Friday, December 30, 2011

"Where we're going we don't need roads."

Zowie!  The end of the year.  It was a great year for me and I hope for you too.  But day after day, year after year, your support for this column and hearing from you from time to time continues to be a very special thing for me.  Each year, I get to meet some of our OTR community whom I've never met before and this year was no exception.  You guys are a special bunch.  I look forward to us sharing another year together.  Btw, you can connect with me here (  Thanks to all of you.

For me, 2011 has had lots of twists and turns professionally and I look forward to new opportunities in 2012.  It's been a year of a lot of babies being born into our family and now the planning of how to visit them face2face periodically until they are old enough to come visit us.  We're already talking about where everybody will sleep but, as many of you have probably experienced, when it comes to family every available bed, couch, futon and inflatable mattress (aren't those things great?) is fair game.  

A number of you have written to me about the changes that either have happened to you or that you're initiating in your lives.  Philosophically we're told that change is good.  But it also brings with it uncertainty and some degree of stress.  Everyone handles stress differently.  For almost my whole life, I have used banging at (when I was very young) and playing the piano as one of my 'Stress Reduction" tools.   I also like going to a movie theatre and eating buttered popcorn and drinking a Coke (This week I saw a nice feelgood movie, "We Bought A Zoo."  

Today is the last day for me in my current job. I got to work with some great people and I learned a lot.  When I talk with people about their careers, I offer this suggestion:  "Decide what you like to do, decide what you're good at and then find a place to do it."  So now, I'm remembering to follow my own advice. A quote from Goethe that I've always liked, ""What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."  And one more quote from the movie, Hoosiers. "Boys, don't to get caught watchin' the paint dry! (A basketball term which basically means, "Don't get caught asleep at the wheel.").  

Recurring Notes On Technology (the original title of this column when I started writing it at IREI in 1999):  Last week I was riding my bike and passed a park where two boys were tossing a football.  It only lasted two tosses as one of the boys dropped the ball, pulled out his cellphone and appeared to be responding to at text!  Technology.  A wonderful tool that should not be allowed to take over our lives.  

Remember: "Where we're going we don't need roads"!

Happy 2012 everybody.


On the road...

Jan. 11-13:  Chicago
Jan. 17-20:  Laguna Beach, CA to attend IMN's Ninth Annual Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity and  Private Fund Investing 
Jan. 24: London to attend the INREV UK Winter Seminar 2012 
Jan. 25:  London to attend and moderate a panel at the Fifth Annual Thompson Reuters Global Property Outlook 2012 (Invitation only)
Jan. 30-Feb. 1:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend IREI's VIP Conference 
Feb. 27-29:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend the NCREIF (National Association of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries) Winter Conference
March 29-30:  Philadelphia, PA to attend and be a judge a the Villanova University Case Challenge
April 25-27: Vienna to attend the INREV annual meeting

These are my views and not that of my employer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sports Slang, Networking Redux, Joe Robert, Necessary Endings

Sports slang has been used to describe business situations for years:
  1. Play ball. To go along with what everyone else wants. 
  2. Ball park. To estimate something. 
  3. Step up. Short for “step up to the plate.” To take responsibility
  4. Level the playing field. Make things even across the board
  5. Play hardball. To get mean and get tough. 
  6. Slam dunk. A complete and easy success. 

But when I was reading a listing of upcoming concerts this morning what struck me is that there are words used to describe musicians and bands that are also adaptable to companies and people in the commercial real estate industry.  While I will not commit industry suicide to applying any of these terms to any company or person in particular, wouldn't it be fun to do an anonymous survey? 

  1. Miraculously nimble
  2. Smooth and swinging
  3. Heartthrob
  4. Seasoned trio
  5. Powerful vocalist
  6. Tragic emblem
  7. Enigmatic artist
  8. Frequent collaborator
  9. Over-caffeinated electronic art rock
  10. Nightlife kingpin

Thanks to my friend, Tom, I offer you the following "Tips on Networking" previously published in the Wall Street Journal:

  1. Have a Solid Introduction: First impressions count heavily. Make sure your attire, attitude and overall appearance are the best possible before introducing yourself to someone
  2. Don't Confuse People with Your Pitch:  No one needs to hear your entire work history upon meeting you. If someone asks you to tell them a bit about yourself, your explanation from start to finish shouldn't take more than 30 to 60 seconds
  3. Don't Tell a Sob Story: No matter how tough it's been, you need to paint a positive picture when you're making new connections. 
  4. Spend More Time Listening Than Talking:  The old adage is true: People were given two ears and one mouth, and you should use them proportionately. 
  5. Avoid Being Socially Inept: There's a fine line between being friendly and personable and being awkward. You do not want to be the latter
  6. Don't Overstay Your Welcome:  Taking up too much of someone's time is almost as bad as ignoring them entirely.
  7. Hand out Your Business Card, Not Your Resume:  It's not ok to pass along an unsolicited resume. Offline or online, you need to work on forming a relationship with someone before you ask them for anything at all. Many people overlook this professional courtesy, and ask brand new connections to serve as a referral when submitting a resume or application.
  8. Follow Up and Through:  Perhaps the "Cardinal Rule" of networking is that once you've planted the seeds of a new relationship, you must follow up to maintain it. Whether it's a business referral, job lead, or a professional connection, get in touch – within 24 hours – to say you enjoyed meeting them.

So true although I've allowed myself 48 hours to follow up with everyone whose card I get at any event with a simple email.  At the same time I enter them in my contact database with a notation of when and where I met them and anything else that I learned (or that I can remember!)  Although it's not acceptable in many Asian countries, the first thing I do when or after I meet someone is make a notation on the back of their card (except for those companies who, for some reason unknown to me, have allowed their card designer to have the back of the card be a dark color.  Go figure).

Joe Robert died recently at age 59.  As many of you know, Joe became visible during the RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation) days when he started managing and then buying assets from that agency that was formed to workout the Savings and Loan crisis in the late 1980's and early 1990's.  He built a successful investment management business.  I met him only once, at an industry event some years back where he was the keynote speaker.  My first impression was that he was a good guy with a contagious positive personality, a sentiment apparently echoed by many who knew him both in business and real vs. real estate life.  Anytime a thing like this happens, dying so young, to someone you either know well or know of. it is another wake-up call. We don't know how many days we will be granted the privilege to exist on earth and when I am awakened I get back to doing certain things that I may have put on, as it were, the 'back burner.' These include documenting as many stories as I can about my growing up as a personal history for my grand children.  I also have been working on an autobiography for many years and have been negligent about that after a blazing start.  The advice I've been given about writing is to write every day, at the same time of day, for a minimum of 30 minutes.  When doing this, don't try to edit yourself but just let it flow-there's time for editing later.  But it's the discipline that is the key.  We all have stories to tell about a family member, friend or acquaintance dying at a young age. But we also read about people who accomplish a lot during their years.  I recently interviewed for a new job and was asked, "After many years in the industry, how would you like to be remembered?"  I paused as I had not ever been asked that question before.  It's a good one to ask ourselves, both about how we'd like to be remembered by the people in the industry we've served and by those people who know us simply as ourselves, which can also be one in the same.  

Final note:  A friend recently recommended a book to me:  "Necessary Endings:  The employees, businesses and relationships that all of us have to give up in order to move forward."  It's a good read.  My summary of it is pretty extensive (it's my way of both absorbing the stuff that strikes a nerve with me and having a 'permanent record' of it that I can refer back to).   Here are just a few things I'd like to share with you:

  • Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind and moving on
  • Endings are necessary when there is no hope
  • There are three types of people on earth:  The Wise, The Foolish and The Evil
  • If you are a leader sometimes you have to lead, even when no one wants to follow
  • Part of maturity is getting to the place where you can let go of one wish in order to have another
  • The longest-lasting and best relationships, as well as the best businesses, are the ones in which everyone involved sees and loves the whole picture, positive and negative.
  • For the right tomorrow to come, some parts of today may have to come to a necessary ending

Please accept my best wishes to you for a special holiday season and happy 2012.  For those that are in a cold climate I hope you get snow; for me there's nothing more perfect than snow on the ground for Christmas.  I will not be getting snow where I live but it is pretty chilly in the mornings (remember everything is relative!).  


On the road...

Jan. 17-20:  Laguna Beach, CA to attend IMN's Ninth Annual Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity & Private Fund Investing 
Jan. 24: London to attend the INREV UK Winter Seminar 2012 
Jan. 25:  London to attend and moderate a panel at the Fifth Annual Thompson Reuters Global Property Outlook 2012 (Invitation only)
Jan. 30-Feb. 1:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend IREI's VIP Conference 
Feb. 27-29:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend the NCREIF (National Association of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries) Winter Conference 
March 29-30:  Philadelphia, PA to attend and be a judge a the Villanova University Case Challenge
April 25-27: Vienna to attend the INREV annual meeting

Movie of the week:  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  I'd read the book a while back.  I saw the movie yesterday.  I highly recommend it.

Music club of the week:  Silo's, Napa, CA.  Recently, I was given a 'backstage' tour by the owner.  It's a real 'nightclub' whose calendar offers a very eclectic mix of music and other types of entertainment. And, they have a beautiful grand piano which I'm going to be allowed to play from time to time!  

These are my views and not that of my employer.

Friday, December 16, 2011

New York at Christmas Time, Networking and Walt Sutton

A bunch (40+) of us met up for a holiday drink on Monday night at the Russian Vodka Room in New York. We missed those of you who were not in town or chose to go to other 'parties' (which I've heard were not as much fun as our get-together!)  While everybody there was in the commercial/institutional real estate world, the wonderful thing about the group was the diversity in both in generation and speciality. At one point, I stood in a place where I could see the whole group....everyone was talking with each other; my role was simply to make sure that those who came who didn't know anyone else got introduced. It was very cool and it was great to see all of you and toast the holidays and approaching start of a new year.  

This week, on two separate occasions, the subject of networking came up in conversations with friends.  (Note:  we we're talking about 'face2face" networking vs. Internet or social media networking which may be a subject for another week).  "I'm not a good networker.  I'm really pretty shy," said one.  "When I'm at an event people are too cliquy and it's hard to break in."  I would guess that while we might not all classify ourselves as shy, we can all probably relate.  I have attended some conferences in my life where, while I consider myself a pretty friendly guy, it was impossible to get anyone to talk with me or to break into any group conversation.  One shouldn't have to feel that they have to push their way into a conversation; those people in the conversation should welcome someone new, and showing courtesy, invite them in.  Because of experiences I had when I was younger I'm very conscious of it.  I guess I've become sort of a natural networker but it's definitely easier for me as, at this stage in my career, because generally I know a bunch of people, which, while it sort of violates one of the rules below, I use to introduce people who don't know each other and then often leave them to talk.  But I recently attended an event where I didn't know hardly anyone and I had to take a deep breath and think about how I would approach the introducing of myself to them.  And remember, it's an individual thing, based on your personality and style. I've collected some 'formal' advice on the subject. Here are a few things that stand out to me:

  • Spend 75% of your time with people you don't know 
  • Spend 25% of your time building existing relationships
  • Show up early, looking professional, full of business cards
  • If you attend a business event with a friend or associate, split up. It's a waste of time to walk, talk or sit together
  • Remember: Networking is helping people
  • Networking is figuring out who knows whom
  • Stay until the end
  • Have fun

Given the state of affairs in the world today got me thinking about a quote from the famous economist, John Maynard Keynes:  "The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems — the problems of life and of human relations and of creation and behavior"  (1945) 

Walt Sutton: Many years ago Walt and I sat next to each other on a cross-country flight.  He was typing away madly on his computer and we started chatting.  After that I bought his book, "Leap of Strength."  I thought of him today when I purchased copies for two colleagues as Christmas presents.  Then poked around Walt's website.  He's an interesting guy and someone you may want to consider as a speaker at one of your events. 

Photo:  Rockefeller Center, 6am, December 11, 2011 (New York is such a special place to be at all times but especially around this time of year!)

Happy holidays and my best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2012!  

On the road....

Jan. 18-21:  Laguna Beach, CA to attend the IMN Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity and Private Fund Investing.
Jan. 24:  London to attend INREV's UK Winter Summit 2012
Jan. 25:  London to moderate a panel at the Thompson Reuters Global Property Outlook 2012 (Invitation only)
Jan. 30-Feb.1:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend IREI's VIP Conference
March 14-15:  Boston to attend the PREA Spring Conference
April 22-25:  Chicago to attend the CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) Mid-Year Meetings and perform again with the "Sound Counsel" band.
April 25-26:  Vienna, Austria to attend the INREV Annual Conference
May 17-18:  North Palm Beach, FL to attend the Hoyt Fellows Annual Meeting

Friday, December 9, 2011

INREV Survey, Acronymitis, Documenting A Life

Yesterday, INREV, the European Association for Investors in Non-listed Real Estate Vehicles, published the findings of its' latest survey of their 359 members.  Here are some relevant highlights:

  • 75% of those surveyed said that equity allocations to non-listed real estate funds should grow.  The growth stems from a combination of uninvested equity already allocated but unplaced institutional capital.
  • The geographical source of much of this capital is the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and France. But much of that is focused on domestic investing and less focused on value-added or opportunistic investing.
  • Approximately 10 percent of fund managers have failed to secure refinancing on at least one asset due to the withdrawal of bank lenders from the market.
  • Like investors, lenders have lost their appetite for risk. In rationalizing their loan books, they are focusing not merely on reducing the size of their real estate exposure, but on increasing the quality of it by focussing on high-quality underlying assets in prime capital cities and core markets.
This is very good information coming from the proverbial horses' mouth.  But if we look at the 'headline news' in our industry, there's a lot going on although it may not resemble the 'business as usual' we had gotten used to (up until a few years ago).  There are big deals being made.  There are big hires being made.  There are big plans being made.  And, yes, there is some big money being invested by pension funds and their brethern.  Perhaps there are more separate/segregated accounts and more joint ventures.  There has been a lot of talk about interest in 'club deals' but I haven't been hearing about too many of them.  Queues grow to get into large core open-end fund grow with seemingly no end to the appetite of investors.  So, in some ways we could say that things are the same.  But they're really not.  So much is changing in our industry and if you take the time to step back, like I've been doing at this point in my career, and get off the dance floor and go up in the balcony, you'll see that a new landscape is being painted.  And as most paintings of landscapes don't include people, we need to find a place for ourselves in that painting.  For many, it will look the same.  But for others, those who thrive on challenges, those that crave change in their careers and lives from time to time and those who see that to grow you have to embrace change, this is a very exciting time. I am extremely fortunate to have a special network of industry friends.   As many of you know, my current job is ending at the end of the year and I am looking at different options for my next gig.  Thanks to those friends, I have gotten to understand better than at any other time in my life who I am and what I bring to the table.  No matter what I decide to do next, with a little help from those friends, I have learned to appreciate myself more.  Some things take a while.

One member of our OTR community sent me a link to a recent blot post.  It's titled "I Don't Understand What Anyone Is Saying Anymore."  I'd recommend you take the five minutes it took me to read the whole thing but I've pasted this section below as it struck a particular nerve in me.  I've written before about some research I've done about why it's not good or right to use acronyms.  Here is this guy's take on the 'disease.'

This is a disease of epic proportions in the world of charity. I was at a meeting just two days ago at which several well-meaning staff members of a charity were presenting to their board, and the meat of their discussion revolved around the acronyms SCEA and some other one that began with "R" that I can't recall. In the span of three minutes these acronyms must have been used eight times each. They were central to any understanding of the topic at hand, but they were never defined. So I had not the vaguest idea what the presenters were talking about. None. Could have been talking about how to make a beurre-blanc sauce for all I know.

It was reported this week that the Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association may be disbanding due to the aging of it's members.  It got me thinking:  My father, a WWII veteran, never talked with us about his experiences during the war.  Actually, he didn't talk much about his growing up at all.  But that changed in 1990, when I overcame my fear of talking about important stuff and brought a cassette recorder to my Aunt's apartment where she was making breakfast for my father and me.  I pulled out the recorder and put it in the middle of the table and said that I'd like to ask them some questions and record the conversation.  Neither objected.  We had a great conversation which was the ice-breaker for further Q&A with my Dad on other occasions.  Maybe he was just ready to talk and he was just waiting for us to ask him.  So, my thought about the memories and experiences of people in any walk of life: we need to interview them and record those conversations.  We need to do this stuff both in our families and in our industry....before the stories are lost....forever.  We need to start doing this now!

Smile of the week:  3 minutes 34 seconds.  Who knew James Cagney and Bob Hope could dance?  

Bigger smile:  Edie & Benjamin Felix (the newest additions to my team of grandchildren)

On the road....
Dec. 10-16:  New York
Dec. 12:  "Holiday Drink Thing."  Russian Vodka Room, 265 West 52nd Street  (Between B'way and 8th-closer to 8th).  A bunch of commercial real estate industry folks will be stopping by between 6 and whenever to toast the new year (or maybe the end of this one).  If you're around and have some time I'd be great to see you.
Jan. 18-21:  Laguna Beach, CA to attend the IMN Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity & Private Fund Investing.
Jan. 24:  London to attend INREV's UK Winter Seminar 2012
Jan. 25:  London to moderate a panel at the Thompson Reuters Global Property Outlook 2012
Jan. 30-Feb. 1:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend IREI's VIP Conference.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Post Dislaimer

In yesterday's OTR, I provided a link to a page about "Careers in Commercial Real Estate."  I must admit that I only read through a portion of it before recommending it to you.  One of our OTR community wrote to me yesterday and mentioned that while there was some excellent career advice, there was also a section that related to religion buried near the back.  I found that just now.  My disclaimer:  I didn't know it was there.  If I did, I would not have mentioned that piece.  Religion is a personal thing.  It's one of the great freedoms we enjoy.  Please accept my apologies as this was an unintentional oversight on my part.


Friday, December 2, 2011

"RCA Says"; NCREIF Nuts & Bolts; Edie & Benjamin; First Impressions

What did RCA say this week? "Mixed signals coming from the marketplace in Q4.... some energy in the volume numbers for office and retail.....but increasingly clear that buyers are feeling less pressure to do deals in the near term.....the shifting sentiment reflects in part an improving distress picture as liquidations continue to outpace new inflows, suggesting a cyclical change and the likelihood of increasing opportunities ahead in the new year....investor patience is also visible across most sectors....strong sales for regional malls and urban assets have sustained momentum in the retail sector....2012 volume trends could prove the opposite of 2011, with slower activity earlier in the year giving way to stronger investment in the second half of the year, with sales easily pushing ahead of 2011 levels."

A question posed to me:  "To do an internship do you have to have a degree?"  Given that most summer internships don't pay, I don't feel that you need a degree (actually if you have a degree and are looking at internships it's probably more of a way to get in the door in the hopes of being offered a job sooner rather than later).  One of my sons got an internship between his junior and senior year at MTV.  They liked him.  They said, "When you graduate we'd be happy to have you join us."  He did and it launched what has become a successful career in TV.  

This week I attended "Nuts & Bolts of Institutional Real Estate 2.0" sponsored by NCREIF (National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries).  The content was both deep and broad and presented by leading industry thinkers.  One of the highlights for me was the opening presentation by Blake Eagle, the "father" of NCREIF.  In walking us through the the history of institutional real estate investment business he also reminded me of a number of events that occurred in the past 30 years in the commercial/institutional real estate industry.  He's a wonderful story teller. From a networking standpoint, I met a number of younger industry professionals including representatives of six pension funds.  Some of the attendees came from firms which encourage their people to take advantage of educational opportunities like this: Cornerstone, Prudential, Clarion, Aberdeen, Henderson, Morgan Stanley, Apollo, Guggenheim, Stockbridge, UBS and a number of lesser known names as well.  I would highly recommend you looking into future NCREIF educational programs as they are not only opportunities to learn but also to meet new people; people who will grow up with you in the industry.  Connections.  Relationships.  So important.  NCREIF puts on a good event-chock full of learning and sprinkled with some fun.

On that note, last night I got to go to my first ever comedy club.  Laughter is so contagious but the bar has been set high as the place was Second City.  I'd heard about this club for a long, long time via the connection with some of the former 'students' whose names are carved (not really) into the desks:  Belushi, Akroyd, Murray, Radner, Curtain, Morris and Fey.  This current troop is also really talented.  Being a comedian is not an easy gig as I witnessed once when the Robin Williams 'died' (in stage terms) in front of a huge audience in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  He just couldn't connect with the audience.  He knew it.  We knew it because he told us, "Help me, I'm dying up here."  It was a sobering moment that I'll never forget partially because it's relevant to business as well.  We all have an audience we need to connect with.  Many, or perhaps, most of the time it's connecting with one person but often it's with multiple people.  And it's not always a matter of making a sale or getting a job;  it's a matter of building relationships.  I've been re-reading some stuff that I've saved over the years.  One of them reminds us of why people choose to do business with others:  They like us, they trust us, we do what we say we're going to do, we communicate openly....the list goes on. But the foundation of all this stuff is that in some way we've connected with them.  And connecting starts with a first impression which I believe takes no more than 4 seconds-the time it takes to shake the other persons' hand and look into their eyes.  4 seconds!  And, remember we have only one chance to make a first impression.

Can you believe it's December?  We are so seriously close to the end of another year it's almost unfathomable.  Where the heck did 2011 go?  Some of the conversations I've been having are with firms that are getting prepared to hit the ground running hard at the start of 2012.  We continue to be a positive, optimistic thinking bunch and more and more adaptable as well.  What I mean by that is I don't hear much talk about waiting for things to return to 'normal.'  We won't see that normal again for some time, if ever.  I don't like the phrase 'new normal.'  I prefer to think in terms of "What it is!"  But, given the uncertainty with global economies, geo-politics, employment, you name it, I'm not sure we know "What it is", as well as, in the words of the aforementioned Robin Williams is prone to say, "What it was."  

Summer Internships:  Thanks to those of you who wrote to tell me that your firm does hire summer interns.  Here is another firm that has a slot for a summer intern:

1.  Zapolski Real Estate, Napa, CA 

Some feedback from the Advice to the Real Estate Students thing I mentioned last week:

1. "My advice, figure out how to get into the industry, take any job you can get and put in 60 hours a week, be the first one in and the last out of the office every day.  As the industry runs up, senior management will start to look for talent to start new ventures.  There is typically little young or mid-level talent after a bust, those that have stayed in the industry get the first calls."

On another related note, a long time friend and supporter of OTR, Albert Livingston, sent me a link to an excellent piece on "Careers in Commercial Real Estate."  

Congratulations to my friend David Slifka who started this week as the head of real assets at the YMCA Retirement Fund.

Also, congratulations to my former colleague, Tim Zietara who is now Chief Investment Officer at Doral Property Finance.

A Family Affair:  We have two more additions to the Felix family.  Twins, Edie & Benjamin.  Edie is the first girl in our family in a long, long time.  Very exciting stuff.

On the road....
Dec. 12-16:  New York
Jan. 18-20:  Laguna Beach, CA to attend IMN's Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity & Private Fund Investing.
Jan. 25, 2012:  London to attend and moderate a panel at the Thompson Reuters Global Property Outlook 2012 
Jan. 30-Feb. 1:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend IREI's VIP Conference.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Real Estate Career Advice, Million Mile Flyer, Life

You guys sent me quite a few requests for my "Advice to Real Estate Graduate Students" piece and have also gotten back at least one suggestion of an addition to it. "Great document!  My favorite was number 10.  "Be willing to learn from the ground up.  No attitude."  If I had to add my own, I'd say, "Ask questions.  You'll be amazed at how much you can learn by listening to people." A few of you who requested it have children who are about to enter the industry.  Others wrote telling me they would circulate it to members of their team and one university professor asked permission to reformat, and "White Label" the document and give it to his students.  Connectivity.  Collaboration.  Sharing.  Isn't that what it's all about?  Coincidentally, I've gotten a few invitations to come speak at graduate real estate programs about careers in real estate starting early in 2012.  I'm really looking forward to that.

Many thanks to those of you who wrote me about your company's summer intern program.  As I mentioned, I've had a number of very bright, very dedicated people approach me asking if I can help them connect with summer 2012 internship opportunities.  If your company has that program, please let me know.  

One company is:
National Capital Partners
Salt Lake City, Utah
Contact:  Randy Norton, Head of Research and Investments
801.618.2231 x. 103

Customer Appreciation?  This week, I opened an envelope from United Airlines.  Normally I just throw them away, unopened, as from experience I know they are solicitations for me to open a credit card account with them (if their systems actually worked, they'd know that I have been one of their credit card customers for a long's a dynamic of customer service that is not lost just on's the danger of using automated databases for 'mailings' etc.  You end up sending something intended for a non-customer to an existing customer.  How does that make the customer feel?  Appreciated?).  However, this envelope contained:

1.  My 1K (100,000 mile flyer) Card that expires January 2012 (why they would send me one that expires so soon I can't figure out)
2.  Free drink coupons (I usually give them to others)
3.  A note card, glossy faced and "signed" by the President of United's  frequent flyer program:  "Congratulations.  It is our privilege to recognize you as one of the distinct few to reach 1 Million LIfetime Flight Miles.  Thank you for your years of loyalty.  We are honored that you have chosen to travel on United."  Hmmm,  I looked back into the envelope to see if I had missed something.  Nope.  The free drink coupons came with my new frequent flyer card.  Perhaps they forgot to put in a coupon for a complimentary in-flight meal to thank me for the million miles?  Oh well, I'm sure that someone will appear at my door one of these days with a delivery of something that shows United's appreciation.  Not~  If I'm one of the 'distinct few' (however many thousands of people that is) wouldn't you think that they'd do something special for me?  Do I see an opportunity here for a "Customer Appreciation" consultant?

I found a wonderful resource this week.  It's a site created by James DeLisle, Ph.D.  Among other great resources it offers a number of "cases and tutorials to help students and other interested parties master various skill sets for real estate."  Jim is the Runstad Professor of Real Estate and Director of Graduate Real Estate Studies in the College of Built Environments at The University of Washington (State of Washington vs. Washington, DC). P.S.  I love visual image that "College of Built Environments" suggests.  

One of our OTR community members wrote me this week and reminded me of a story.  Here it is:

There were three people laying bricks in Paris. A curious passer-by went to one of them who was looking quite tired and was laying the bricks one at a time in a sloppy manner. In all his curiosity, the man asked him “what are you doing?” The visibly tired man replied quite angrily, “Can’t you see, I am laying bricks.” The passer-by, still curious, approached the next man who was working faster but was still a little sloppy. The man asked what he was doing and the man said “Can’t you see I am building a wall”. Finally, the passerby asked that last man who man who seemed to be enjoying laying bricks and asked the same question, ”What are you doing.” The man looked up and with pride said, ”I am building a cathedral.”

She also added this, which, I pass along to you in the spirit that many (dare I say all) of us look in the mirror from time to time (I've been doing that a lot lately) and these type reminders are very poignant.  

"Attitude and goals are the difference between whether you will win or you will lose. Whether you are moving in the right direction or the wrong direction. Whether you have set up right goals for you or you need to change directions. Also more importantly whether you will enjoy your life and add happiness in others life in both work and play or you will complain that no one cares for you. This will make a huge difference between whether you will love and live your life, have passion and how you will spend it."

Congratulations to my friend Alexia Gottschalch who has taken over as co-CEO for Grosvenor's US fund business.

Congratulations to the Kenan-Flagler (University of North Carolina) team which took first place in the 2011 Real Estate Challenge hosted by the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.

On the road....
Nov. 30-Dec. 2:  Chicago to attend NCREIF's Nuts & Bolts of Institutional Real Estate 2.0 program.
Dec. 12-16:  New York
(On December 12, I invite you to join me at my "Not quite annual, buy your own, commercial real estate holiday drink thing."  I'll be at the Russian Vodka Room (north side of 52nd Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue) starting at 6pm.  If you're in New York and have time, please stop by.  It's likely to be an eclectic bunch of commercial real estate people (and some other random folks).  Hope to see you there.
Jan. 18-20:  Laguna Beach, CA to attend IMN's Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity & Private Fund Investing.
Jan. 25, 2012:  London to attend and moderate a panel at the Thompson Reuters Global Property Outlook 2012 
Jan. 30-Feb. 1:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend IREI's VIP Conference.

Photo:  Somewhere in the vast Los Angeles Convention Center

Please pass this along to others who may not be receiving it now.  The more subscribers I can get to OTR the more it'll help with a project I'm working on.  I alluded to this a couple of weeks ago and some of you asked me about the project.  While I don't have the 'elevator pitch' down yet, it's something I've been developing since 2005 and involves all of you, in fact everyone in the commercial real estate business around the globe!  I'll share more with you as things evolve but for now....Thanks!

These are my views and not that of my employer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Summer Internships, The Ones In Between, Thanksgiving

Summer internships:  If your firm takes on summer interns please let me know.  I have been asked by a few top-notch students if I could help them connect to find one...both in the U.S. and Europe.  Thanks.  BTW, in preparing some years back for a tour of Graduate Real Estate Programs and speaking with those students about careers in real estate, I reached out to a number of my industry friends and asked them "What advice would you give a graduate student who is  focused on the real estate industry?  I've been invited to visit some of these programs again in 2012 and have pulled out that document and will be handing it out to the groups I talk with. I'd be happy to send you a copy.  Just email me ( with the word "Advice" in the subject box.

Here are a few websites I added to my "Bookmarks" this week.  I hope you find one or more of interest:

2.  Songs that made you feel good 
3.  Meaning & Heart
4.  Bondi's Blogspace 

Someone sent me this years ago.  I re-discovered it poking through some document folders and wanted to share it with you.

" The Ones in Between" 

When the road we walk on
is sometimes rough
or is it that we suddenly
take away all what is not necessary
shoes, boots or high hills
from  which we easily fall
i suddenly prefer the thrill
to walk on my bare feet
to feel each imperfection of the street
to know each things i did right or wrong
to learn from each mistake
nor to be rich nor to be strong
but just to be  human again

like the first day , like the last
and all the ones in between

The U.S. will celebrate it's Thanksgiving Day next Thursday.  Canada, already celebrated theirs.  While it's roots (no pun intended) were about celebrating a good harvest, it's become a holiday where families and friends get together to eat, enjoy each other and in some neighborhoods, play touch football.  As a holiday, it can be a time for personal reflection as well.  In challenging times like these, that's not a bad thing to do once in a while and maybe, just like it's suggested that you replace the battery in your smoke detector every year on a holiday, it's important to rediscover "the things worth being, a search that many neglect while striving to obtain the things worth having." (Meyer Friedman, Type A Behavior and Your Heart). My family is spread out geographically and while we'll be together in spirit we won't be able to be physically together next week.  I wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving and just want to let you know how grateful I am to you for being part of the global community that has been created around this weekly column.  Thank you.

On the road....
Nov. 30-Dec. 2:  Chicago to attend NCREIF's Nuts & Bolts of Institutional Real Estate 2.0 program.
Dec. 8-9:  Chicago for various meetings
Dec. 12-16:  New York
(On December 12, I invite you to join me at my "Not quite annual, buy your own, commercial real estate holiday drink thing."  I'll be at the Russian Vodka Room (north side of 52nd Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue) starting at 6pm.  If you're in New York and have time, please stop by.  It's likely to be an eclectic bunch of commercial real estate people (and some other random folks).  Hope to see you there.
Jan. 25, 2012:  London to attend and moderate a panel at the Thompson Reuters Global Property Outlook 2012 
Jan. 30-Feb. 1:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend IREI's VIP Conference.

Manney Felix-May 1, 1917-November 19, 2009

Photo:  San Francisco Bay Bridge.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

Friday, November 11, 2011

PERE Forum; Presentation plea; Joe Frazier

"Real estate investors are comfortable sitting on the sidelines."
"We're in for a long, cold winter that will last through 2012 into 2013."
"Every recap deal is a nail biter."
"Until the CMBS market stabilizes it's hard for buyers of single assets to see how they will recapitalize somewhere down the road."
"We're selling everything that looks or smells like core."
"The vault has been opened and the 'good stuff' is coming out-quality real estate marked down-good opportunities for the next 3-4 years."

I heard heavyweight members of our industry say these things this week-a combination of optimism and pessimism but what is reality?  The audience at the PERE Forum in New York was attentive and engaged.  It was great to see so many young real estate professionals in the audience and they were treated to one of the best programs I've seen (or been part of) in years.  Kudos to Zoe, Arleen, Nicole and Erik at PERE who pulled the program together.  Also, the venue they used was terrific and I highly recommend it (Sentry Centers, 730 Third Avenue, NY.  Contact person there is Chris Ryter (

I've mentioned to you before but got a chance to poke around the site this week.  There's a bunch of information including analytics and slides you can use in your own presentations.  There are free research reports from some of the top commercial real estate industry service providers.  This site is in Beta test mode for now.  It's a good time to take advantage of it...and it's free!

Some stuff from The Recovery at a Crossroads piece published this week by Asieh Mansour, Head of Americas Research at CBRE:   
-Recent evidence confirms our view that the U.S. will avoid a recession.
-The Canadian domestic economy is performing well.  Both business and consumer spending are expected to make modest headway this year.
-The outlook for economic growth in Brazil has downshifted.

Africa.  It's a word I've heard several times in the past two weeks in relation to where will the next real estate/infrastructure investing opportunities be.  There are certainly some compelling reasons to take a look at Africa as a continent and more specifically certain countries.  Like with everything, there will be those who are 'early', just like when any investment market emerges.  Think back to when U.S. institutional investors first started going abroad (i.e. Europe).  It wasn't that many years ago.  But, if we want to live up to our own self-billing as a global industry we need to keep looking for those countries/markets where our capital can both make a difference and can provide a reasonable return on our investments.  As many of you know, my only personal experience with Africa was my time in Liberia, now five years ago, working with needy children and experiencing a third-world country, up close and personal, for the first time.  But listening to a presentation last week by a firm looking to raise capital for investment in Africa has gotten me thinking.....  

On Wednesday, I attended the first American breakfast meeting sponsored by PIE (Property Investor Europe) in New York.  Allan Saunderson, the fellow behind this publication and I have known each other a number of years.  He's got a good sense of what's going on in the European commercial real estate industry.  Due to a prior commitment I could only stay for part of the first panel which included my friends, Lee Neibart (AREA Property Partners) and Bob White (Real Capital Analytics).   Bob gave a little overview presentation that fueled the conversation.  Here's what I took away:

1.  Europe:  Better 3Q than expected.
2.  Clear investor favorites have emerged:  Germany, France, Nordics (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden).
3.  Cross-border capital is looking at taking on more risk.
4.  Industrial and peripherals are offering attractive yields.
5.  Trophy retail malls attracting interest as are regional markets in the UK.
6.  Europe deal volume is halfway back from 2007 peak;  U.S.  is nowhere near halfway back.

And a few quotes from others:
1. "Italy is the last country that real estate investors are thinking about today."
2. "The Nordics are considered to be one of the best places to invest."
3.  "The personality of equity capital has not changed much over the past five years."

An open letter to presenters of any type: 
If you use statistics in your presentation/speech (and this is particularly obvious when you use PPT slides...which as you know from earlier writings I feel is the most abused technology tool known to mankind) please update your information periodically.  Making any presentation today, for example, with data from 2008, 2009 is absolutely unacceptable. You owe it to your audience to have current data.  Making the excuse, "I've been too busy to update the information" is an insult to the audience.  And, as 2010 comes to a close, as soon after year-end as the data in your 'one size fits all' presentation becomes available, you have an obligation to update it.  Whether you realize it or not, people in the audience notice it...they won't be as vocal as me, but it doesn't make you look good at all.  

Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight champion of the world, died this week at 67.   My father's was a boxing family (except for him).  A couple of this older brothers not only fought in the streets of Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, they also fought professionally.  The one who went the furthest was Harry Felix, the oldest brother, who fought for food money for the family and was at one point a middle-weight contender (before an opponent 'thumbed' his eye and ended his career).  Another of my fathers' brothers, Barney, was a referee who officiated a number of major bouts including the first Liston/Clay fight when the title was transferred for the first time to Cassius Clay soon to become Muhammad Ali.  My Dad liked watching boxing on TV right up to his death on November 19, 2009. But over the years things had changed in the boxing world (as in all other sports) and he more often than not referred to some of the fighters on TV as 'bums.'  That term apparently referred to boxers who were brawlers and not fighters or other definitions of his own creation.  During the period when Ali was banned from boxing due to his stand as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, he went on a college speaking tour.  At that time I was the sports editor of our school weekly newspaper.  When he came to our school, I was invited to the press conference held before he spoke to the general audience.  I asked him, "Champ, do you think Joe Frazier could ever beat you?"   Ali replied, without skipping a beat, "Son, if Frazier even dreamed of beating me, he would wake up apologizing!"  Joe Frazier was no bum. Frazier, in his quiet, workmanlike way, brought some class into the ring every time he entered it.  He exuded quiet confidence.  He was a class act.

OTR news:  There have been some people starting to follow OTR on Twitter as well as through the OTR group.  I am trying to increase the number of subscribers. There's a reason behind it but I can't tell you about that just yet.  So, if you have had this forwarded to you and are not a subscriber please sign up.  Also, if you are so inclined I'd appreciate you sending this to others and asking them to sign up as well.  Thanks a lot.

Publishing from somewhere between New York and California in 'The Friendly Skies."

On the road....

Nov. 15:  San Francisco to moderate the panel at JPMorgan's "The New Investment Climate:  Fostering Transparency from Front to Back Office." It's an important topic and I'm particularly pleased that a good friend, Don Holcher, who spent many years with the City & County of San Francisco Employees Retirement System, is one of the panelists.  
Nov. 30-Dec. 2:  Chicago to attend NCREIF's Nuts & Bolts of Institutional Real Estate 2.0 program.
Dec. 8-9:  Chicago for various meetings. 
Dec. 12-16:  New York 
(On December 12, I invite you to join me at my "Not quite annual, buy your own, commercial real estate holiday drink thing."  I'll be at the Russian Vodka Room (north side of 52nd Street near 8th Avenue -small black awning) starting at 6pm.  If you're in New York, and have time, please stop by.  Last year we had 45 people and while I knew most everyone, I love when I can help bring people together who have never met each other and who work in the same industry.  Hope to see you then/there.  No RSVP necessary).  
Jan. 18-20, 2012:  Laguna Beach, CA to attend IMN's Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity & Private Fund Investing 
Jan. 25, 2012:  London to attend the Reuters Real Estate Annual Real Estate Conference and moderate a panel and to visit a good friend who is recovering in a hospital in Geneva.

These are my views and not that of my employer.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Counselors of Real Estate, Tent Cities, 70 year olds talk about their lives

This week I attended the CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) annual convention in Washington, DC.  One thing that surprised me as I made my way around the city was the number of tent cities connected to the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.  I hadn't been following this story much but I asked a few folks what the purpose was and it sounds to me like a very disjointed effort with different people 'protesting' about different things.  Just like in the 60's and early 70's, the reason that change could not be effected then, and now, is that people cannot get behind just one cause at a time.  If we could elected officials would be forced to sit up and take notice and take action.  But they knew then, and now too, that if they just sit back and do nothing the effort will evaporate due to lack of single purpose.  

Anyway, I may have written this before but I want to say it again:  The Counselors of Real Estate is a bunch of knowledgeable, talented, successful real estate professionals who also happen to be very nice. Egos are checked at the door and the collaborative, nay, totally friendly environment that exists at their events is a breath of fresh air.   The CRE Consulting Corps case studies are fascinating and global.  The debates about key issues affecting the commercial real estate industry are stimulating. And the collegial atmosphere is special.  They are openly welcoming of new members and guests.  I am proud to be a member and appreciate Geof Dohrmann of IREI who nominated me to be considered for membership.

Some takeaways from a presentation from a well-known and respected industry strategist:

  • "Those of us who don't live within The Beltway (Washington, DC area) don't really understand what's happening."
  • "Today money is  basically free."
  • "Maybe its' time for radical answers."
  • "The other shoe?  Forget about commercial real estate, it's state and local governments....and it's dropping."
  • "State and local governments had always been an engine of growth...but no more."
The more people, of all ages, that I talk with, the more two things are clear: (1) Things are changing on a daily basis globally; (2)  No one really knows what is going on or what to expect.  Uncertainty, about  most anything in our lives, creates stress.  Stress is not healthy.  But now, in addition to personal stress, we have an inordinate amount of Earth-stress, challenges to our basic way of life and to the future of our planet.  I've always admired the 'big thinkers', those that don't get bogged down in the day to day stuff.  I haven't been hearing much from these people lately, in fact, I'm not even sure who will go down in history from this period as a truly big and forward thinker.  Right now, I'm focused on the small things but I am not sweating them.  However, I recall Steve Winwood's voice when he and Traffic recorded, "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?"  Let's put our collective mental energy together towards a better tomorrow for our selves and our children's children children (Moody Blues).

New York Times columnist, David Brooks, wrote in one of his columns this week, "If you are over 70, I’d like to ask for a gift. I’d like you to write a brief report on your life so far, an evaluation of what you did well, of what you did not so well and what you learned along the way."  He got more than 200 comments submitted pretty darn quickly.  I like this kind of life stuff so went through those comments and pulled out some things that I found interesting and I hope you do too:

  • The United States, for the past 70 years, has been a place of soaring optimism, where things always got better. So 70 year olds today, for the most part, can recall fondly their past lives (despite any foolish risks they took)--because today they are still much better off than when they were growing up.   But it is now possibe to contemplate that the US has peaked, and life in the United States, today, may be the best the younger generation will ever experience. 
  • Don't try to prove things to other people, especially your parents and friends, try to prove a few things to yourself. Try to balance being responsible with the grand adventure that life can be while also making a positive contribution. Our existence on this tiny planet is a miracle, don't waste it.
  • Aim high and see how far you can go. Learn from everything and everyone, all the time. Be self critical only when it can help you grow, not as a force of habit. Realize, too, that everyone before you who accomplished something grand started out with doubts, fears and doubters saying it couldn't be done. Live your dreams because, otherwise, you will have to watch while someone else does it in your stead.
  • I have learned that I don't know anything, don't understanding anything, and never will. Far from making me despondent, this has been a big relief. I also realize that no-one else knows anything or understands anything, especially the "experts" - a word I think should always be in quotation marks. Trust your own judgment more than you trust anyone else's. Even the honest and well-intentioned can lead you astray, and most certainly they do not have your well-being at heart as much as you do.
These are just a few. If you like this kind of stuff here is the link to the page where all the comments are posted.  It's a pretty interesting read.  

RCA’s 3Q2011 Europe Capital Trends report was recently published.  Here are a few of their conclusions:
  • Despite the economic and financial market turbulence European investment activity continues to improve.  Countries showing an improvement in transaction volume, notably Germany, France, Nordics and Central Europe are increasingly being driven by cross-border capital.
  • Prime retail continues to perform strongly, with office volume flat year-over-year. Hotels also posted robust gains, while large transactions boosted the apartment and in­dustrial sectors.
  • While London and Paris still boast the larg­est volume, many other cities now are drawing a larger percentage of cross-border investment.
  • The most significant changes in the sources of these global inflows have come from Asia and Can­ada, with their investment activity in Europe reach­ing or surpassing peak levels.
  • US investors, while comprising half of global capital flows into Europe, acquired just €14.7b over the past 12 months, a frac­tion of 2007 levels. 

To me, Canada is the story to watch as they have become a very aggressive investor in direct real estate in many parts of the world.  

Congratulations to my friend Julian Schiller who joined Brookfield Asset Management as senior vice president at the firm’s global private funds group in London.

Cool stuff of the week:  ArX Solutions.  Terrific animation company. This art/technology has really evolved since I was first exposed to it at the MIPIM conference in about 2004.  

Photo:  Six of the 17 CRE Band members at rehearsal studio earlier this week preparing for the show last night at the Chairman's Gala Dinner where John Leary handed the Chairman's title to Ken Riggs.  It was a really fun night.

On the road....

Nov. 4-11:  New York
Nov. 9-10:  PERE Forum in New York where I'll be moderating a panel called "LPs: Far from Limited).  My panelists:  Tom Arnold, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority; Steve Hason, APG Asset Management; David Rose, HewittEnnisKnupp and Bill Bowman, former senior portfolio manager for an institutional investment management company.  There is still time to sign up and be there.
Nov. 15:  San Francisco to host a discussion sponsored by JP Morgan's Private Equity and Real Estate Services Group on "The New Investment Climate:  Fostering Transparency from Front to Back Office."  
Nov. 30-Dec. 2:  Chicago to attend NCREIF's 'Nuts & Bolts of Institutional Real Estate 2.0.'
Dec. 12-16:  New York (Including my "Not quite annual holiday buy your own drink holiday drink thing."  Date, time and location TBA.  Stay tuned.
Jan. 25:  London to moderate a panel at the annual Reuters Real Estate Conference.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

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