitudes of decisions that people have to make every day. And so, you know, we find that that that hiring people that are aligned with our values and can work within that framework is the most is the way to success for us. That’s fantastic.

17:55 

That our one of our original connections was the Evergreen model behind things. Could you share a little bit about what that is for your business? And how it how it connects?

 

Unknown Speaker  18:10 

Yeah, so I’ll give a shout out to the tugboat Institute, which is what you’re referring to, which is a kind of think tank and networking organization that focuses on evergreen businesses, which are private companies that are not venture capital backed that are not private equity backed businesses that are people focused. They are long term focused. And there’s a whole series of actually seven kind of principles that are outlined in this, but really, really, the key to me is the is the long term, right? And all the other stuff comes  out of that. Because if you’re thinking how a decision you make today is going to impact you tomorrow. It’s one thing but if you think about it, in terms of what it’s going to impact is going to be 30 years from now, that’s a very different thing. And, you know, sadly, in our kind of society and our economy, you know, a lot of industries and businesses have gotten away from that type of thinking. Which, again, to be a part of this group, that’s why you have to be a private company, because, you know, de facto, if you’re a public company, you’re, you know, you’re probably thinking about your next quarter’s earnings statement, as opposed to, you know, 30 years from now, when you the CEO won’t even be, you know, part of the company anymore. So it’s something that, actually, before I even became a part of talking about was the way I approach business and it was really refreshing to just meet all these other people that kind of thought about business exactly the same way that I do. Because those are always the type of people that I’ve been attracted to. They’re, they’re surprisingly rare, but yeah, that’s kind of the high level of the Evergreen movement.

20:00 

Thank you for sharing that. Um, let’s talk about your industry. What do you think is the biggest misconception in your industry? Or in the space overall right now?

20:16 

That’s a tough one. Well, the one that I struggle with a lot is just the notion that, you know, real estate developers and owners are all these just greedy, you know, capitalist mercenaries, which certainly there are lots of those people out there. But I would like to kindly put us forward as a counter example of that, where, you know, of course, yes, we are, we are a for profit enterprise. And we, we want to make money. It’s imperative, it’s imperative for us to remain in business. But we are a people focused business, like I said, you know, a lot of our competitors in our industry, if you go on their website, it’ll say, We own you know, x 1000 units, or 10 million square feet of this and or $10 billion of assets. But if you go on our website, you won’t see any of that. It’s all about, it’s all about the end user of our product, which is the resident, it’s the people that live in our communities. And so we’ve oriented our whole business around that. And in terms of trends, like you’re seeing some lots of other industries, but it hasn’t fully hit real estate yet, but I think you’re going to see it, like, I mean, this is maybe too philosophical for the podcast, but I think, in our capitalist, like, you know, in our capitalist, culture, and society, it’s not going to be enough to just be really profitable anymore. Like, people aren’t going to want to work for your company. I mean, you’re seeing this already in Silicon Valley, where, you know, these companies start out with these great, idealistic missions. And then as they, you know, grow, they become public companies, and they’ve got new management and all this stuff, it just becomes a totally different thing. And you’re seeing revolts, literally, amongst fakes Facebook employees, and Google employees saying, we don’t want to work for a company like this anymore. So I mean, if you I think, going forward in the future, you know, if you want to be able to recruit, and retain great talent, you’re gonna have to be, you know, you’re gonna have to offer more than just, you know, paying people really well. I think people want to get more out of out of their professional lives. And, and that has to do it their own experience, but also, you know, the experience that they’re providing to your customers, whoever they are, in our case, that’s, that’s our residence.

22:51 

I agree that that is definitely a trend that I’m experiencing from companies that are moving here. And companies that are competing with people who are moving here, for sure. Do you? How are you addressing? I guess, maybe is the better question, how are you addressing the cost of construction and the supply chain management? In our incredibly fast growing city?

23:21 

Yeah, it’s, it’s a very, it’s a tough challenge. But, you know, again, ultimately, we’re in it for the long term, you know, we’re not a merchant builder, so we don’t build to sell, we build stuff that we’re going to own for 30 years. And you just think very differently about it. And obviously, cost is important to us. But, but it’s something that we’re gonna live with for a long time. So we want to do things the right way. And so for us, it’s all about the margins. You know, it’s all about just fine tuning all the operational efficiencies of the building, it’s about fine tuning the design and the functionality of the spaces, you know, just, you know, squeezing every last bit of efficiency out of a building and that in for us, that means you’ve got to have a lot of experience, you know, you can’t just walk in and say, oh, there’s a lot of people moving to Boise, I’m gonna start building some apartments for them to live in. I mean, you can do that, but for us, we have a whole team of people that, you know, everything from construction and design to operations and management, who are all involved in the planning process of a new development to, to make sure that we can, like I said, kind of squeeze out every operational efficiency, every design efficiency that we can possibly get. So where we can still deliver, you know, super high quality experience for our resident, but you may, you know, maintain control of the costs.

24:55 

I appreciate that. And I do think that the long term ownership, you know, is I think maybe the key that makes some of those decisions actually easier at the end of the day. personal interest specifically, I am on Main Street, in Downtown Boise. And I know I believe that you guys own a lot that’s behind me on whitewater and Maine. What’s the plan? What can we expect? When does that happen?

25:24 

Well, fingers crossed, it’s coming together as we speak. You know, again, harping back on the long term, you know, downtown Boise is actually it’s landlocked, there are a lot of I mean, it seems like there’s a ton of development opportunities. But, you know, 10 years from now, people are gonna look back and think, wow, I mean, there aren’t a lot of lots left available to develop. So we are very methodical and calculating about, you know, what we call the highest and best use in our industry, which is, you know, we’re not going to put a single level drive through fast food in downtown Boise, because you’re going to live with that for 30 years, right. And that’s not the highest and best use. And so it’s a push and a pull, you know, I think in a city like Boise, that, that’s kind of new to all those people look, and they’ll look and they’ll see an empty lot. And they’ll be like, oh, there’s empty lap, just develop it? Well, it’s not that simple. It’s a really hard process you need, you know, you need a development plan, you need, you know, the capital markets and financing availability you need in retail or office, you need a tenant, before you build something. So that’s a good example, of a project where it’s a very large scale project, it’s one of the last best, you know, large development parcels available in downtown. So the last thing we want to do is under build it, and have to live with it for 30 years. So we are going to do a phased project, which we’ll start with, hopefully, by the end of this year with roughly 150 housing units, and a 15,000 square foot retail space. And then we’ll follow on with, you know, another one or two additional phases that would allow us to do all the placemaking and all the really important decision making that goes into creating a great, a great environment that people want to be, you know, that want to live in, they want to work in, or shopping or whatever.

27:35 

Fantastic. Well, I’m excited to see something other than dirt there. And I would love to put a special request for some restaurant, cafe, please.

27:48 

Fingers crossed, we do have another new restaurant coming into downtown and another project, which will hopefully be open by the end of this year. So I’m very excited for the culinary scene in Boise, and a lot of new great restaurants popping up. That’s cool.

28:07 

I’m going to turn it personal to you now. Wait for me back to you. Um, what would you say looking back? If there’s anything that you would have done differently in your career, knowing what you know, now, what might that be?

28:23 

You know, I don’t have a lot of regrets. Honestly, I, I started my career actually working on Wall Street in New York, and candidly had a terrible experience. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned so much from that. And I enabled me to formulate in my mind at a young age, kind of how I wanted to be as a working professional in this world. And, you know, a lot of those kinds of environments, they just doctrine ate you with these belief systems that people kind of take for granted. And this is not a total indictment of it or anything. It’s just, you know, I’ve always been more of a contrarian thinker. And, and really, to me, for me, it was just about, I knew entrepreneurship was always going to be in the cards for me, because I value the people that I’ve respected the most in life, from a professional standpoint, are people who have just carved their own paths, you know, there’s no, there’s no right or wrong way to be in this world. But you need to be the person you’re supposed to be. And when I talk about entrepreneurship, you know, I get to choose all the people that we work with, you know, if there’s, if there’s somebody I don’t want to work with, we don’t have to do it. And, you know, I get to choose the clothes that I wear every day. I mean, there’s a whole multitude of, of, of variables here, but I think, to me, that’s what’s most important. And you don’t have to create a, a billion dollar company to be a success as an entrepreneur. You know, I think I respect a lot of these small business owners, you know, who just, I would much rather be that than some high powered, you know, corporate guy, honestly, I’d rather be a small business owner who gets to make my own choices and gets to, you know, live and die by my own my own efforts, my own abilities. And, you know, you can be an entrepreneur within an organization or within an institution. And I respect those people a lot, too, for sure. But, you know, I learned, like I said, I learned really early in my career, which I’m very grateful for that, that to me, it was about it was about all about entrepreneurship.

 

30:53 

How, Casey, how do you define success?

30:57 

That’s it, just what I just described, which is, you know, become who you’re supposed to be, you know, not who somebody else tells you you’re supposed to be? And there’s no, there’s no one thing you’re supposed to want. You know, there’s no, everyone’s needs, and abilities are different, and it’s about fun, it’s about figuring out what that is for yourself, and then integrating that into your professional life in some way. So that it doesn’t feel like you know, you’re just paying your dues, or just, you know, clocking in and clocking out so that you can leave and then go do what you really want to do in life. You know, I think I’ve seen a lot of people and a lot of different ways incorporate their own.

31:46 

Yeah, their own preferences and their own desires into their professional life in a way that that just makes it more enjoyable and more exciting. And the way that I am is not the way that the things that I care about and want shouldn’t necessarily be the same ones for you. But I’m in control of it, you’re in control of it in a way that that’s what’s most important to me. And that’s what successes.

32:08 

Thank you. Where do you see Roundhouse in 10 years?

32:19 

I want it to be a company that everybody in our industry wants to work for. And I want it to be a place where you know that if you come to work for our company, you can be an entrepreneur within our organization. And that, you know, you will be rewarded based on your own contributions. And that there’s no, there’s no bureaucracy and no politics that are going to hold you back from being successful. And so that’s all I care about. I mean, I personally, I’d rather do one more amazing project for the rest of my career than a slew of mediocre things. I’m just not. That’s not interesting to me. And so we’ve been able to recruit people that feel the same way. And to me, that’s if I can, if I can, if I can look at our company, 10 years from now and see a whole bunch of people who are smarter than I am and know their disciplines better than I do and are as passionate about it. As, as I am that I know we’ve, we’ve made it.

33:36 

That’s fantastic, Casey! I admire the improvements that you’ve made to our city. And I hope that your mission and vision and how you go about it doesn’t change. So to continued success for you and everyone in the Roundhouse team, thank you so much for joining us today.

33:59 

Thank you very much.

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thanks for having me. Thank you.

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