If you’ve spent any time in the student housing industry, you’ve probably heard of Andy Feinour. He’s the founder of Student Quarters, a company that provides high-quality student housing to universities across the country. But what you might not know is that he’s also a family man, avid golfer, and dog lover!
One thing we forget in our careers is that everyone is human – just like you. Family is extremely important to the Feinours. Andy Feinour has been married to his beautiful wife, Shawnee, for 28 years and is a proud parent of his daughter, Riley (24), and his son, Anders (22). His daughter lives in New York City and his son will be moving there as well when he graduates from the University of Virginia in May. (Congratulations, Anders!) Their family is completed by their beloved pups, a Miniature Schnauzer named Bennet and a Cavapoo named Hentley. He loves to travel, explore, and is an avid golfer.
When we asked Feinour about the most influential piece of advice he received, he promptly recalled taking a class taught by the author of Good to Great and Built to Last, Jim Collins, while getting his MBA at The Darden School of Business. Collins started the course by asking how many of the class had recently accepted a job in their field – almost everyone in the class raised their hands. Collins proceeded to tell everyone to rescind those acceptances and start their own ventures centered on something they loved. Feinour continued in his venture though and stayed the course for what he envisioned his career to look like.
Feinour is a fascinating personality who has achieved remarkable success in the student housing industry. So how on earth did he go from investment banking and consulting to student housing?
His journey began in 2005 as a developer when he was developing a speculative office tower in Columbia, SC. The University Foundation knocked on their door and asked if they would be interested in developing student housing for the University of South Carolina. Feinour jumped at the opportunity, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Feinour’s passion for student housing led him to start his own company, Student Quarters, in 2013. He had always wanted to run his own business but had never felt that the timing was right. However, after the Global Financial Crisis in 2012, he realized that it was now or never. He was nervous but excited to take the plunge and start his own company. He described the experience as being like a rollercoaster ride, with lots of ups and downs, but ultimately incredibly rewarding. (If you ever see the corporate office, there is a piece of art in the conference room that is of a roller coaster which Feinour felt was an appropriate metaphor for starting and running Student Quarters.)
When asked why he chose to get into student housing, Feinour responded that it was more of a happy accident than a conscious decision. However, once he got into it, he fell in love with the industry. (Don’t we all!) He found the work to be both challenging and rewarding, and he enjoyed being able to provide students with a comfortable and safe place to live while they pursued their education.
So maybe he didn’t follow Jim Collins’ advice at the time, but it stuck with him and was a driver to leave the career he knew and start Student Quarters. We have Jim Collins to thank as it turns out “starting Student Quarters was one of the best decisions I ever made” Feinour says.
One of the things that sets Student Quarters apart from its competitors, according to Feinour, is the company’s commitment to its mission, vision, and values. The SQuad values, as they are called, are not just aspirational but actionable. It is easy to understand how each person can be Steady in All Seasons or Dedicated to We Before Me. The company teaches these values and evaluates performance based on them. Feinour believes that this approach creates a sense of ownership and responsibility that is missing from many of their competitors.
When asked about new ideas that excite him about the industry, Feinour mentioned that he believes we are going through a period of time where we will be rethinking how to operate a property. This is partly due to COVID-19 and the need to learn how to operate virtually, and partly due to the resulting inflationary times and the increases across the board in operating costs. He suspects that centralization will play a huge role in the future, but admits that no one knows exactly where the industry is headed. He believes that Student Quarters, with its focus on Questioning the Status Quo, is well positioned to lead the way and ensure that any changes they make will be successful. Feinour says “we don’t exactly know where things will be going but we know change will be inevitable. SQuad members that constantly Question the Status Quo will help lead the way and ensure the changes we make will be successful.”
Feinour also shared some advice for young professionals. He believes that the most impactful thing they can do to become better leaders is to be a student of other leaders. Observe what other leaders do well and why, and what they don’t do well and why. Try to adopt the things that are consistent with their leadership style and be Authentic and Genuine in interactions with others. Feinour also recommended a book called Extreme Ownership by former Navy Seal Jocko Willink, which emphasizes the importance of taking extreme ownership of one’s own circumstances and situations. “It is far too easy to blame the economy, an investment partner, a competitor or even a co-worker for what is going wrong but the person who stops pointing the finger at all of these external factors and takes ownership of the situation and solutions will ultimately be more successful” says Feinour. Ownership mentality is important to Feinour and is a part of the DNA at Student Quarters