Business Prof, Students, Help Homeport Project Future

OSU Fisher College of Business Professor Dr. Tony Rucci.

OSU Fisher College of Business Professor Dr. Tony Rucci.

Affordable Housing Efforts Boosted By New Strategic Plan

Homeport at the start of 2016 was at critical juncture, transitioning from long-time leadership and in need of an updated business model in the post Great Recession era.

Based on a recommendation from M/I Homes President & CEO Robert Schottenstein, whose father Irving was a founder of Homeport, the organization approached Ohio State University business professor Tony Rucci.

Dr. Rucci, a business and academic success, accepted the call for help, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Craig Murphy

Craig Murphy

“We got exceptional support, direction and research from Tony and his students. He helped us create a very focused plan that was actionable, and accountable, yet simple to understand.  That is a big task,” said Homeport Chief Strategy Officer Craig Murphy.

From February to September 2016, Rucci and four of his OSU students helped Homeport establish a strategic plan eventually approved by Homeport’s Board of Directors.

“He engaged staff and partners and created a story line of where our competencies lie and how we should move forward,” Murphy said. “It provided clarity on meeting our clients’ needs.”

Rucci said his participation did not require a hard sell from Homeport.

“I left Corporate America 12 years ago at the height of my professional career. I always wanted to come back to academia, to teach, but in the latter part of my career I also wanted to give back to nonprofit organizations like Homeport,” Rucci said. “The last eight years I have had 25 pro-bono clients. It is important to take what you learned and give back.”

Anna Klatt

Anna Klatt

Rucci’s students -- Anna Klatt, Christopher Buehler, Holly Norton and Susan Ferger -- received a stipend and lots of experience.

“I always recruit students from the Masters in Business Administration program,” Rucci said. “It’s a win-win. The organization gets very bright people to work on the project. The students get responsibility of an agenda, research, facilitating meetings. It is real time consulting experience.”

Anna Klatt, one of Rucci’s students, agreed.

“Working with Homeport directly impacted my job search, post-graduation. I was determined to find a company that lives and breathes its mission every day to change the lives of those it serves," said Klatt, a product development researcher at Columbus-based healthcare technology company CoverMyMeds.

Holly Norton, another of Rucci’s students, said the strategic planning opportunity at Homeport was directional as she builds her part time consulting business while rowing for the British National Team.

Holly Norton

Holly Norton

“The staff I interacted with were from various levels, and each of them had innovative and exciting ideas regarding the core purpose of Homeport,” Norton said. “My extremely positive experience at Homeport solidified my desire to continue down the route of business consulting.”

Rucci said a strategic plan must be developed with and have buy-in from the organization’s employees. It must be designed with clear lines leading to individuals responsible for its execution.

Other keys?

“Keep it simple, have it fit on a single sheet of paper. It should project 3-4-5 years out. There should be objectives, people assigned to it. That is the notion of accountability. There is no 3- inch, three-ring notebook with 400 pages of schedules. Every quarter we bring that one page to the (organization’s) Board and ask, ‘How we doing?’"

Homeport’s strategic plan calls for:

  • Closing the housing gap by adding at least 250 residents annually to the affordable rolls via the development or acquisition of rental apartments, and development of new single family homes for sales or lease/purchase.
  • Being “laser focused” in resident services by Homeport residents to a network of social service experts such as National Church Residences for seniors, the United Way’s Care Coordination Network and dozens more.
  • Building and sustaining mutually beneficial partnerships, including focused philanthropy, to leverage the organization’s ability to meet the needs of the market it serves.
  • Promoting a high-performance culture that will financially sustain Homeport and enhance the satisfaction and personal growth of its employees.

A fifth goal set aside for 2017 was adopting a branding strategy based on the four other strategies.

“We were an objective third party to make Homeport more successful and that translates to having more affordable housing for people,” Rucci said.

Keeping Homeport focused on what it does best was the critical strategic planning process outcome for the organization in helping meet the community’s affordable and safe housing needs, Rucci said.

“The housing world imploded in 2008 and only recently has it turned around,” Rucci said. “Homeport is a rowboat in that ocean. How does an organization like Homeport survive the worst housing environment since The Depression? Through a clear set of goals and accountability.

“We have tens of thousands of Central Ohio residents who need homes, families needing a safe place to live to enhance their children’s environment and build self-esteem. If [Homeport] keeps that in the center of its bullseye it will succeed. I think we achieved that direction for Homeport. We got this crystal clarity why Homeport exists.”