“There wasn’t a lot of training happening for leaders coming up through the organization,” he noted. After seeing these younger directors at a national Valbridge meeting, Roos recalls sitting in the airport in Biloxi and pitching the idea to Richard (Rick) Armalavage, CEO, President, and SMD, and Geri Fitapelli, MAI, CVA, CBA, Chair of the Board, and the first president of the Valbridge Women’s Council. “This would be a good opportunity to try to bring people up and hone their skills, I told them.” They talked about it every so often over the next few years, he says, and it gained enough traction to reach the Board for a vote.
“One of the best things was when Rick [Armalavage] and the Board decided it was a good idea and that it was something they should pursue,” Roos says. “It shows that they’re committed to bettering the next generation and making sure there is a next generation.”
Membership in the FLA is open to everyone in Team Blue who is willing to commit to their involvement in it. Emulating the intentionality needed for quality leadership, Roos developed a brief application process, with questions prompting the applicants to reflect on their role in their office, why they are interested in joining the FLA, and the background they have that uniquely positions them to contribute to the group.
The application responses have already facilitated conversation, Roos says, as he has been able to connect people with similar specialties, backgrounds, or experiences. For Roos, the FLA has helped develop professional relationships with people he “would never have come across” otherwise.
The application involves some further questions for reflection: What challenges do you currently see at Valbridge or in the industry? As a future leader, what areas do you need the most help in order to move the business and your career forward?
“It’s tough to make that step in leadership if you don’t start looking inside yourself,” Roos shares. “So the questions were proposed to try to help people look inside: What do I struggle with? What can I get better at? Because you can work on your strengths all the way, but if you don’t work on your weaknesses as well, you’re not going to be well-rounded.”
“Initially, I was thinking of it more for people that are stepping into office leadership,” he adds, “but it actually ended up working out better—it grew into not just producers, but operations.”
Roos himself took over leadership of the Kansas City office with Daniel Kann, MAI, and Joanne Montgomery after their former SMD—Laird Goldsborough, MAI, MRE—had invested in their career development.
“He poured everything into everybody,” Roos says of Goldsborough’s investment in his team both before and during the transition. Taking Goldsborough’s example, Roos focuses on a “wide swath,” reaching as many people as he can and trusting some will internalize it and act. “If you get through to one person,” he says, “it’s worth it.”
“Eventually,” he adds, “this is going to be our company and we’re going to have to say what we want and how we want it to work. [I am] hoping this, as it continues to grow, will turn some of our newer appraisers into leaders in the industry.”
Structure & Content
As FLA President, Roos shares brief articles or podcasts on leadership with the members each month, and each quarter they have meetings in which speakers share their perspectives on the topic.
“I wanted this to be active,” he adds, and encourages everyone on the virtual call to have their videos on. “Let’s see each other. Let’s be involved.”
Speakers and topics for these meetings have included a high-ranking Army officer’s advice on leadership, an appraiser’s notes on how to become a specialist and what you need to do to be considered an expert in your field, and a mental health liaison’s presentation on mental wellness in the workplace and beyond.
“I think,” Roos says of the material they’ve covered, “everybody’s taken a little bit from it.”
Presenting on the FLA at the national Valbridge conference in Anaheim, in spring 2022, Roos urged leaders to communicate and connect—fostering a sense of place and belonging within the company. For employees to invest in the workplace and see it as more than just a job, they need the connection that comes through communication.
“You leave these meetings, and you go back,” asks Roos, “and how many of you actually sit down with your people and say, ‘This is what’s happening nationally. These are the players. This is what it is.’”
Many of the SMDs are close, he says, but groups like the Women’s Council and Future Leaders Alliance are working to accomplish this sense of collaboration and cohesion among people throughout the company, regardless of their roles and current levels of leadership.
When it comes to cultivating a business in which each participant is invested and committed, Roos encourages leaders to develop an atmosphere in which everyone on the team “is feeling valued and [experiencing] a connection.”
For Roos, the support of the FLA by the corporate officers and board has enabled the group to thrive in its mission of connecting people throughout the country and honing their leadership skills.
“The first meeting that we ever had,” Roos remembers, “Rick [Armalavage] was on the call and got to hear it all.”
Though the corporate officers have busy schedules themselves, Roos appreciates their level of support and commitment to the FLA. Should he have a hard time filling an FLA speaker presentation, he says, “I know that I can reach out to Karl [Finkelstein], I can reach out to Larry [Colorito], I can reach out to Rick [Armalavage]—I can reach out to any of these guys that have been in the organization a long time—and say, ‘Hey, do you want to come on and talk about how you got to where you are, what the importance is, what you are seeing going forward?’”
“That transparency and that connection to corporate leadership,” he adds, “is important and makes people feel valued.”
Roos will wrap up a two-year term as FLA president by the end of 2023, so he is working on securing its future leadership—whether as one person, or a committee.
“I’ve got it up and going and whatever,” Roos says with a laugh, “but it’s a lot.” Roos highlights the support he’s had from those in his office like Hubbard Savage, their Director of Operations, who has been key in setting up the Zoom meetings and sending reminders and has been a sounding board for ideas on how to develop and improve the group. Even so, with the management of their local office and their consolidation with another two offices in the Midwest, Roos is looking forward to creating a smooth transition of leadership for the FLA.
“I think that I can continue [the FLA] on its current path,” Roos adds, “but let’s give somebody who is a future leader the opportunity to hone their skills by leading this group.” An opportunity to “take it to the next level.”