Since its inception in 1998, Cromwell Property Group has grown to become one of Australia’s largest real estate investment trusts (REITs). Take stock in mid-2013 in advance of designing its 5-year growth strategy, the firm was concerned it might be losing its strategic focus and trying to be all things to all people.
Launching as a startup specializing in managing the long-term security of individuals’ retirement income, Cromwell was concerned that their fast growth had weakened their tangible and visible connection to clients. The concern emanated in part from the attention the firm was receiving from investment analysts and fund managers to run Cromwell according to best practices of similar firms globally. Knowing that doing so would destroy Cromwell’s essence and unique distinction in the market, it was time to take a breath.
Cromwell chairman, Geoff Levy, had met David Lapin and had been impressed with the insights in his book, Lead by Greatness. Lapin interviewed 18 members of the Cromwell leadership team to probe what they thought was different about Cromwell — to draw out what was truly special about them. The feedback was that Cromwell had a unique culture that should not be squandered. Its culture was built upon their commitment to the kinds of individuals that had invested with the firm at the very beginning. This commitment was wavering as the firm was growing.
Lapin personified these core customers by naming them “John and Mavis” after a married couple that had been an original client of the firm. The firm’s new purpose was crafted around understanding John and Mavis’s deep, intangible needs, and serving them faithfully.
By evaluating business decisions through the lens of Cromwell’s archetypal investors “John and Mavis,” Cromwell’s leadership was able to better evaluate potential transactions to focus on its niche. These decisions better met analysts’ and investment bankers’ growth expectations to ensure that all investors would benefit.
Focusing on John and Mavis also encouraged the firm to set up The Cromwell Foundation, a charitable organization, as well as determine the focus of its donations. Once Cromwell formed the foundation, many of its investors donated funds to it themselves. The linkage the firm feared it had lost between itself and its customers remained intact.
To further reinforce their commitment to their investor base, Cromwell named one of the conference rooms in its newly refurbished headquarters in Sydney “John and Mavis.”