Friday, November 9, 2012

Johns Hopkins / Greek to Me / Serendipity / PERE Summit

Back to School
On Wednesday, I took the train from New York to Washington, DC and conducted a three-hour class with the students of the Johns Hopkins Accelerated Masters of Science in Real Estate Program.  The title of my talk, as many of you know, is "Careers in Real Estate:  Connecting the Dots."  This was a very international group with more than half of the students from China.  As we went around the room with each student introducing themselves there are more than half of the Chinese students who plan to 'go home' with the knowledge they have gained.  There was an electricity of entrepreneurship in the room which invigorated me and reminded me that when opportunity presents itself, seize the moment.  

Dan Kohlhepp, academic director of the program and fellow Hoyt fellow, followed up with me with an email that gives some insight: "Thank so much for presenting the "Connecting the Dots" to our MSRE (Masters of Science in Real Estate) students yesterday.  Your comments were right on the money. Several Asian students said that they had heard the term 'networking' so many times, but never understood how what it meant until yesterday. This was truly an international break-through.  I think that the Asian students were intimidated about reaching out to prestigious people or people with higher economic or social status.  When you said, "Just send them a note and say that you enjoyed meeting them" I think they had an "Ah-Ha" moment.  Clearly the informality of the Internet is a tricky business with cross-cultural overtones a way to follow up an exchange of business cards.  In discussing raising a capital for a private equity real estate firm, you did a wonderful job laying out the process and how the players related to each other.  So many students get so into the mathematics of real estate that they lose track of, or don't realize how, deals are really done.  You make it personable and real."  From my talks at 15 other schools over the years, I have learned that this is not just the case with international students.

BTW, I've hired and brought with me to Johns Hopkins a personal coach to help me step up my presentation and public speaking game to another level.  My goal:  To be invited to deliver keynote speeches.  But, you say, "Steve, don't you coach people on that kind of stuff?" Well, yes, but at the same time, I need the help of an independent, third-party who I trust and who has a track-record of success in this field.  I'm lucky to have found one who, in our first engagement, has given me a number of excellent suggestions that I can immediately start using.  Stay tuned!

Greek to Me
A Greek friend and I had dinner the other night at a wonderful Greek restaurant in New York called Avra.  Our server and my dining companion conversed both in Greek and English.  The restaurant was not as crazy busy as it usually is and towards the end of the meal I listened to an extremely interesting exchange about how to Greek people view Greece.  There are clearly a number of major cultural things that, for Greece as an economy to thrive, need to change.  But you're talking about centurys' old ways of doing things related to property rights or lack thereof (squatting is possible), how and where people save their money, the way government employees are taken care of upon retirement, etc.  A lot of stuff.  So it'll be more interesting than ever now to pay a little more attention to Greece to see if they are able to 'be the change that they want to see (maybe) in their country." 

Comment about last week's OTR: "I like the parallel to the Springsteen song.  Amazing that this was the storm that destroyed the boardwalk," commenting on the fact that the storm that destroyed the boardwalk in Asbury Park (and other parts of the NJ shore) was named "Sandy" (after Bruce's song of the same name).  Thanks Bri.


The official definition includes the following:
  • The phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
  • They found each other by pure serendipity
I have learned to really appreciate the serendipity in my life that manifests itself in me being an extremely lucky guy.  Talking with a friend this week, she suggested that there is serendipity in all our lives but some people are more tuned in to it than others.  It's one of the many wonders of life.  

Felix Consulting Group Update
  • A new client engaged me this week to conduct my "How to..." workshop program in their office in early January.  This consists of eight-45 minute workshops, running from 9am-5pm.  The training (which can be customized to the client preference) consists of:
  • How to network
  • How to raise your visibility
  • How to build your personal brand
  • How to be a memorable panelist
  • How to be an effective moderator
  • How to get the most out of attending an industry event
  • How to get meetings with people who don't know you
  • How to leverage your trade association membership
New York "Drink Thing"
Last night, about fifty industry professionals came to Joe G Restaurant to mingle, have a drink and eat some pie (pizza that is).  It was a fun evening.

PERE Summit-New York
The well-attended event was hosted yesterday by my good friend, Gunnar Branson, CEO of NAREIM (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers).  I'll be hosting Day Two today and will give you some takeaways next week.  Thanks to Zoe Hughes, Arleen Buckley, Nicole Waldorf, Olin Monty & the other PERE team members for putting on a great event and for inviting me to participate.   

  • Chris Keber who has joined Hines as Senior Managing Director in their new "Office of Investments.
Susan Hudson-Wilson
James Comtois wrote a nice piece on ( which includes this: In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Susan's memory to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, PO Box 336, Westbrook, Maine 04098.

It feels like I'm back in college... out of the trunk of my car!  Thanks so all of you who have so kindly offered me a place to stay while I continue to be displaced in the aftermath, as it were, of Superstorm Sandy.  My trials pale in comparison to those who have suffered personal and material loss.  While the media has, in it's inimitable way, pretty much moved on from this story, there are still a bunch of people in the metropolitan New York area without power or mass transit service.  A few of the New Jersey contingent to the PERE Summit car-pooled in (and had to leave really the time I usually get get into Manhattan for the start of the event.).  Yesterday I learned that they don't know when I'll even be able to get back into my building in Long Beach to get my stuff.  However, having become a regular customer at Men's Warehouse, I learned that their claim is true:  On Tuesday I bought a new suit.  They did some tailoring and I got it back the same evening!  Adding to New York's craziness was the snow, slush storm on Wednesday evening.  Anyway....better times are coming for us all.  

On the road....

Nov. 13: Waldorf-Astoria, New York to attend a gala dinner hosted by The Phipps Houses Group which was founded in 1905 by Henry Phipps, Andrew Carnegie's partner, to provide affordable and well-designed housing for working class New Yorkers and is the oldest not-for-profit housing company in the New York Area.  Thanks to Gary Koster, Partner in the Ernst and Young Transaction Advisory Services/Real Estate-Private Equity Group and a member of the Phipps Board of Trustees for the kind invitation).  

Nov. 27: Deloitte 2012 RE Industry Update, New York

Nov. 28:  Rockefeller Center, New York to attend the 80th Tree Lighting Ceremony (Thanks to my good friends at Tishman Speyer for the invite)

Dec. 3-4:  Chicago to moderate a panel at the NAREIM Capital Raising and Investor Relations Council Meeting

Dec. 15-Jan. 3:  Liberia.  Return trip with The MacDella Cooper Foundation to see residence school they opened and the progress in general made in Monrovia since my first trip in 2006.  Will be Santa again for a children's Christmas party. 

Mar. 12-15:  Cannes to attend MIPIM

"Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work.  The second is only part of the first."  Anna Quindlen

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