Friday, January 21, 2011

PREA "After Hours" & It's A Small, Small World....

This week I got to attend my first PREA 'After Hours' event in New York.  It's a series of smallish get togethers that the Pension Real Estate Association holds in different cities.  It's for members only and each one is a little different. This one had a well-regarded economist make a short presentation which left ample time for socializing with your peers.  I like it for a few reasons:  PREA is taking events to their members and not just sponsoring events where one has to travel to get there.  The attendance at this one was about 60 people which is a great size to be able to spend time with a number of people and have some substantive conversations.  We don't get many opportunities to gather this way and just like those events which have separate 'break-out' sessions for either Investors Only or Managers Only (like the upcoming VIP conference) it's great to exchange ideas and chat with friendly competitors as well.  Kudos to Gail Haynes and the crew at PREA.

Maybe this sounds old-fashioned but  I don't think people should bring their Blackberrys et al into meetings, leave them on the table in 'on mode' while there's a meeting going on.  I guess I just think it's sort of rude.  I know, what if something urgent comes up?  My answer is like this:  A number of years ago, when I was still fighting the idea of having a Blackberry, I was at an industry event.  I walked up to a fellow who was manning his company's booth (called 'stand' in Europe).  He was looking at his BB.  I asked him, "How do you like it? "  He said, "It's great.  I don't know how I lived without it."  I said, "You know, I just don't have that many urgent things happening each day to need to b continually online.  When I'm on the road, I work my emails in the morning and in the evening and no one has ever said that I was not responsive."  He said, straight-faced but with a touch of dry irony in his voice, "You know, I never realized how many urgent things I have going on before I got this thing."  Anyway......

A number of things have happened to me recently that just vividly reinforces how small the world is getting.  This is a wonderful thing as the closer together we get, the more understanding there will be.  As different cultures, in both business and personal things, learn more about each other and continue to respect each other, the result can only be a positive one for humanity.  Every chance I get, I try to meet new people, to listen to them, to talk with them, to learn about their challenges and to share some of mine.  In every, and I mean every, conversation with someone from a different country there is some similarity.  Forget about different countries; when I talk with people from different regions in the U.S. it's the same thing.  Our world is moving faster and faster and we're running harder and harder and working longer and longer to catch up and get in front of it.  But there's a price to be paid and that is that we are taking less and less time to interact on a face2face basis and, right here, right now, we are growing the next generation who will probably continue on this path.  However, after consulting  my Magic 8-Ball I predict that there will come a time, I don't think it'll be in my lifetime, when there will be a reversal of the current trends.  Look, while it's not the same, after reinventing the coffee shop business in America, there is a serious anti-Starbucks movement throughout America.  I am not a Starbucks customer because I don't drink much coffee (but I also feel that Starbucks tastes burnt).  But in the markets that Dunkin' Donuts exists I see more and more DD cups on the street and I believe this is the same in other markets where there are local operators.  No one ever said that a trend will last long-term.  Just as no one ever thought that the retailer giant, W.T. Grants would ever fail, leading the way to so many retailer demises, we are seeing something similar in the institutional/commercial real estate world and I, for one, don't think we are anywhere near the end of the beginning (as my colleague, Ed Casal, wrote one of his recent white papers, "Our View"...if you'd like a copy please let me know ( with regard to the shake-out in all facets of our great industry.  I think this year some very interesting deals will happen, some firms will disappear or be swallowed up (No, I'm not talking about the obvious and highly publicized stuff going on with ING REIM) and others will grow out of their ashes....we're seeing it already.  As my former colleague, Geoffrey Dohrmann of IREI always ends his editorials, "Be careful.  It's a whacky, whacky world out there!).  Amen!!

On the road...

Jan. 24-31:  New York (including seeing Humphrey’s McGee in concert at the Best Buys (formerly Nokia) Theatre on Jan. 28.
Jan. 26:  A quick trip to Chicago
Feb. 1-3:  Dana Point, CA to attend IREI’s Fifth Annual VIP Conference.
Feb. 7-10:  New York
Feb. 11:  Chapel Hill, NC to be a judge in the University of North Carolina/Keenan-Flagler Real Estate Challenge
Feb. 14-18:  West coast
Feb. 27-Mar.1: Santa Monica, CA to attend NAREIM's Senior Executive Officer's Meeting (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers)
Mar. 16-17:  Washington, DC for the PREA Spring Conference
Apr. 13-15:  Venice to attend INREV's Annual General Meeting
May 12-14:  North Palm Beach, FL for the annual meeting of the Homer Hoyt Fellows

These are my views and not that of my employer.

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