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Leadership Illuminated: Tom Earley, Chief Operating Officer, SAHA answers 6 burning questions

[Argus talks with clients every month about things that matter.]

Argus: What is your favorite thing about your job?

TE: Working with so many different people who are experts in their field, both internally and externally. I love learning new things from these experts and also bringing them together to solve complex problems. I love the process.

Argus: What would you tell college graduates about this work?

TE: Our business is extremely complex, which is a good thing. It’s a challenging and engaging industry. The strategies and processes behind putting affordable housing and services together is very rewarding and engaging. It uses financing tools to solve very complex problems, and it’s different from market rate financing.

I made the change to affordable housing about the time that I was ready to buy my first home and felt like, “Wow, it’s really hard to live here and afford a home”. Deciding whether to work in market rate or affordable is a very personal decision. Both industries provide a unique experience.

Argus: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

TE: I test this by the way things weigh on me the most. It’s those day-to-day, on-the-ground decisions that impact the people we serve and/or the people I work with. Are we being thoughtful? Are we considering all the implications of this decision? How will it translate out in our community?

Argus: What would you like to share about your company that not everyone knows?

TE: We have more volunteers than we have employees. Volunteers really make an impact for our residents and the community.

What we do goes way beyond building apartment buildings or being a real estate developer. It’s about the breadth of skills and areas of expertise to make this comprehensive system work. It’s not just about housing. It’s about getting people housing that is affordable and providing them services that are tailored and supportive of their needs. It’s about engaging with the community around us to leverage opportunities to make our services better and working with our volunteers programs to assess the skills in the community to make sure they fit with who we serve. All done to help people better their lives.
Building the units in a very important process, but also just the start. Housing is a platform for all that we do.

Argus: How do you encourage others in your organization to communicate your core values, your brand?

TE: Making sure folks are genuine and enthusiastic about what we are doing. That really shows through and people associate our name with that interaction. That feeling really goes deep within our organization. Everyone is committed to helping people and bettering communities.

Argus: What challenges is your industry facing at this time?

TE: The housing crisis is really a challenge, especially for our area. The need is so high combined with lack of resources. There is just never enough to do what needs to be done and the industry is further impacted by state, local, federal government, plus the economy and the land expense, while at the same time the need becomes greater and at all different levels.

Staying focused in a changing landscape is a challenge. How to stay focused, but still take advantage for opportunities that come up without spreading ourselves too thin. It feels like we can always do more.  It feels like you are always functioning under a cloud of scarcity, though many interesting and creative things can come out of this.







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