Sunday, May 1, 2022

Manney ' the' Felix / Investor Relations Forum / Racine Art Museum / 'You Never Know'

 Manney ‘the’ Felix

Today, May 1, would have been my dad’s 105th birthday.  The Felix family was fortunate to have had him with us for 92 years.  You may wonder what ‘the’ represents in his name:  he wasn’t given a middle name and many years ago we started calling him that…he loved it.  Thinking of you dad!


Investor Relations Forum

A couple of weeks ago I chaired the Investor Relations, Marketing & Communications Forum in NYC run by PEI (Private Equity International). It was a very interesting and new type of experience in my history of chairing ‘industry’ events.  Of the 240 attendees I hardly knew anyone (great networking opportunity).  They were professionals from the broad Private Equity industry.  There were no LP’s in attendance.  The special thing was the transparency exhibited from the moderators and panelists about their challenges.  


One topic that got considerable attention was the Annual Investor Conference / AGM (Annual General Meeting).  My partner Liz Weiner and I conducted a ‘Master Class’ called:  The Annual Investor Conference: Powerful ways to engage and update with your investors.


The brainstorming part of the class was fascinating and the discussion totally open – people sharing their experiences, what’s going well, what’s not going well and what they could do differently next time – The Power of the Debrief that Liz and I both use ourselves and encourage all our clients to use (Here’s a link where you can download our article on The Power of the Debrief.


Racine (Wisconsin) Art Museum


Friday I took the Amtrak train up to Racine from Chicago, just a few minutes over an hour.  It was a very nice day, and it was the first time in quite a while that I had seen ‘rural America’ – farms, horses, cows.  Spending most of my time in New York I had forgotten how peaceful that type of scenery is.


A friend from Racine took me to the Racine Art Museum.  Never having sought out ‘contemporary crafts’ before I was blown away by the exhibit. As the adage says, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ I’ve included a few photos from the museum.  If you live in the area and haven’t been to the museum, I encourage you to visit it and if you’re going to be in Chicago on business, it’s a short train ride and just over an hour by car.  


Final thing:

I’ve been working on a memoir for a number of years.  It’ll just be for my family.  I have a spreadsheet of topics I want to write something about – all the places I’ve lived, all the jobs I’ve had, all the concerts I’ve attended and the bands I’ve played in – you get the picture.

One thing that has come out of it already is that as I’ve remembered and written about certain memories and experiences I’ve reached out and connected with a few folks that I haven’t been in touch with in a gazillion years – thanks to the Internet.

I had dinner with the bass player in the first rock and roll band I played in called ‘The Better Half.’  I had a long conversation with a star baseball player from our team at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  I’m scheduled to talk with an architect, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright’s who was working for the Kohler Co. (Kohler, Wisconsin) at the same time that I was a real estate consultant there. He and I became friends and he helped me navigate the politics that came with that territory.


I mention this because our lives are about the people we’ve met and the experiences we’ve had. So, maybe there are some folks that you haven’t seen or spoken to in ages that you want to reach out to now because, as with the title of my 4th album of original songs that I’m starting to record in Asheville, NC in a couple of weeks:  You Never Know! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Addendum: Procol Harum - two stories I forgot to share

Sorry, I remembered these after i published...uggh

Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ

1975 or something like that
Got there with my then wife and realized I had forgotten the tix!
Didn't know what to do

We were taking a walk around the block and then organist Chris Copping was walking towards us - just us on the street.

I stopped him and told him what happened.
He said, 'come with me' - took us to the box office and got us two tix - on him!

And one more:
The successful, local New Jersey band I was in during the late 60's/early 70's called 'Everyone' opened for Procol at a college in NJ.  It was during a time that the band (the original band) was not getting along.  We shared a 'dressing room' with them but they weren't at all interested in engaging with us (I was the guy in the band that introduced the band to them...we used to do "Kaleidoscope." So, because they were so not nice, as a 'give back' or 'get back' to them we opened with 2001 A Space Odyssey Theme - which at that time they opened a lot of their shows with.  Anyway...

Gary Brooker (Procol Harum): 1945-2022


Gary Brooker (Procol Harum)

May 1945 – February 2022


A few weeks ago, we got the news that Gary Brooker of the band Procol Harum had died.  Gary was ‘the’ voice of the band.  He was also the pianist and co-wrote many of the songs with lyricist supreme, Keith Reid. 


Gary was the founder of Procol Harum and the one member who played with the band from its inception in 1966 until 2019 when his cancer finally forced him to stop touring.


Gary was a highly regarded musician playing along side people like George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Bill Wyman, Ringo Starr, 


I fell in love with the band when I first heard Whiter Shade of Pale

While many of you may not know of Procol Harum, the one song that continues to be played, and was their first hit, is Whiter Shade of Pale, co-written by Brooker, Keith Reid and organist Matthew Fisher.  The lyrics of that song have been a long-time mystery – even to fans of the band.  Here they are:


We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
The crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale

She said "there is no reason"
And the truth is plain to see
But I wandered through my playing cards
Would not let her be
One of sixteen vestal virgins
Who were leaving for the coast
And although my eyes were open
They might have just as well've been closed

And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale

And so it was that later


As a keyboardist, who has played organ and piano in rock bands for many years, I had always been influenced by Procol Harum.  I got to see them a number of times, including one concert in Aix en Provence, shortly after a MIPIM conference ended.  


In 1991, a friend alerted me to a show at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan.  I called and they were sold out.  Not one to give up easily, I wrote a letter to the head of ticket sales at the venue.  It related my history as a fan of the band and the influence they, and especially organist had had on me.  Amazingly, I got a call, “We received your heartfelt letter and there will be a ticket waiting for you at the box office!”  There’s still more:  When I picked up the ticket, the woman who had helped me said that she was also giving me a ticket to the ‘after party’ across the street.  I was so overwhelmed.  


The concert was great – the auditorium filled with serious Procol Harum fans.  After the show I went across the street.  It was a relatively small group of fans and record industry folks.  I saw Gary Brooker and Keith Reid talking to a couple of people and ambled over to them, standing off to the side.  Gary made eye contact with me, suggesting I just hang for a few minutes.  I got a chance to talk with Gary and Keith for a while.  


Organist Matthew Fisher was sitting on a couch in the corner, seemingly not interested in engaging with anyone.  So, I didn’t approach him.


The next day, I sent flowers to the woman who made this experience possible. She called me: “Thank you for the flowers.  Did you get a chance to talk with Matthew?”  I told her that I hadn’t.  “I gave him your letter and he was looking forward to meeting you!” Crazy, right? Or maybe not so.  It validated the power of honest and open communication and not being afraid to take a shot at things.


If you are interested in learning more about Gary and Procol Harum here is a fan managed website 


Like many fans, we were hoping that Gary would beat the cancer and go on the road one last time – as the band had planned.


But alas…

Friday, March 4, 2022

Do you manage or lead?

Do you manage or lead?

Last week, while standing on the checkout line at Whole Foods, I heard an announcement over the P.A. system that made me pause: “Would someone in leadership please come to the customer service desk.”  This statement got me thinking about the difference between leadership and management. 

While researching this subject, I discovered a Harvard Business Review blog (published August 2, 2013) by Vineet Nayar.  As vice chairman of HCL Technologies, an India-based global IT services company, Nayar suggests there are three differences between managers and leaders.  How he describes these differences resonated with me.  The following is quoted directly from his post:


Counting value vs. creating value.

You’re probably counting value, not adding it, if you’re managing people. Only managers count value; some even reduce value by disabling those who add value. If a diamond cutter is asked to report every 15 minutes how many stones he has cut, by distracting him, his boss is subtracting value.


By contrast, leaders focus on creating value, saying: “I’d like you to handle A while I deal with B.” He or she generates value over and above that which the team creates and is as much a value-creator as his or her followers are. Leading by example and leading by enabling people are the hallmarks of action-based leadership.


Circles of influence vs. Circles of power.

Just as managers have subordinates and leaders have followers, managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence.


The quickest way to figure out which of the two you’re doing is to count the number of people outside your reporting hierarchy who come to you for advice. The more that do, the more likely it is that you are perceived to be a leader.


Leading people vs. Managing work.

Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.


I encouraged my colleague to put this theory to the test by inviting his teammates for chats. When they stop discussing the tasks at hand — and talk about vision, purpose, and aspirations instead, that’s when you will know you have become a leader.”


Steve’s comment: Clearly, leadership is much more than a simple management style.  Great leaders nourish their successors. And, as firms develop their succession plans, it is increasingly more important to attract, develop and retain high-potential leaders in the organization.  The next generation of leadership becomes the focus of all stakeholders in the firm.  


How would your career or mine have evolved differently if we had been exposed to extraordinary leadership skills vs. basic management techniques? 


Here are some leadership perspectives from a blog by Marie Peeler of Peeler Associates, which are poignant to this discussion:

  • Managers develop policies and procedures.  Leaders develop vision and strategy.
  • Managers direct and control.  Leaders motivate and inspire.  Stated another way, managers get people to do what needs to be done. Leaders get people to want to do what needs to be done (read that again if you need to; the distinction is subtle.)
  • Managers explain, “What we have to do.”  Leaders explain, “Where we are going.”
  • Managers give directions.  Leaders ask questions.
  • Managers are concerned with the here and now.  Leaders are concerned with the long view.
  • Managers are bottom-line oriented. Leaders are big-picture oriented.
  • Managers are concerned with projects. Leaders are concerned with people.

Steve’s comments:

After absorbing the writing of both Nayar and Peeler, I thought more about my own career; were the people I reported to managers or leaders?  I also reflected on my own style and wondered how I was seen by those I supervised.


What about you?  When you look in the mirror do you see a manager or a leader?  And would you like to make any adjustments to your own style?  No time like the present.

Steve's travels:

March 23-25: PREA (Pension Real Estate Association) Spring Conference, Beverly Hills, CA [

Spring 2022: London to host my first Fish 'n' Chips & Pint Thing [Couldn't call it Pizza/Drink Thing in London, right?]  Stay tuned for announcement of date and venue.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Finding Peace / Zen Habits / Boost Your Happiness

OMG…almost the middle of February already?  Dare we think that things are getting towards some type of PC (pre-COVID) normal?  

One thing I’ve done to make myself more peaceful is eliminate news from my life: I don’t read, listen to or watch any news.  I do keep up on LinkedIn with real estate industry stuff.  What I’ve learned is that if there’s something really important for me to know either my brother or a close friend in London will tell me.  (Note: I’m not suggesting this approach is for anyone else, however, I have had a lot of folks tell me they admire me for this!)

I found the following two items that I shared here many years.  When I first found them, I did start employing some of the suggestions and they’ve helped – all I need is to remember them!

Zen Habits

Have you ever wondered why someone comes into your life at a certain time?  Or why you hear a song that means so much to you just at the time you needed to hear it.  Or when something arrives in your mailbox, and it says things that you’ve been thinking or that you read at another time in your life and the day it appears is the day that you needed reinforcement?

Well, that happened to me this week when an email called “Zen Habits” arrived. Maybe some of it has meaning for you too.  

1. Surround yourself with passionate people.

2. Create space. If you don’t give big ideas room, they’ll never show up.

3. Help someone in a way only you can.

4. Keep a journal of what inspires and excites you.

5. Challenge the norm.

6. Scare yourself – live outside your comfort zone.

7. Find the right reasons:  You can’t control what happens, but you can control your reaction to it. What challenges have come up today? How could you reframe them? The juiciest possibilities often have the best disguises. notice them.

8. Learn something new.

9. The point is to constantly fuel something that interests you.

“Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.” Hardy D. Jackson

“Life is all about trying-trying new things, not being afraid to try...."


10 Small Ways to Boost Your Happiness This Year

A simple mindset shift can go a long way.

Below are the habits of happy people.

1. Maintain a positive and optimistic outlook. 

2.Focus on what you can control. 

3. Surround yourself with happy people. 

4. Enjoy your work. 

5. Have a life outside of work and change how you view money. 

6. Be flexible. 

7. Sleep healthy, eat healthy and move. 

8. Let go of grudges. 

9. Cultivate and nurture social relationships. 

10. Experience life. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

In memoriam: Dick Steinberg - My mentor

In memoriam: Dick Steinberg

Dick Steinberg of Mall Properties / now Olshan Properties, died the other day.  

I got the news from a long-time friend, and former colleague at Mall Properties.

Dick was one of the most respected people in the shopping mall / shopping center industry.  He was Executive Vice President of the ‘vertically-integrated’ (although I don’t think that term was used much in the 1980’s when I worked there) firm that built several well - known regional malls:  Cortana Mall, Baton Rouge, LA; Coliseum Mall, Hampton, VA; Northway Mall, Colonie (Albany), NY.  

Dick was both my boss and mentor.  He taught me many things that were extremely valuable, not only to the work I did but also in my life.  Dick taught me the subtlities of negotiating real estate leases so that it resulted in a win-win.

He showed a sincere interest in me from the day I went to interview with he and Mort Olshan, CEO of Mall.  

Thinking back now I remember sitting with them in Dick’s office on the 11th floor of an office building on Madison & 60th Street.  I had been introduced to them by an industry friend, who worked at Mall Properties.  I was in between jobs.

As I sat there, answering questions, I saw they had interest in me. As the conversation progressed, I asked them for a ‘signing bonus.’  I remember both with big smiles on their faces and Mort said, ‘What, do you think this is the New York Yankees?’  Side note:  Mort became (and I believe still is) a significant shareholder in the Yankees!

Prior to joining Mall I had worked on some distressed retail property assignments.

Mall Properties had bought a large community shopping center in West Babylon, Long Island, NY with plans to renovate it and redevelop it with higher rents.  Shortly after that purchase closed, the one department store informed Mall that they would be moving to an enclosed regional mall in a town not that far away. 

That left a three-story, 160,000 square foot (if my memory serves me correctly) department store sitting in Great South Bay Shopping Center - not the highest priority location for another department store.  My first project was to turn that property around and Dick Steinberg and I worked closely together on that and ended up putting a Caldor Discount Department store on the first floor and worked at leasing the top two floors to office space - which was not a huge success.

I’d meet with Dick every day to report progress.  His door was always open and some days I’d walk in multiple times - discussing a lease I was negotiating and  sometimes moaning about the leasing how difficult things were.  He said, "You can do this...that's why we hired you!). 

Dick was always supportive and understanding of the challenges I was facing in this project (and others I inherited).  He always had some good suggestions of things I could try – and I did.  

Dick and I also worked together on the redevelopment of class-B enclosed mall in Colonie (Albany), New York called Northway Mall.  The timing was right, and we converted it to a successful outlet and off-price center. 

Dick Steinberg was always respectful of the team at Mall.  We all worked together well – even with challenging situations.

In 1985 when I had a heart scare (that turned out to be a misdiagnosis), when I was allowed to come back into the office for a half-day (which I was itching to do), Dick allowed me to use a car service to drive me to and from my house which was about a 40-minute drive in New Jersey.  

Dick was a Boston native and, as you would expect, had a typical Boston dry sense of humor – although he didn’t have that Boston accent.

Dick and I stayed in touch over the years; I’d go into the office when I was in the city and then, after he retired, we’d meet for lunch about once a year and catch up on things (mostly him asking me questions of how things were – in business and with me personally).  I always looked forward to seeing him.  I will miss him. Dick Steinberg was a class act.

My condolences to his wife and family.

RIP my mentor and friend…. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Friday Smile: Peter Lewis on the Koala Bear


Friday Smile

Many of you remember Peter Lewis.

I first met him when he worked for MIT and oversaw their real estate investing program.

Peter was, if not the first, one of the first significant size U.S. institutional investors to start investing outside the U.S.


Sadly, Peter died on March 2, 2013 - way before 'his time.'  I just this week found an email Peter wrote me on November 6, 2005, about something I had written in this column.

I hope it brings a smile to your face...just like it did to mine!

Peter Lewis on the Koala Bear

Hi Steve,


It was good to see you at that conference, however brief it was.  I don't know whether you can use this in your "On the Road" feature, but perhaps you'll find it amusing.  I was totally exhausted when I had the following crazy thoughts:


At the end of an exhausting week that included two separate trips, both without avoiding direct flights, but including two conference panels, numerous meetings, and generally being on all the time, sometimes the simplest, nondescript things assume undeserved attention.


Such was the case when I spotted Koala Kare Center in an airport restroom. Punchy from lack of sleep, I thought about the product name and imagined the convenience if I had decided to travel with my pet koala and nature had called.


I don’t often take her on business trips.  She doesn’t like traveling if she’s not in the main cabin even though she's from down under. It’s both claustrophobic and cruel to place her in my carry-on, and my clothes don’t always arise in pristine condition. Her claws are even sharper than the last one inserted by counsel in a recent document draft and her communications via “bellowing” can make the nights unbearable.  Add to that the difficulty in finding hotel atria with eucalyptus trees and you get an idea of the added complications. On the other hand, few other real estate professionals travel with a koala and there is a certain power in the first impression. 


As a baby, she was certainly popular with all the Cub fans in Chicago.  And then there’s the convenience of her pouch to carry CDs and boarding passes! I may take her with me more often now that I know that airports truly care. That means stocking up on koala diapers which are difficult to find at your local Wal-Mart, which tends to favor pandas.  She can run as fast as a rabbit, which has led to some hare-raising experiences, and she sleeps for up to 19 hours a day, perfect behavior for many conferences and presentations.  But travel excites her, and she is probably looking forward to a future trip to a namesake designation like Kuala Lumpur.


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