Is it possible to make money while doing good, or are these two concepts mutually exclusive? Joining us on the show to testify about her experience is Natalie Voland, the president of GI Quo Vadis, GI Quo Vadis is a mission-driven real estate development company with the vision of consciously building communities through the preservation and restoration of historically significant buildings, adaptively repositioning these assets to create employment opportunities for entrepreneurs. With a background in social work, Natalie was somewhat of an outsider in the real estate world when she first inherited the failing family business. Her strong focus on sustainability and community initially got her far more criticism than support. But after 25 years, she has earned the admiration of everyone in her circle, from employees and tenants to once-hostile community members.

In this episode, Natalie talks extensively about the problem with planned obsolescence, the consequences of failing to pay attention to sustainability, and why people, profit, and the planet deserve equal consideration whenever any decision is made at their table. Tuning in, listeners will hear how she convinced others about the credibility of her vision, what she did to turn enemies into advocates, the measures of her success, and why you have to stand up for what you believe in at all costs. Check out the full episode at your preferred podcast platform linked below:

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Key Points From This Episode

The problem with the current real estate market

Real estate is a hot topic nowadays with basically everyone saying it’s the best investment. To meet this demand, people are building so fast and cheap that the quality just isn’t there. Programs showing people buying and flipping houses for a profit have become all the rage and have, in a way, changed how we view real estate. If we only think of building for money, who will build the less profitable buildings like schools?

What is built-in obsolescence in real estate?

Built-in obsolescence is making or designing a product such that it is only usable for a set lifespan. This is seen in many of our products nowadays, from cell phones to washing machines, which are often more expensive to repair than replace. We see this in real estate when the original builders have set periods of time where they’re responsible if there’s a building issue. In this case, most will buy warranties on things like windows that will last for that time and expire when they’re no longer responsible for replacing it. This doesn’t prioritize buying sustainable and quality materials and does not put the tenant’s best interests first.

How to get people to buy into a non-traditional approach

For Natalie, negotiating is key. Check out Getting to Yes — there are several outcomes that can come from a negotiation. A win-win, a win-lose, and a lose-lose. Figure out what outcome you want (hopefully a win-win), and determine what the other party wants. Adjust your strategy based on if you think the other person wants a winner-take-all or a collaboration. Making sure your negotiating skills are top-notch is key in getting people to buy-in. In addition, Natalie credits having ‘champions’ for her on all her new projects. This would be having people in whatever industry or community she’s trying to work with to advocate for her and speak the language of the other side.

A new definition of ‘community’

Community doesn’t mean only making space for the impoverished or non-profits (how it is often talked about in real estate development), but rather it means everyone. To Natalie, it’s about bringing people who don’t fit together, together. Even outside of a real estate context, this is different from how we view community on the internet, for example. There, people of similar interests are usually brought together. Bringing diversity into a space, the successful, the struggling, the religious, the non-religious, the artists, the business people, etc.— yields better solutions for all in the community.


“If you constantly build only for profit, then who’s going to build the things that are not as profitable?” — @NatalieVoland[0:02:40]

“When you buy to flip, you are putting a coat of paint and a Band-Aid on a problem. When you are a long-term holder of a property, you see the financial value in investing in good quality materials.” — @NatalieVoland[0:10:01]

“You think about people, profit, and planet on the same line. You make all your decisions based on all three of those metrics, or you just don’t make a decision.” — @NatalieVoland [0:11:43]

“By getting to know someone, about why they disagree with you, is the most amazing opportunity to actually be able to have the conversation and convince them otherwise.” — @NatalieVoland[0:20:24]

“My marketing strategy is honesty, transparency, kindness. That doesn’t cost anything.” — @NatalieVoland[0:33:54]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode

Benjamin Von Wong
Impact Everywhere
Natalie Voland on LinkedIn
Natalie Voland on Twitter
GI Quo Vadis
McConnell Foundation
McGill Executive Institute
Getting to Yes
Levi Hildebrand on YouTube