As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Scialla, Founder & CEO of Delos. After 18 years on Wall Street, including 10 at Goldman Sachs as a Partner, Paul Scialla’s interest in sustainability and altruistic capitalism led him to found Delos, which is merging the world’s largest asset class — real estate — with the world’s fastest growing industry wellness. Since the company’s inception, Paul has become a leading voice in the sustainability movement, serving as a keynote speaker at prominent green building, real estate, and technology forums and conferences around the world. Paul is also the Founder of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), which administers the WELL Building Standard® globally to improve human health and well being through the built environment, a member of the Board of Directors for the Chopra Foundation, and a founding board member of the JUST Capital Foundation. Paul graduated from New York University with a degree in finance, and he currently resides in New York City.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After spending 18 years on Wall Street, including 10 at Goldman Sachs as a Partner, I left to launch Delos. Working on Wall Street, I had taken note of the sustainability and green building dialogue happening in real estate and wondered if half the story wasn’t missing — there was so much focus on sustainability and energy, but not on people. Since more than 90% of lives are spent indoors, it’s interesting from a Wall Street lens to consider taking world’s largest asset class — real estate — and merging it with fastest growing industry in the world — wellness. It made a lot of economic sense with major societal benefits.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I wouldn’t say this is a mistake — but I continue to be baffled at how big this opportunity is — we can improve anything with four walls and a roof. It’s a $2 trillion-dollar asset class.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I look at everything with both an economic and societal lens — I felt that we could have a profound impact on human health outcomes if we could enhance real estate to create better health, including cognitive, behavioral, physical health and more. If we elevate what surrounds people physically, we can elevate their health outcomes. This is what we aim to achieve at Delos.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Think big, then triple that!
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Due to COVID-19 and the demand that we’ve seen, I have been on the phone for the better part of 17 hours a day, 7 days a week for the last 9 weeks. We have moved from a “nice to have” to a “must have” overnight. Looking ahead, we are uniquely positioned to serve global society. That is the mission that keeps me going both economically and from a social perspective. This is a crucial time to focus and make sure we get this right.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Fortunately, through the pandemic we haven’t seen a drop off in efficiency — in fact, our workload has tripled, and we’ve been okay through this. In general people will realize that while you can be efficient at home, what you may lose is innovation and collaboration. At Delos, we hold recurring town halls to discuss the business and share inspiring stories across departments. Our workplace wellness program has also played a crucial role in ensuring that everyone feels supported and connected during this time.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Looking at everything through a scientific lens is helpful. Quelling anxiety as people return to work can be done by putting science and structure and validity into solutions. Understanding the measures companies are taking, and knowing they are backed by science to create safe environments for people to return to, will build consumer confidence and reduce anxiety.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
In some sense things we’ve been taking for granted as “necessary” aren’t necessary — i.e. always commuting to work. Some positives have been developed by this new way of working as we’ve been catapulted into the digital experience, reducing that curve by 5 years. Its anti-inflationary, driving down costs, which is a good thing and a huge win.
Delos has an opportunity now to work toward longer term solutions on things costing us money. We can reduce long term healthcare costs if we use this as an opportunity to enhance our built environments — tied to longevity outcomes. We can save a lot of money every year on healthcare spend by introducing preventative platforms not just related to contagion, but other illnesses as well.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
People are realizing that — what surrounds us matters — what we breathe, touch, how we congregate matters. That’s what we’ve been doing. Understanding the relationship between you and what surrounds you. That has become of utmost importance and awareness now and will impact how we live going forward.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We have a tremendous body of work — some of our instruments have become exponentially relevant and we’ve put them into scalable platforms like the WELL Health Safety Rating that can be applied to any building in the world.
We expect a lot of change and will continue to partner with organizations like the Vatican, MGM, Marriott, Cushman & Wakefield and others to ensure that buildings are as healthy as possible as people return to shared spaces.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
We want to help rebuild confidence rebuilding business means rebuilding confidence in the workforce. That translates into consumer behavior. If we can build up from a consumer and trust perspective, the economic drivers will start to increase.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Pessimism will get you nowhere. Optimism will get you farther than you thought possible.
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