Friday, February 17, 2012

Cuba, Close the loop...please!, Networking, The Flying Wallendas

An article this week about a new law that was passed in Cuba last November reminded me that are some things that we take for granted in the 'developed world.' One being the ability to buy and sell a house or apartment that you own.  While this article described the 'hot' real estate market in Cuba, it's not what one would necessarily imagine.  "While the new market dynamics may help some, many worry they will do little to solve the housing problems faced by many Cubans, whose wallets would not stretch even to buy a $3,000 one-bedroom apartment." " average of three buildings collapse in Havana each day, victims of neglect, overcrowding and improvised construction. Well over 100,000 people are waiting to move to government hostels."  A government estimate suggests that it would cost about $3.6 billion to build the 600,000 houses Cuba needs. Independent estimates are more than double that. The creation of construction and housing cooperatives is one step being discussed: such arrangements would reduce building costs and allow groups of individuals to build, say, a small apartment block."

Of all the markets in the world, I have not heard anyone in the institutional real estate world yet utter the word "Cuba" except for those who have gone there to party.  And, if you look at the yellow or red flags that might be raised when you are considering where in the world to invest, government instability is definitely one of them.  So, while entering 'emerging markets' is not for the faint of heart, if I were a betting man, I would  bet that somewhere, behind closed doors in a fancy high-rise office building in some city in the world, there are people, right now, talking about the real estate opportunities in Cuba.  Who in our industry will be the first to dip their toe on that long-troubled island in  the beautiful Caribbean?

I'm wondering if any of you is also experiencing this phenomenon:  you have a conversation(s) with someone, on a rather serious subject. Or you may have several interactions, in person and on the phone.  And then you never hear from the other person again, like they drop off the face of the earth but you know they didn't.  As as student of people I can't for the life of me comprehend what those people are thinking (or perhaps they're not thinking).  Does this type of behavior leave me with a feeling that they are really professionals?  People of character?  Someone I'd want to do business with?  I don't think so.  I believe that we all are just looking for the same thing from someone in these situations:  close the loop.  If it's not something that's going to move forward have the common courtesy to tell the other person.  With all the talk about 'lessons learned' over the past four or five years and the word 'transparency and open, timely communications' flowing off every powerpoint slide in every presentation I've seen, as well as out of people's mouths, don't people realize, after all that's gone on, that you actually have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk?  Our industry is a very small one, even on a global scale.  Our reputation is everything.  I'd suggest that some people look at themselves in the mirror tomorrow morning and do a self-assessment about certain things, before it catches up with them.  

Someone asked me recently about how you go about networking when you're at some type of event and you don't know too many or any people?  How do you approach those people?  Are there any tactics or standard lines that have proven successful?  It got me thinking about the times that I've been in that situation (yes, it still happens).  I don't think there are any secret tactics or magical words.  No one really likes approaching someone or a group that they don't know and that doesn't know them.  This is especially true if body language and/or facial expressions suggest they don't want to be approached (or include you in their group).  

However, I have found it easier to approach a group than certain individuals, those who make an attempt to look at your badge and if you don't resemble somebody they 'have' to meet", they'll just walk away or walk past you without even cracking a smile (and remember, these folks are at events where people are supposed to be interested in networking!).  Now, there are 'Networking Rules" that I've accumulated and make my best effort to go by. But getting back to the uncomfortableness of 'cold networking:'  It's all a matter of one's threshold for 'pain' in those situations.  However, much as I am 'inclusive', there are sometimes when someone who has joined my group ends up being really obnoxious, or someone who is trying to hard-sell someone I'm talking with or is a glommer (der.  spammer:    Someone who finds a person who knows a lot of people and hangs with them or follows them around expecting to be introduced to all the people that they know.  And, while, thankfully, that hasn't happened too many times, I've generally found that a smile and a "howdy-do" works in more cases than not with people you don't know.   Probably worth a try. 

Achieve Your Dream:  Nik Wallenda, a seventh-generation circus performer, has been granted permission to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  Mr. Wallenda, 33, has called his ultimate professional dream. “I had a few tears, but it hasn’t sunk in,” he added. “We were told by not one, not two, but probably 50 people: ‘This is impossible, not going to happen.’ This is to prove that if you pursue your dream and never give up, you can achieve your dream.”  (Note:  The Flying Wallendas is the name of a circus act and daredevil stunt performers, most known for performing highwire acts without a safety net. Sadly, they may have had their most publicity as a result of tragedy. Karl Wallenda developed some of the most amazing acts like the seven-person chair pyramid. They continued performing those acts until 1962. That year, the front man on the wire faltered and the pyramid collapsed. Three men fell to the ground, killing two and leaving one paralyzed.  But, for performers, the show must go on. If you want to see something that will give you goosebumps (in a happy way) watch this video

Solutions by Steve Felix Update:  Thanks to all of you who have sent me congratulations and good wishes on the launch of my new consultancy.  It's off to a good start.  Having operated consulting businesses before I know that the key is to get two or three 'retainer' clients to give the venture the financial foundation it needs.  I have a couple of prospects in that area but, while those evolve, I am doing work for several clients.  Two involve facilitating brainstorming sessions on how to raise capital in this market, how to market to investors and consultants where there is no prior existing relationship, review, discussion and reworking of presentation materials and ways to educate rather than sell.  For the other client I am doing some research that will help them be more efficient in the growing of their investment management business.  While my official press release is still a few weeks off, it's been heartening at the reaction I've received already:  almost everyone I speak with has something they need help with and, either me or a member of my Consultants Collaborative, may be able to provide just the kind of expertise that the doctor ordered.  Stay tuned!

Congratulations to my friend, Eyal Bilgrai, who is joining the consulting firm Wurts & Associates. 

On the road...

Feb. 21:  San Francisco
Feb. 28-Mar.1:  Scottsdale to attend the NCREIF Winter Conference
March 13-15:  Boston to attend the PREA Spring Meeting
March 29-30:  Philadelphia, PA to be a judge in the Villanova University Real Estate Case Challenge
April 24-25:  Los Angeles for the PERE Global Investors Forum 2012
May 17-20:  North Palm Beach, FL to attend the annual meeting of The Homer Hoyt Fellows

Special note to Kal:  Are you happy now?!

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