Mike Zervos, CEO, Courage to Care, Victoria
BRM Projects has always enjoyed working on meaningful projects for organisations with a powerful message. Our work in the Not-For-Profit sector has seen us working with teams and individuals who care about their cause and work tirelessly to promote it.
We’ve partnered with Mike Zervos in the past on a number of different projects for charities he has worked for, providing property advice and office fit-outs. We’re now excited to join him as commercial property advisors in his newest role as Chief Executive Officer for Courage to Care, an outreach program that uses the memory of the Holocaust to encourage the fight against prejudice and discrimination.
We recently sat down with Mike to talk about past experiences together and to discuss his current role in this fantastic initiative.
Let’s start with Courage to Care. What’s it all about?
Courage to Care is an exhibition and educational program carrying a very important message – to encourage more Australians to be “upstanders”, rather than bystanders in the face of bullying and discrimination.
We travel to schools and workplaces throughout Victoria with Holocaust survivors, who share their stories about the Holocaust and their rescuers to educate about the roles of victims, perpetrators, bystanders and upstanders.
The ultimate goal of the program is to challenge participants (mainly school students) to consider their own attitudes to prejudice and bullying by exposing them to survivors and showing them examples of the power of an individual to make a difference.
How did you come to work at Courage to Care and what excites you most about the job?
Firstly, this is a message that I am proud to help spread as I see it as very important with the potential to have a real impact. I have 20 years of experience in senior roles at Australian Not-For-Profits, like Make A Wish Foundation, Guide Dogs Victoria and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. So obviously I was drawn by the powerful message of Courage to Care and the nature of its work.
The organization has strong connections to the Jewish Community and although I’m not Jewish myself, I appreciate the impact of the Holocaust, as an event, on humanity and the ability to inform and educate people about this impact. This is what excites me the most.
I’ve joined the organisation during a period of significant growth. We’re now in schools and have just started educational sessions and training with the Victorian Police Academy. I love that this message can have such a far-reaching affect. The use of the Holocaust to show how courageous individuals from different backgrounds, genders, ages and ethnicities took personal risks to be “upstanders” is a very powerful educational tool.
Now let’s get into the workplace side of things. As a Not-For-Profit, what do you see as the main challenges of commercial leasing?
Every dollar we spend as an organisation comes from donated funds. This means that we are not only limited in our spending but also must ensure that the money is spent correctly and in a way that upholds the cause and reflects the message. Our donors invest because they believe in the cause so we have a duty to them in every decision we make, including the property our offices occupy.
The ultimate challenge is finding a commercial space that is both a functional and operational site, and has value for money.
How Is BRM helping you overcome these challenges?
The first thing Courage to Care needs in this period of growth is a decent home base, before we utilise our resources like technology and funds to spread the message. Gab from BRM Projects has helped us through every step of our relocation to new offices in Glenhuntly Rd.
It’s quite a challenging process and what I like about BRM is that they own the challenges. They identify the issues and guide you through the entire process, from property search, to lease negotiation and office fit-out which is very valuable to us given our limited time and resources.
Gab negotiated the lease for us and the BRM team will be sourcing everything for the fit-out of the new office. They’re so much more than consultants. I look at them as partners.
This partnership is crucial in an office relocation. BRM acts as a sounding board and provides trusted advice, telling me what I need to hear, not what they think I want to hear. This helps achieve a perfect balance between the aspirational and the practical.
The team at BRM are also accountable, honour their word, and they deliver on time and on budget.
So it sounds like BRM’s services have been useful as a commercial tenant?
As a commercial tenant, and particularly as a Not-For-Profit organization, BRM’s services are invaluable. Because they have worked with so many NFPs, their values are aligned with ours which is so important.
As a business, you don’t move premises that often so it’s useful to have that type of experience and knowledge on hand to guide you through what you don’t know. The holistic nature of BRM means they are not just a real estate agent and not just interior designers, but the whole package.
And most importantly, they are sensitive to NFPs and their own challenges in finding commercial workspaces
Finally, what do you see as the ideal workplace for your organization?
An ideal workplace for Courage to Care is one that reflects the organisation and its core values. The design and all the imagery needs to reflect courage, youthfulness and education, representing the great work we do in schools.
Above all, a functional space that doesn’t compromise on respect for the memory of the Holocaust and other genocides. I would like to see a clear sense of history, education and care within a space that is accommodating to staff, volunteers and visitors.
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