Thursday, January 12, 2012

Visualizing woodpeckers, One moment of insight, TV Dinners

One thing that has been coming up more and more in conversations is the idea of raising capital for private equity real estate funds from smaller pension funds, endowments, foundations and family offices.  There are investment managers who have been doing this for years.  But, as more and more of the big boys are sitting on the sidelines, managers are looking for alternate sources of capital for their commingled funds.  

Historically, if you raised money from a family office or just plain ol' rich people, the institutional investors did not relish being in the same fund. I wonder if that will still be the case as we move into a new world order in the institutional real estate investment industry.

Presentation Suggestions (There's obviously a story behind his comments but the main thrust of his suggestions are what grabbed my attention:  

The unexpected will rivet audience attention. Breaking a pattern is a very basic way to grab attention. How can you break a visual or sensory pattern in your next presentation to grab attention and get your audience to take action?

Be careful with negative instructions. If you don’t want your audience to do something, don’t even put the idea into their heads. If I tell you to NOT think about woodpeckers right now, guess what you’re going to do? You’re visualizing woodpeckers right now, aren’t you? Yet, you had no intention of doing so… until I told you NOT to do it.

Take words seriously. If you want me to take your words seriously, how about making your font size huge and clearly visible? What about placing your sign (or your PowerPoint) almost smack in front of me, instead of making me peer down a gully or around a post or from the side or through someone’s head?

I've been reading some good books lately-ones that get you thinking about important things.  And I was talking with someone this week who said that they'd like to make a contribution to the world and 'leave something behind.'  Then yesterday I read this obituary about Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, a medical researcher who helped saved hundreds of thousands of premature infants with a single, crucial discovery about their ability to breathe.  Her principal contribution to medicine was in finding out why so many babies died at birth. The answer: their lungs lacked a foamy coating that enables people to breathe. “There was one moment of insight,” she said. “And that was it.”  

When Dr. Avery started her work, as many as 15,000 babies a year died from the syndrome. By 2002, fewer than 1,000 did. Estimates of lives saved exceed 800,000.  One moment of insight.  Such a humble statement about something that has had such an enormous and, in a way, miraculous impact.  Very few of us will leave a legacy of this stature.  But there is something we can each do that will make a difference.  Of course, it'll involve the one thing that I feel is the most valuable thing we have in our lives:  time.  My proposition to you:  make time to spend with an industry person (or someone not in our industry for that matter) who is out of work, or looking to get into the business for the first time or is trying to figure out how to make a career change and get future employers to see them as a whole individual rather than just labeling them by the title of their last job.  Most, perhaps all of us, has been in one of those situations in our lives.  Remember what it feels like?  In learning about what makes me tick, I am clear about one thing:  if I can help just one person every day, even in some small way, then it's been a good day for me.  We all need each other lean on from time to time.  We are all part of a global commercial real estate community (or as Seth Godin calls it 'a tribe.')  I can almost guarantee that you will feel better about yourself when you help someone else.  P.S.  I've been working on a plan to create someplace where we can all gather together and help each other.  Stay tuned!

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) always has a cool exhibition in Terminal 3 in the main walkway to the majority of the gates.  The current one is on the history Television or TV as we know it.  Not only do they have TV sets dating back to the early days, they have games that were spawned by TV shows, lunch boxes (did you have one?) and other sorts of branded stuff. It's a walk down memory lane:  We had a black & white TV set.  My father and I used to lay on the floor on our left elbows to watch the shows.  For some reason the channel dial was funky and periodically my Dad, using his right foot, had to jiggle it a little to get the picture clear again.  We lived in a simpler world.  There wasn't much fear in America in the Post WWII years (except when we got frightened by who knows who and people started building bomb shelters in their basements).  TV was our friend and our nemesis as people bought frozen TV dinners and either set up TV tables or rolled the set into the dining room.  So that was our technology addiction.  How innocent!

Note:  Please feel free to tweet this column. 

On the road....

Jan. 17-20:  New York
Jan. 23-25:  London to attend the INREV UK Winter Seminar 2012 and the Thompson Reuters Global Property Outlook 2012
Jan. 30-Feb. 1:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend IREI's VIP Conference
Feb. 6-10:  New York 
Feb. 23:  Chapel Hill, NC to attend the University of North Carolina (UNC)/Kenan-Flagler Real Estate Conference 
Feb. 24:  Chapel Hill, NC to be a judge at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Real Estate Case Challenge
Feb. 27-29:  Scottsdale, AZ to attend the NCREIF Winter Conference
March 29-30:  Philadelphia to attend and be a judge at the Villanova University Real Estate Case Challenge
April 22-25:  Chicago to attend the CRE Mid-Year Meetings
April 25-27:  Vienna, Austria to attend the INREV annual meeting
May 17-20:  North Palm Beach, FL to attend The Hoyt Fellows/Weimer School Annual Meeting

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