Nick Stillo is the Executive VP and COO of One Urban Developments Inc. as well as the CEO of Luxedrive Inc. Nick gives us the opportunity to dive into his entrepreneurial mind to learn how he started these two companies, and how he manages to push them both forward successfully. This is Part One of our interview, in which we focus primarily on One Urban Developments. Come back for Part Two next week when we learn more about Luxedrive!
M = Mark | N = Nick
M: Alright, I’m sitting here with Nick Stillo. You’re the COO of One Urban Developments, as well as the CEO of Luxedrive. So we’ll talk about both of those but first before we get into the interview I want to ask who is Nick, before getting into business building?
N: Well, my motivation growing up was to create things and to build things that became landmarks I could show my children and grandchildren one day.
M: Okay, so building a legacy over time.
N: That’s right.
M: Did you always plan to get into development?
N: I grew up in a developing family. My family has developed commercial retail real estate for a number of years, and then a few years ago I decided to move us into the residential space.
M: And when you went to university for further education, was that part of your foundation as well?
N: No not at all. everything that I’ve learned I’ve learned on the street and I’ve learned through people that are better than I am, so sponged off people that have been able to teach me different traits as a business person and different skills that I have taken and honed into my own skills.
M: I see. Were these people that you sponged off of professionals in the family or just general professionals?
M: Okay. And how did you find the ones that weren’t part of your family? Some people have relatives that are successful and those are easy to get in touch with a lot of the time, but how would someone that’s looking to get into any industry find a mentor?
N: Knock on every door you possibly can until someone opens it.
M: And eventually they will open it, right? You just have to find the right one.
N: That’s right.
M: So that’s part of your experience, just knocking until your hands bled, so to speak, just a lot of rejection until you found that one nugget of gold.
N: Not necessarily. I think that I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to people that had different skill-sets that I admired and wanted to make into my own skill-set.
M: Okay. So how would you describe your skill-set right now, and what are your top three personal traits?
N: *Laughter* You’re putting me on the spot now. My top three personal traits: I’m a big picture thinker, but I am a micromanager of things like budgets and numbers, making sure things make sense, counting my costs before making any moves. I’d like to think that I’m a visionary, even in the small scale that I’m working in right now; none of the developments that I’m working on right now are more than eight stories high, but my vision is to build 80 stories. And I’m a good leader, I work well with people, I’m easy to talk to, treat everyone equally, I’m willing to help everybody. You know that saying ‘treat the CEO the same way you treat the janitor,’ I really do follow that ethos.
M: I’m glad you mentioned leadership. One of the foundations of this interview series as well is to help people become influencers, not just social media influencers like you see everyday now, but real leaders, people that are running companies or even if they run charities, just helping and influencing people to do the right thing or any kind of path of action. How did you develop your leadership skills?
N: By seeing it done well, and seeing it done wrong. I’ve had some bad leaders in the past that I’ve encountered and have made it a point to not take any of those bad traits and make them into my own. So seeing good leaders out there has made me become a good leader.
M: And as you run your companies right now, do you still find you’re consistently evolving as a leader?
N: Of course! I’m constantly changing and constantly learning. I told my five year old this morning, who said to me just before she went off to school that she “doesn’t need to learn anything because she knows everything,” I said, “well, I’m still learning everyday and I’ll continue learning forever.” She looked at me with a face of almost being shocked and said, “what do you mean learning everyday? You’re already old!” I said, “but you’re never too old to learn.” So if you’re constantly learning you’re constantly evolving.
M: I like that. It’s just the mind of children, they think they know everything they need to. They know the TV schedule, what time cartoons come on, breakfast is made and everything is set.
N: Until they hit the real world.
M: So now you’re the COO of One Urban Developments. Tell us about this company. What is the main mission?
N: The main mission is to build beautiful buildings that stand out in neighborhoods but don’t feel out of place in neighborhoods. The One in One Urban is an acronym for Opportunity-rich Neighborhood-focused and Efficient building. So what that means for us is we find opportunities in places where people may not see that opportunity and we create there. Part of that could be bringing something beautiful to an area that is up and coming but just hasn’t become just yet. Neighborhood focused: We look at the neighborhood, look at the people around, make sure we’re building in a place that people will appreciate something beautiful and will actually beautify the neighborhood. And then Efficient building, everything that we like to do we like to do with the most modern technology, with the most modern efficiency, whether it comes down to building materials, or some of the finishes that you put on the inside.
For example in our current project 430 Essa Rd that’s in Barrie, it is the first project in Barrie to have parking stackers, and that’s something that the Barrie residents haven’t seen before. We approached the parking stackers out of a need for more parking and didn’t have the land to put more parking in. So by putting parking stackers we were able to put enough parking for the building in a small footprint. It helps us because we’re able to actually meet the needs and requirements of the neighborhood but at the same time it helps the neighborhood because we’re not using excess land to create parking spaces. We’re using one spot to create two parking spaces.
M: So how does your company, or yourself as the visionary, find these opportunities that other builders may miss?
N: Gut feeling. Just walking the land, touching it. I remember when we purchased 430 Essa Rd, I walked that property and I got on my knees and I touched the soil, I just felt it.
M: You literally touched the soil.
N: I literally touched the soil and I just felt it. I can feel the energy of that neighborhood, and I knew that we could do something really signature there for the city.
M: Are there any other properties that people may recognize that they wouldn’t know you’re the visionary behind them?
N: Only in commercial. Up until now we’ve built a number of commercial properties and they are commercial retail plazas that you probably have gone shopping in and just didn’t know, but we put our stamp there.
M: How does your experience with One Urban translate to your Luxedrive company?
N: Wow, that’s a neat question. They’re two completely different industries, and I’d say that the one key component that ties the two together is quality of value. Everything that we want to do in One Urban is the same thing we do in Luxedrive. We create quality and we give value.
M: Do you operate outside of Ontario?
N: Just Ontario for now.
M: Are there plans for future expansion?
N: *shrugs his shoulders and laughs* Who knows?
M: It’s a big mystery, okay! *laughs* Transitioning over to Luxe, tell us about that company and how you guys different from any other luxury black car service out there.