Meet our founder, CEO, and President, Desmonde Shalom Monroe, and hear why he's passionate about his business, and how he plans on growing.
Q: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I started in community-real estate development in the early 2000’s working for a company in Philadelphia, the company I was with at the time had the great idea, to marry Real Estate development with Social Justice. Once I saw that business model I wondered to myself “why isn’t every development company doing this”. This was the founding principle of what would form my organization.
Q: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Before leading my own organization I was a high-level executive, But I soon discovered after starting my own firm I didn’t actually know half of what I thought about leadership. I quickly realized how different running a company is to leading a project. I was obligated to teach myself how to be a C.E.O. and an actual business owner. At my first big meeting at the New York City Mayor’s Office, I completely bombed. There I was looking sharp amongst all my colleagues and the people I respected in the industry, all was going well so I thought, until I realized in my haste to make the meeting in time, I forgot to grab my presentation material. I was so embarrassed! I told myself, that’s it, you get one chance to pitch to the Mayor of New York City and you choked.” Apparently, I didn’t do as bad as I thought. Today our company works with the City of New York on several different initiatives.
Q: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We deal in Disaster Recovery, Program Management, and Construction Compliance; all these services have a connection to the community and focus on improving the human condition while building better resilient neighborhoods. As a company, we believe that each community we encounter is a village — and as a village “we get there together.” I think what really makes us stand out is our policy of inclusion, for instance our efforts in hiring and contracting, we implement strategies to recruit local residents and seek out Minority/Women Business Enterprises for contracting. Our Mission is to open doors to social and economic opportunities for everyone.
Q: Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes, we’re always excited about putting effort into infrastructure projects with the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery to reverse the effects of Super-storm Sandy. We are hoping to get involved with recovery efforts in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Q: What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
The advice I would give to another CEO is that diversity is key to long-term success, also be receptive to critics, and remember just because you are the CEO it doesn’t mean you have all answers right now. Listen to your team — your advisers are there to steer you in the right direction.
Q: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The Monroe Group takes pride in being able to use our platform to help rebuild communities after declared disasters, and we continue to advocate for other Minority/Women Business Enterprise including different multi-billion dollar City, State, and Federal contracts.
Q: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
I wish someone told me that I don’t actually need to be perfect at everything. I’ve been called a perfectionist all my life so when I started my company, I thought as a CEO I must strive for perfection. So I’ve considered mistakes to be poor leadership. Now I realize that my mistakes give me an opportunity for growth. I am ok with making mistakes and course correcting.. Mistakes are welcomed if you choose to learn from them.
It’s hard work! Some people have the misconception that owning your own business gives you a certain amount of freedom (maybe it does later on, but not in the startup phase) and allows you to be — just the boss. I am everything to my business and employees; I’m the janitor, the counselor, and more. It takes a lot out of your social time with friends, and a new entrepreneur can forget about dating for the first few months to a year. You have little time or energy to maintain a social life. However, entrepreneurs should take time to nurture themselves and build lasting relationships, either platonic or romantic.
I wish someone told me to anticipate restless nights. After we opened our doors for the first time I kept myself up at night just wondering how everything was going to get done. We were lucky enough to get contacts immediately after we began but we didn’t have the resources to cover everything. Looking back, I realize that it was self-doubt and not the reality of the situation. In fact, we had everything we needed as a company to be successful and we’ve continued to grow and deliver exceptional services to this day.
There is joy in building something for my future family and myself. Now that I have been in the CEO seat, I don’t want to put my energy into building someone else’s company. There is a feeling of walking into an office with your name on the door that is hard to describe. You feel as if every opportunity is open to you. A month after I launched, I was offered great paying job somewhere in the high six-figure range with inciting benefits, but I turned it down because just the thought of putting off the dream of my own firm scared me. If I took the high paying easy way out instead, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
I wish someone told me the importance of having your accounts in order and would have given me recommendations for business development and CRM systems.
Q: Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours." ~ Richard Bach
Q: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
This is tough, there are so many people I would like to sit down with, but I would have say the top two would be Oprah and Obama. I would like to know, what kept them going when faced with extreme poverty like Oprah as a child or the amount of racism Obama faced during his 8 years in office, what were their motivators and how can I apply it to my life to become the best version of myself.