Friday, October 19, 2012

Is Your Company Cool? / Eye Contact / The Rainbow Room / Return to Liberia

Gunnar Branson, CEO of NAREIM (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers) is one very creative-thinking dude who happens to head an industry trade association.  At their Executive Officer Meeting in Chicago this week (where I moderated a panel of Canadian institutional investors and played a YouTube of The McKenzie Brothers "Take Off To The Great White North" (Featuring Geddy Lee of Rush) while the panelists were getting situated on stage), he used the example of how the music industry has changed and challenged us to think about the future of real estate that way.  In the breakout brainstorming session that followed, I was the discussion leader / facilitator for one of the groups.  We decided to focus on office.  These are a few concepts that we all agreed are important for us to keep in mind: 
  • "Cool" space
  • People want to work for a company seen as "cool" (this isn't about what the company does but more how it exists).
  • People want to have the ability to work together, to be part of the flow.
  • More common / group / team space will be needed
  • "Group space vs. a space for a collection of individuals."
  • Provide amenities:  gym / free food and coffee / child care
The discussion was very lively.  Phrases like "Future Proofing" and "Density Collaboration" were offered into the mix by other tables, not as cool as ours of course, but cool in their own right!  Also, these are things that will help you attract and retain people.  

Eye Contact
So I'm sitting by myself in a restaurant the other night thinking I'd be watching the Yankee/Tiger game but it was rained out and the bartender couldn't figure out how to find anything other than some QVC show.  But right in my line of sight is a woman talking with a man.  I can see her but I can only see his back.  Without seeming like it (I think anyway) I watched.  This woman made such wonderful eye contact with this guy.  

This week when I spoke with students at DePaul University and The University of Chicago on Careers in Real Estate-Connecting the Dots I asked them how long a first impression took.  Based on my belief, they were right-on:  Four seconds.  It's the time it takes to shake someone's hand and look into their eyes.  It's really important, both the handshake and the eye contact.  And, while I'm at it, about the handshake:  wimpy ones are unacceptable but those of you who feel the need to crush my hand, please, save it for the gym!

"The Rainbow Room Is Now A City Landmark"
So said the headline in the NY Times this week. The Rainbow Room is the "65th floor space with the see-forever views at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan".  I've been there over the years for drinks and for a couple of industry events.  It's been vacant since 2009.  But I have a personal story to relate....Baum + Whiteman Group (see below) were retained to reinvent The Rainbow Room.  In December 1987 it reopened with a new twist:  Evergreen, a healthy restaurant. Baum + Whiteman Partner, Michael Whiteman,  invited me to eat there with him shortly after the opening.  At that point, I was being particularly careful about what I ate.  The attraction/gimmick was that you got a printout of the caloric, etc. components of your meal.  Sadly, the concept was way too far ahead of it's time and didn't last long.  Whiteman and I remain good friends, ever since a trip we took to Louisiana together in, 1985/6 to scout out possible local tenants for a food court to be part of a new mall that the company I worked for was going to build at I-10 and Siegan Lane in Baton Rouge.  The mall was never built but the trip was legendary and launched our friendship.  Michael, no blushing now, is one of the smartest most forward thinking restaurant/food people in the world and his credentials are there to prove it.  Oh, one other food thing:  Michael's wife is Chef/Author Rozanne Gold.   Check her out!

The Eight of Them
First ever photo of my sons, Brian (top) and Kevin with their wives, Bridget (Brian) on left and Marissa (Kevin) on right and the kids:  Top (Sean).  Bottom l-r:  Gavin (Sean's bro) and Benjamin and Edie (the twins).  Wow!

Help Shannon Corey Help Kids
I met Shannon in 2006 when I bought a Yamaha digital piano from her via Craigslist.  I didn't know it at the time but she is a very talented professional singer/songwriter.  I got to see her perform recently at the legendary Bitter End in NY. While there she told me about her trip to Nepal in January 2013 to bring music to orphans.  She needs some financial help.  Here's the link to donate (btw, she only needs $2500 and has already raised $650).  On behalf of Shannon (who has no idea that this is being mentioned her)...Thank you!

"There is no try.  There is do or do not."  Yoda

  • Anatole Pevnev who has joined ORG Real Property as Director of Research
  • David Schaefer who has joined AEW as head of their Asia business
  • Phil Greenberg who is now Senior Managing Director at C-III Capital Partners
  • Howard Fields who has joined Inland Institutional Capital Partners as Senior Vice President

Special: 17 Hottest Food and Dining Trends for Restaurants and Hotels, 2013 
It's that time of year when Baum+Whiteman International Food+Restaurant Consultants give us a peek through the drive-up window of what will be cool and happening next year.  The whole report is here.  And, here's, you'll excuse the expression, is a 'taste to whet your appetite!"
  • Menu shuffling aimed at flexitarians
  • Donuts getting bizarre upscaling
  • Weider and weider desserts
  • Too many tasting menus

Susan Hudson-Wilson Memorial Music Spot:
One of my all-time favorite songs, When You Wish Upon A Star.  Have loved it since I first saw Pinocchio as a kid.  Play this version for your children.  They will love it too!

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dreams
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

1940 Academy Award for "Best Original Song."  Writeen by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington. Performed by Cliff Edwards in character as Jiminy Cricket.

On the road...

Oct. 22-24:  Los Angeles for the Pension Real Estate Association (PREA) Annual Investor Real Estate Conference
Oct. 25-26:  Amsterdam to attend and moderate a panel on global capital raising and "The Great Debate" at the PERE Global Investor Forum (Btw: I got a sneak peak at the full attendee list this's a great bunch...if you haven't made plans to attend, you may want to seriously think about it). 
Nov. 6:  Hartford, Connecticut 
Nov. 7:  Washington, DC-Johns Hopkins University speak with students on "Careers in Real Estate-Connecting the Dots."
Nov. 8-9:  New York to attend, moderate a panel and act as chairman for Day Two at the PERE Summit.
Special Event:  Nov. 8:  Following the PERE reception please join me and some your industry friends for a YBYO (You Buy Your Own) drink and famous Joe G Pizza (I provide).

Joe G Restaurant
244 W. 56th Street (Bet. B'way and 8th)
Down the stairs from the DaVinci Hotel
Start: 6:30pm
Bring your industry friends.  The more the merrier (and maybe someone will even buy me a drink!)

Nov. 15-18:  New York.  My brother Jay makes a rare visit
Nov. 19-24: London
Dec. 3-4:  Chicago for NAREIM's First Annual Capital Raising and Investor Relations Meeting
Dec. 20-Jan.3:  Return to Liberia with The MacDella Cooper Foundation.  It's been six years since my last visit; a lot of progress has been made. I need to see it and hopefully see some of the kids that I got to know in 2006.
Feb. 27-28:  Hong Kong to attend the PERE Summit: Asia.

Trips in the works:
  • New Zealand:  My good friend, John, has been encouraging me to visit for years.  Why wait any longer?

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