Endri Gina Finds Comfort in Discomfort

Just six years out of graduating from undergrad, Endri Gina is elevating real estate at goPuff, a leader in the instant needs industry. The director of real estate at Philadelphia-headquartered goPuff is leveraging his engineering background to deliver growth to the quickly expanding company with the same efficiency that customers can order diapers, ice cream, or a bottle of wine to their door.

Endri Gina, Director of Real Estate, goPuff Sofia Serrano Photo

Gina has already made an impact in the industry, and his partners are quick to commend his abilities. “Endri Gina is a person who demonstrates leadership with the utmost of integrity, while still processing a clear vision of goals, which are executed efficiently and professionally,” says Carlo J. Santucci, partner and managing broker of Avalon Realty Associates. “I have had the pleasure of working with Endri for the past four years on multiple successful projects, where his acumen and our real estate knowledge have delivered proven results.”

Aside from his day-to-day job at goPuff, Gina remains active outside of the office. The real estate head is also the cofounder of Albania-based Pashai-Alb, a restaurant supplier in the Balkans, as well as a United States Soccer Federation and National College Athletic Association-certified soccer referee who has already officiated over 12,000 games in his young career.

Gina recently spoke with American Builders Quarterly about his leadership, his willingness to grow, and his comfort in working as a disruptor in his industry.

Could you talk about some of the experiences in your journey that have set you up well for goPuff?

goPuff was the first after-college experience for me. When I joined the team, I had just graduated from Drexel University, dual majoring in civil engineering and architectural engineering. During my five years enrolled at Drexel, I was lucky enough to work as an intern for a couple of well-established engineering firms in the Philadelphia region. The 18 months spent in internships coupled with the academic experience at Drexel helped me grow into an individual that believes in a solution for every problem. I learned that the right research skills can answer any and all questions, a critical aspect of my role at goPuff.

goPuff is a high-growth company delivering essentials in minutes, so there are always new questions to be answered and new opportunities to be addressed. Not being scared of the unknown—or as the cofounder of goPuff Rafael Ilishayev says, “finding comfort in discomfort”—has been key to my growth and has made me fearless towards challenges faced.

Endri Gina and his team at goPuff work with 3D models when planning and studying the facilities. Robotic Imaging/Courtesy of goPuff

What has helping build out a start-up like goPuff offered in terms of challenges for you? Where do you feel like you’ve been able to be effective?

Being part of goPuff from the early days has made my journey with the organization a magnificent experience, and it has been a catapult in my personal development. Certainly, I have faced many challenges, but after each one there was a lesson to be learned. When a mistake was made, these lessons were even greater. Building and facing the new is an expedition of right and wrong decisions. For example, I threw myself into learning about zoning regulations across the country. This led me to grow and build a team of zoning professionals with an unprecedented success rate in zoning matters. That ultimately converted into additional strength during negotiations on specific facilities.

My communication and project management skills have improved tremendously during the last six years as well. I have been lucky enough to work closely with the goPuff founders, both brilliant individuals with a winner’s mentality. They lead by example and that allowed me to learn many skills that no academic experience could provide. All of that has been crucial towards becoming a successful leader. More than anything, I have learned that a leader is as good as his or her team is. I surrounded myself with humble team members eager for success and with a strong desire to learn.

Could you talk about the new and expanded warehouse at goPuff and what that project has entailed?

Along with technology and creating an unmatched customer experience, market growth and new facility acquisition are two of the main initiatives at goPuff. In fact, we have more than tripled the number of leases signed year over year. In the beginning, our priority was expansion in the Northeast to take advantage of supply chain opportunities in proximity to Philadelphia, where our headquarters is located. Now the decisions are based on a wide array of insights and research, such as leveraging detailed mathematical models on socioeconomic and demographic analysis. These analyses have helped us grow fast and efficiently, understand markets better, and ultimately negotiate the right deals across the country. We have been dynamic and able to adapt quickly to the different market characteristics in terms of what the ask from the local or national landlords has been.

Endri Gina and his team at goPuff work with 3D models when planning and studying the facilities. Robotic Imaging/Courtesy of goPuff

What best practices do you feel like help set you apart in your role?

Knowledge and understanding of the building systems [from my engineering background] allowed us to grow much faster and reduce the time required to acquire a new facility. Transferring that knowledge to the rest of the team has been helpful as well, as it allowed them to develop their talents and evolve into real estate professionals. Continuous improvement and training programs have been crucial towards the development of all the group building on construction knowledge, zoning knowledge, and the ability to back up decisions with logical data analysis and market analysis.

While you’re very early into an already successful career, are there any points of pride that continue to motivate you during your time at goPuff?

As with any growth company, the disciplined growth path here at goPuff has had its easy and hard days. I take pride in being able to learn the most from those hard days, to never surrender and put my head down no matter how challenging or new to me the next goal or request was. Year after year, the team has been growing rapidly and improving the internal and external processes. This has allowed us to do more with less. Hard work and desire for efficiency has proven to move mountains and has shown me that there are no challenges that we cannot take upon. The ultimate indicator of success for me is directly correlated with the overall success of the organization. Our growth and the role that goPuff continues to have in the industry has shown the success of the real estate and development teams here at goPuff. That is something I am proud of.