Thursday, February 12, 2009

On the Road

(Left-Momentary sunrise on Central Park West apartment building this morning).

(Right-Valentines Day window in shop on Fifth Avenue).

Walking through Central Park in New York in the morning on the way to the office I noticed something for the first time this week. I heard what first sounded like a church bell ringing but looked up and saw the Delacorte Clock, which I had never noticed before. This from the web:

One of the most beloved monuments in the parks of New York City, this musical clock hovers above the arcade between the Wildlife Center and the Children's Zoo. A gift of publisher and philanthropist George T. Delacorte (1894–1991), it was dedicated in 1965. Delacorte conceived of the clock as a modern version of belfries in churches and city halls dating back to the Middle Ages. Italian sculptor Andrea Spadini (1912–1983) crafted the whimsical bronze sculptures, which depict a penguin, kangaroo, bear, elephant, goat, and hippo parading with a variety of musical instruments as well as two monkeys with mallets that strike the bell. Each day between eight in the morning and six in the evening, the clock--now digitally programmed--plays one of thirty-two nursery rhyme tunes on the hour. On the half-hour, the mechanical performance is a bit shorter.

Just one of those great things that happen when you least expect them. And all of this just next to the sea lions who crane their necks to the sky (who knows why?) seeming to thrive in the windy morning while sprawled in what looks like the most uncomfortable positions on rocks totally oblivious to the fact that 49 people the night before in an airplane crash in Buffalo and those unknowing folks never again having a chance to experience things like this or a kiss from a loved one on Valentines Day or watching their children grow up or simply enjoying the breeze of an early spring morning. Maybe we all do just have a certain amount of time on earth and if so the worst part is that we don't know how long.


Here’s an excerpt from a column on Innovation and Marketing written by my friend Gunnar Branson. Gunnar has had his finger on the pulse of marketing, branding, innovation in the commercial/institutional real estate industry for many years. I met him when he was building GE Real Estate into a globally recognized brand. I think this is particularly poignant today:

There are many reasons for a recession to happen, but whenever an economy is in one, the rules for success change dramatically. Capital becomes scarce, raw materials unreliable, customers reluctant to buy. What was easy before suddenly becomes more complicated. Products that everyone had to have at any price before, suddenly lose their value. But as long as there are still people living their lives, there are ways to create something they need, want and will pay for - it just might be a little different than it was before. Companies that perceive and understand the new rules in a recession are able to innovate and thrive, while those that continue as they did before risk losing everything. Most people's natural inclination is to continue doing what they did before - even when it doesn't work as well as it used to. Innovators change what they are doing, how they are doing it and even why they are doing it in order to succeed in a new environment. Strangely then, the most dangerous strategy is to avoid innovation during a downturn. It's times like these that the imperative for every company, every leader, every manager must be to challenge all assumptions based on a rising market. Every process, every service, every product must be looked at from a fresh perspective - and changed to fit the new reality of a down market.

I was speaking with someone early in the week who explained to me the difference between being laid off, or made redundant and being fired that I guess I didn't give much thought to when I wrote to you last week. It seems like the difference is that when you're fired it means that you were let go for cause so I guess what we're seeing so much of is not firings but layoffs. Either way too many people, in all walks of life, are losing jobs and in some cases, based on their expertise, i.e. a lawyer, can't find other work. And although people have generally not felt sorry for lawyers, this is far from over.

MIPIM/Cannes Heads-up: Beware that a company called “The Ultimate Living Group-Trade Show Specialists” are crooks. I have it on very good authority and wanted to pass it along to you.

Last Sunday I heard what might have been the most awesome church pipe organ I’ve heard thus far. It was at the church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan and it was wonderful. For a long time I’ve had a passion to hear pipe organs and whenever I’ve been away from home on a Sunday I’ve found a church or cathedral in whatever city I was in. I’m not religious although I consider myself spiritual but I’m willing to sit through any kind of service to hear a good organ and this one is breathtaking. This Sunday I'll be going to St. Marys, a hidden gem on 46th Street between Sixth & B'way.

Prediction: Starbucks… I predict that by 2013, they will either be out of business or will have switched to a franchise model (there are going to be a lot of unemployed folks starting up franchise businesses and there are only so many “Sir Speedy” that any one town can accommodate)!

Finally, Ward Feste with Carlyle Search in Chicago sent me an article and I want to share the following section with you:

I don’t know what the hell is going to happen. I have been in this industry for 30 years and haven’t seen anything quite like this—but then I hadn’t seen anything quite like 1973/74 when the stock market lost 50% of its value, or 1979 when the American economy was on the verge of collapse, or the recession in 1982 when more people were in unemployment lines than at any time since the Depression, or when the Dow tumbled 508 points on October 19, 1987—off a record high of 2,722.24—and on and on. The biggest difference between this and other financial meltdowns is the 24-hours-a-day news coverage that feeds off events like a bevy of hungry vampires. I do know the economy will find equilibrium. In the meantime, there are some actions you should take: first, become a messenger of optimism and explain that while economic slowdowns are a part of life, smarter investors will look to the future.

But you also need to take care of yourself:

• Remember how great it is to be alive.
• Exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep.
• Have a sense of purpose.
• Protect your confidence.
• Communicate regularly with clients and friends.
• Create an environment empowering you and your staff.
• Take free days and vacations.
• Finally, understand and live by the Law of Requisite Variability, which states that the more flexible a person in any group is, the higher the chances are that person will dominate or become a leader in that group.

You can be that person. Have hope and a plan.


Happy Valentines' Day Honey!

Where I'll be:

Feb.16: New York
Feb. 17: Atlanta, GA
Feb. 18-20: Chapel Hill, NC to attend the Kennan-Flagler Center for Real Estate Development’s Annual Conference and Real Estate Challenge Case Competition (and to see the North Carolina v. North Carolina State basketball game!).
Feb. 22-29: Vacation in Mexico….totally offline!
Mar. 2-5: Chicago
Mar. 6: Montreal
Mar. 10-13: Cannes to attend MIPIM, host the second annual MIPIM Summit TV show (March 12-Invitation Only) and attend the INREV seminar and moderate a session with Finnish investors.
Mar. 20-23: Montreal
Mar.24: New York to moderate a panel at the iGlobal Forum Real Estate Private Equity Summit
Mar. 25-26: Washington DC to attend PREA's Spring Conference
April 1: Champaign-Urbana, IL to attend my son’s DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) recital.
April 3-6: Montreal
April 11: New York, Nokia Theatre, to see Umphrey's McGee tour in support of their new album, Mantis. A monumental work!
(t) April 23-25: Athens, Greece (not Georgia) for INREV’s Annual General Meeting and Conference
April 26-20: Chicago to record my next CD



These are my personal views and not that of my employer.



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