Case Study: Building a Growth Strategy at a Luxury Real Estate Business

How might we optimize our current operations and culture in service of creating the best conditions for growth and expansion in the next 3 years?

architectural line drawings of luxury real estate high rises, blank ink on a yellow background
At A Glance:

A Real Estate Developer

6 weeks


Chief Executive Officer + Chief Growth Officer

The Design Gym helped us to develop a new strategic vision as we transitioned our company and leadership in a post-pandemic world. They guided us on a profound journey, reminding us of the joy in our business and reconnecting us with the core problem we set out to solve 16 years ago. After experiencing some very challenging transitions in the year leading up to our work together, their collaboration unearthed our company’s roots and set us on a meaningful course. Since working with them last year, we have stayed true to the vision they helped us craft, and our organization has achieved amazing things. We are incredibly grateful for their support and expertise.”

Chief Executive Officer

The Challenge:

The co-founders of a Chicago property leasing and development company were at a crossroads. Should they double down on the business model that got them to where they are today? Or make a strategic bet and move more into property development where the risks—and rewards—are greater? To help them choose the right strategic direction, they tapped The Design Gym to guide them in a Strategy Sprint. The goal was to align on a three-year growth strategy that optimized the company’s culture and operations.

The Solution:


To start, we wanted to understand the current state of the business and gather sentiment on potential growth directions. So, we conducted 1:1 interviews with the executive leadership team and employees with varied roles and tenure. Then, we synthesized our research into cultural and operational insights. These opportunities informed our recommendations and guided the co-founders’ decision making process. This foundation ensured future-focused conversations and planning was rooted in the rich brand history and success factors that established the organization as a leader in its local market. It also provided crucial insight to challenge the beliefs, biases and assumptions the co-founders and executives had held.


To guide consequential decision making about the future direction of the company, we leveraged futurecasting frameworks and business model prototyping techniques to help the co-founders evaluate three potential strategic paths. During a two-day offsite, the co-founders immersed themselves in the future state prototypes. We guided them to visualize what each direction would entail and the impact it could have on the business, the team, and their personal growth paths. The detailed prototypes enabled the co-founders to clearly and confidently prioritize a path that they were excited and motivated to invest in. 


We distilled the prioritized direction into a prototype of the growth strategy. Then, we shared it with trusted industry peers and advisors in 60-minute “Braintrust Sessions” to gather feedback. This essential step highlighted new assumptions to test. It also helped the co-founders build confidence in sharing the narrative and opened doors for potential partnerships to bring the vision to life. 

For the employee base, we refined a “Where to Play and How to Win” framework to re-establish a focus on the essentials of the core business. This level of clarity, including a prioritized customer group and type of building, helped align the entire team on what is most important. It also guided their day-to-day work and allowed for delegated decision making. It’s easy to say “yes” and “no” when everyone is in lock-step on the priorities. 

The Results

  • 3-year Growth Strategy and Vision for the co-founders to work towards realizing with experiments, partnerships, and new investments
  • 3-year Culture and Operations Roadmap to guide the current business, team, and optimization of the established brand within the local market
A black-and-white photo of a city skyline with a future scenario template outlined on the right, including a 2-sentence description, the time horizon, key priorities, enablers of success, risks, and slider evaluations of the future's feasibility, investment, and excitement.
To help the the co-founders imagine and evaluate potential future visions for their company, we leveraged futurecasting frameworks like this illustrative example.
Spark your interest?
The Design Gym
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The Design Gym is a strategy and innovation consultancy helping leaders to grow their business by fully unlocking the power of their most important advantage: their people. We work at the intersection of business strategy, experience design, and change management to engage the people that matter most to your work: your customers, your leaders, and your employees. See something that resonates with a project or challenge you're working on? Shoot us a note at [email protected].

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