Tuesday morning, 7am: There is still a small sliver of the new moon in the sky early as I stand in the brisk breeze overlooking the Atlantic Ocean before the last day of the NAREIM conference started. I've always loved the ocean and the beach (especially in the winter when there is no one there). It started when I was very young and our family used to go to Atlantic Beach in Queens on the weekends. My grandfather, Herman Silverman, taught me to swim in that ocean and there are black and white movies and still photos of us, at ages before we swam, holding the hand of an adult and jumping around in the surf. It's "Spring Break" (is that known internationally?) where tens of thousands of young people converge on South Florida to party. During a break in the event I took a little walk on the beach. It was crammed with people versus the vacancy I'm looking at now as the sun just starts to reflect over low-hanging clouds, the early morning beach walkers and joggers pass by and the hotel staff starts setting up the beach chairs for another busy day for those on holiday (or goofing off). This part of South Florida has become the hot spot for fun and nightlife although my nightlife was confined to the event dinner, after dinner keynote and then turning in early. But we at this event are in the vast, vast minority and just being here, alone, reminds me that we haven't been on a vacation since the first quarter of 2009. Way too long and some plans need to be made although there always seem to be reasons that get in the way. The sliver of the new moon is gone now, given way to the light of a new day but it struck me as a symbol of the new adventure I've just started and that there is opportunity as the old makes way for the new.
Thanks to NAREIM President Gunnar Branson for inviting me to attend their Spring Executive Conference as a consultant. I will be providing them with my "Event Report Card", one of the services I offer through Solutions by Steve Felix and will give them my feedback on what I thought they did well and suggestions for what I think they could do better next time. Over the years, my clients have told me that this type of feedback is very valuable and helps them offer a more powerful experience to their attendees in the future.
This was my third NAREIM event. The attendees are very senior people representing investment management firms and there was some very interesting dialogue. One of the beautiful things about this particular event is the openness with which the attendees share. Perhaps it's because the group represents a homogeneous part of the industry. For example, other than on a panel, there are no pension funds, endowments, foundations, rich people (other than those who have created wealth through real estate investing), sovereign wealth funds or consultants there which lends itself to unconstrained conversation. While there are other times during the year when "Investor Only" sessions are held, this may be the only event of it's kind for the manager and other service provider side of the business. It reminds me that years ago, when I was in the factory outlet shopping center business, the tenants (i.e. manufacturers) would hold private meetings during an industry event and I was told that during those sessions they voted on which centers would be blessed with their tenancy, basically determining the success or failure of any particular project (there were lots of centers that got built during those days and some that didn't!). Anyway.....
More on the subject of risk. From a long-time OTR reader: "One of the great value investors of the last 20 years, Seth Klarmen of Baupost says, 'Risk is not volatility or some simple risk metric. Risk is the likelihood of permanent loss of capital.'
Bruce Springsteen gave the keynote at the SXWS (South by Southwest) convention (a four-day music-business convention bringing more than 2,000 acts-songwriters, bands, rappers, D.J.'s and more to perform all over Austin, Texas): "We live in a post-authentic world. The elements of what you're using don't matter. Purity of human experience and expression is not confined to guitars, to tubes, to turntables, to microchips. There is no right way, no pure way of doing. There is just doing."
Thanks to my good friend, Ted Leary, for forwarding me these eight 'rules' on how to make your own 'brief bio' from the Financial Times:
1. No bio should ever contain more than five positions or achievements.
2. No one should include sentences like this: “I had responsibility for driving the success of marketing capabilities across many geographies”. Not only is it not English, no reader could care less.
3. Keep the bragging down. Adjectives should be forbidden. The philosopher Roger Scruton tells us in his bio his thinking is “powerful”. Which I knew already, but him saying so makes me start to doubt it.
4. Spice up success with a bit of failure. The one thing that all bios have in common is that everything everyone has done is always a great achievement. To admit to difficulty can make you braver, more interesting and more open. So Howard Davies might consider amending his bio to say that he resigned from the London School of Economics in tricky circumstances involving the Gaddafi regime. It would be a lot more revealing than telling us, say, that he is an honorary fellow of Merton College.
5. Honorary degrees have no place on bios, and neither do awards. Surely Jeff Immelt doesn’t need to tell us he has been voted among Barron’s “worlds best CEOs” three times? To do so is coarse, and an invitation to the GE chief to fall on his face. (I’m uncomfortably aware that a couple of ageing and piffling awards are mentioned on my own page on ft.com. There is no excuse.)
6. A little personal detail is quite acceptable especially if it sounds exotic. The trouble is bios routinely pretend home life is blandly blissful – “x has one, perfect, daughter”, says the bio of one top businesswoman; another reads: “Married with three children and spends most of her time outside work on various sporting touchlines!” One man I know includes on his bio: “Married, two children.” It would have been so much more interesting had he told a fuller truth: Married for the fourth time; one child each by wives #1 and #3.
7. Hobbies are perfectly acceptable. In the bios I’ve been studying I’ve found “likely to be found with her nose in a book” and “enjoys extreme gardening, reckless skiing and grouse shooting”. These are useful as they tell me who I might like to meet – and who I might not.
8. Most cringe-making of all is to say you are “in demand on the speaker circuit” or “make regular appearances on radio and TV”. Such claims are ubiquitous and flabby.
What's interesting (and entertaining) to me about this and about resumes and CVs' (I didn't know they were technically different until recently) is that everybody has a different idea of the right thing to do. Some universities have formats that students must use. But when I'm asked for advice on how someone's resume should look to get the most attention I say that I look at each one with a different pair of eyes. Some people have work experience that I believe should be highlighted (especially today and particularly if it's really relevant to the job you're applying for). For some, their education is their calling card. The difficult ones are where someone is making a career change and wonders how to get the resume reader to see their potential. The risk with putting too much emphasis on a resume is that there is much, much more to every individual. My hiring style is to look at the person holistically and, while having a certain amount of specific experience is necessary for some jobs, perhaps other things like attitude, personality, chemistry with your existing team, etc. should be given at least equal weight.
Congratulations to my friends Doug Neal who has launched Neal Capital; Ubbe Strihagen who joined Catella as Head of Property Funds in Stockholm; Adelaide Polsinelli who joined Eastern Consolidated as Senior Director and Claiborne Johnston who has joined Invesco.
Privcap, the brainchild of former PERE Editor-in-Chief, David Snow, has posted a video interview about deal flow in 2012. Among the interviewees are Todd Henderson of RREEF and Sonny Kalsi of GreenOak Real Estate. Registration at Privcap is free.
On the road....
March 26: New York for a celebration of the launch of my new consulting business, Solutions by Steve Felix at Joe G Restaurant, downstairs from the DaVinci Hotel at 244 W. 56th Street (bet. B'way and 8th). I'll be there starting at 6pm and will stay with the last person standing. Joe G pizza, made famous on The David Letterman show is on me. Drinks are on you. Hope to see you. And, feel free to bring your industry friends.
March 27-29: New York
March 29-30: Philadelphia to be a judge at the DiLella Center for Real Estate Case Challenge at Villanova University.
April 24-25: Los Angeles for the PERE Global Investors Forum.
May 17-20: North Palm Beach, Florida for the annual meeting of The Hoyt Fellows.
May 22-26: London and to attend the I&PE Real Estate Annual Awards Event on May 23.