The latest episode of Zonda’s Inspirational Leadership with the Best in Home Building podcast features an interview with Jeremy Laster, president of Rancho Mission Viejo.

Laster brings over 20 years of experience to the table, and he has overseen the development and operation of more than 2 million square feet of commercial real estate assets, over 2,500 apartment units, and the planning and construction of Rienda, the newest village at Rancho Mission Viejo in California’s South Orange County.

Today, he is responsible for the daily management of all Rancho Mission Viejo enterprises, including larger scale master-planned community development, land management, ranching and farming, commercial properties, and investments.

Here are some highlights from the episode:

Why are golf courses so challenging to make work today?

“Golf is really hard. Golf is hard to play, golf is intimidating, golf is expensive, and it takes a long time. … It’s hundreds of dollars, you have to have thousands of dollars worth of equipment. There are a lot of barriers to golf, so the industry needs to solve for that and figure out a way to make it, you know—can you play faster? People talked about making the cup bigger, playing six or 12 holes instead of nine or 18. There’s things, there’s gimmicks.”

What is the best way to have a tough conversation?

“I think most people want to be heard, and I think most people want to defend their position. But if you can get in private with someone and say, ‘here’s my thought, here’s what I’m thinking, here’s why.’ Sometimes it can just be a miscommunication, sometimes it can be a lack of seeing the same goals, but it doesn’t happen around here that much—and I truly believe [it’s because of] the culture of this place.”

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned over your career?

“Capital structure. The difference between a great project and a failed project is capital structure, and making sure that you analyze everything correctly. A lot of people miss that. The other thing is market positioning. Something that’s not really financial, but knowing who you are, knowing your customer, knowing where you fit in the bigger ecosystem, and not trying to be something you’re not.”

What’s your favorite part about your position?

“For the last nine years, [my wife and I] have lived in a project that we built. So, to be able to get in my car at night and drive home and see kids kicking a soccer ball or see a mom pushing a kid on the swings, or somebody walking their dog … just knowing that I’m some schmuck in my car driving by, but I was involved in creating the canvas on which these people are going to create their lives. It blows my mind sometimes to think about that.”

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