Saturday, October 19, 2013

Greetings from the Windy City / Realty Club of Chicago

Greetings from the Windy City

Midway airport is packed.  It’s Friday afternoon and the restaurant is full of people with luggage next to every table - making it virtually impossible to navigate by either guests or staff.  There are no available power outlets anywhere and my laptop is losing juice!  

I feel almost like a teenager again at Harry Carry’s...the law is that everyone has to show photo ID before being served a cocktail! 

After a whirlwind couple of days, and testing out CTA’s Orange line to the airport, we are exhausted.  The nicest man from the Chicago Transit Authority helped us out buying our ticket from a less-than-friendly vending machine – and it made for a good discussion and an enjoyable ride. 

This week was a busy one for Liz Weiner and I in Chicago.  My partner attended the second annual NAREIM (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers) Human Resources Council meeting while I met with some of my contacts around town. At the end of the week we were invited to speak at the Realty Club of Chicago (more on that later).

Liz spoke highly of the HR conference that took place in NAREIM’s new office in the landmark and LEED-certified Wrigley Building.  In addition to a lively discussion around the diversity (or lack thereof) in the commercial real estate workforce, interesting and challenging HR conversations covered succession planning, compensation, HR technology, employee benefits and the Affordable Care Act as well as the impact of the ACA on real estate firms of varying size. 

NAREIM CEO, Gunnar Branson, seemed to do an excellent job stimulating discussion and encouraging the exchange of ideas.  Here are a few interesting tidbits from the HR conference:
  • Workforce diversity is a challenge in the real estate industry that needs to be addressed.
  • Long-term incentive, as a compensation component, might be ‘wasted’ on the  junior associate who may not fully understand this incentive and may not visualize themselves at the company for the length of time necessary to fully realize the benefit.  It was alluded to that, instead of giving the younger work force a $10,000 long-term incentive, firms might be better off simply giving a $5,000 bonus - in cash.  
  • Succession planning is often a difficult subject for some executives to focus on.  It requires leaders to look at their own vulnerability.  Smaller firms have different challenges than larger ones in this area.  It is so important to assure that you have leadership going forward….it requires top management to look at their organization from a new perspective…one that may not include them. 
  • A few of the top reasons people stay with a company:
    • Compensation
    • Culture
    • Company has a game plan for the future and is able to communicate that clearly  (this particularly holds true for ‘junior’ employees). 
  • Like Warren Buffett speaks of under-valued assets, it would be wise to look at ‘under-valued’ talent. Paying attention to high-potential folks in your own workforce that might need just a little more training, coaching and mentoring to achieve their full potential may be well worth the effort, for the company and for the individual.  And this would certainly increase morale in the workplace.
Liz felt the conference was thought provoking and time well spent, allowing real estate industry HR professionals to connect with their peers. 

If the HR professionals in your firm are not yet familiar with the NAREIM HR Council event, it would be worthwhile to share this information with them.

Realty Club of Chicago

John Rutledge, one of the members of the legendary Realty Club of Chicago, noticed in last week’s column that I would be in Chicago this week.  He reached out to have us invited to attend their weekly luncheon.  Fortunately, we were available (and hungry!).  

While their luncheon speakers typically deliver a talk or presentation related to a real estate deal, Liz and I orchestrated a unique interactive presentation coaching session that seemed to be received extremely well.  (Thank you to our volunteer McKim Barnes and all other members for their active participation!)

“The Realty Club of Chicago was founded in 1910 and meets on Fridays at noon during eight months of the year at the Union League Club at 65 W Jackson Blvd. There are “open sessions” and formal presentations to our members who comprise an eclectic group of real estate developers, architects, attorneys, economists, brokers, appraisers, bankers, property owners, and other professionals who serve the real estate industry.”  (Taken from their website)

The camaraderie of this group is enviable.  Attendees showed considerable respect and genuine enjoyment being in each other’s company.  This translated into a workshop environment where honest and open commentary benefited everyone. 

We look forward to the next time we are in Chicago on a Friday afternoon and can join this enduring real estate luncheon group.

On the Road...

Oct. 23 - 24:  PERE (Private Equity Real Estate) Summit New York, 2013. Serving as Chairman / Moderator, New York, NY

Oct. 28 - 30:  PREA (Pension Real Estate Association) Annual Investor Real Estate Conference, Chicago, IL

Nov. 13 -15:  NCREIF (National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries), Fall Meeting, Miami Beach, FL

Nov. 20 - 21:  Johns Hopkins University, Carey Business School, Edward St. John Real Estate Program; Conducting a workshop for students: Careers in Real Estate / Interview Skills, Drills & Thrills, Washington, DC

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