Sunday, January 24, 2016

IMN's Laguna Beach Conference / Norman Kranzdorf's Book

IMN Laguna Beach Conference

This past week, Information Management Network, more commonly known as IMN, ran their 13th Annual Forum on Opportunity and Private Real Estate Fund Investing at The Montage in Laguna Beach, CA. 

Just over 1000 commercial real estate folks converged on one of most dramatic oceanfront venues and, with that type of turnout, you may imagine it’d be difficult to run into people you know - unless meetings had been set up in advance.  This time, I purposely did not set up any appointments ahead of time, just to see what the experience would be like - oh, except for the one described in the next paragraph. (Note:  IMN uses a terrific online networking tool available to registrants where they can connect with any other attendee and even reach out to set up an appointment.) 

One person reached out to me. He’s the CEO of his own company and said he’d like to meet me. I didn’t know who he was or what he did and wasn't sure he knew anything about me either. I wrote back and told him what we do (Presentation Coaching for Capital Raising Teams and Annual Investor Conferences as well as Women’s Leadership Workshops in the industry) and he wanted to get together.  Working through his assistant on the East coast, we agreed to meet on Thursday at 10am at the event registration desk.  Pretty simple, right?  I arrive early to everything so I was there at 9:50am.  10am came and went and no CEO.  At 10:11 I called his office and was disconnected twice.  I decided to email him directly.  At 10:16 the grace time was up and I went on my way.  At 10:17 he sends me an email – “Just got here, on the way down.”  Without going into further play-by-play, I attempted to connect with him a few more ways and then gave up.  He never reached out to me again. 

Why did I go into this detail??  In our presentation and women’s leadership workshops we work on how to make a good first impression – whether it’s face to face, on the phone, on LinkedIn, etc.  You’ve probably heard the old adage, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” And, it’s very true!  I don’t know what this hotshot CEO was thinking but he made a really, really bad first impression on me.  Oh, why do I call him a hotshot?  I did my usual research before any first meeting and saw that he’s pretty darn full of himself.  More power to him.  However, the degrees of separation in our industry is much less than six – and, you never know when someone will ask me, “Do you know so and so?”  And if that comes up regarding this fellow, I will relate my first impression of him – in a matter of fact way.  So, be careful out there – the first impression you make is often a lasting one.

Back to the conference…  It was terrific! As you might imagine there was more and more speculation and talk about something happening that will adversely affect the commercial real estate industry. One fellow and I were talking about that and he said, “Something’s going to happen within the next 12 -24 months.”  I simply smiled at him (like, that’s a pretty wide horizon, isn’t it?).

I ran into so many friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a while.  We were able to catch up and everyone had good things to say – about business, about the industry, about their families.  I also got to see some more recently made industry ‘friends’ and even make some new ones.

During the event, I noticed something that I’d like to mention – something I’ve brought up before but continue to see.  When you pay to go to an industry event – be there.  Don’t go off somewhere and start working.  Checking your emails periodically is one thing but, as we all have experienced, it can suck you into that dark hole which is difficult to dig out of – until the cocktail reception!  If you have to schedule a call, do it, get it over with and then get back to the learning and connecting that's right there in front of you. I saw too many folks, off by themselves, working their phones and other devices, seemingly not interested in meeting anyone.  Now, I don’t know what their reason for going to the event was, but why go at all if you’re going to disconnect yourself from ‘the happening?’

One last topic:  IMN was gracious in lending my partner Liz Weiner and I a room at The Montage to conduct our 11th Women’s Leadership Workshop.  Some of the attendees were registered for the conference but were not participating in the golf outing. (It was an ideal time to schedule our women’s event!). Participants in our workshop were not required to register for the IMN conference – IMN simply wanted to support the growing recognition of the need to help CRE women develop and enhance their professional presence.  So, a big thanks to Stacey Kelly, Andy Melvin and Julius Hill of IMN who made it all possible.

PROMOTION:  Our schedule of Women’s Leadership Workshops for 1Q2016 can be found here.  So far, women from 56 different commercial real estate industry firms have attended our 11 open-enrollment workshops – the feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive and we are always tweaking our program based on new feedback from participants about what they’d like to take away from the program.  It’s all very exciting!

Thank you once again to IMN for your support of our Women’s Leadership Program!

Norman Kranzdorf’s Book: A Man of Many Centers

Some of you who have been around the block in the shopping center industry for a while know the name Norman Kranzdorf.  Norman is one of the founders of the ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) and a verified pioneer of the supermarket real estate world and shopping center and regional mall industry.

Recently, Norman published his autobiography, “A Man of Many Centers.”  I bought it and read it all in one day; it is a great read.  Having spent many years in the supermarket and shopping center industries myself, I knew many of the names Norman mentions.  While I wouldn’t call it a ‘tell all’ book, he relates stories and anecdotes about deals and the people behind the deals. In a couple of cases, where I had personal experience with the people mentioned, I was nodding my head in agreement, “Yup, that’s the guy!”

At 85, Norman decided to retire last year – but not really. Now he’s Chairman of Amterre Property Group, a shopping center firm based in Boulder, CO run by his son Michael. 

Let me share just the first paragraph of his bio from the company site;

Norman Kranzdorf has had a distinguished career in the real estate industry spanning more than 50 years. He founded Kranzco Realty, Inc., a general commercial real estate management and brokerage company, in 1979 and in 1992 was a co-founder of Kranzco Realty Trust, A New York stock exchange Real Estate Investment Trust. He served as its President and Chief Executive Officer until the June 2000 merger with CV Reit, which created Kramont Realty Trust. He was Chairman of Kramont until he retired in 2003. From 2003 until 2013 he served as Senior Vice President for Retail at Urdang Capital Management, Inc., a unit of The Bank of New York Mellon. From 1972 to 1981 he was president of Amterre Development, Inc., a successor to Food Fair Properties, Inc., a major shopping center owner and management company.

The impact Norman Kranzdorf has made on the shopping center industry is matched by a select few. I feel privileged to be able to call both he and his son Mike, who I met during the early days of commercial real estate technology, friends.

I’d encourage anyone who has grown up in the shopping center / retail real estate industry to read Norman’s book.  Here’s where you can get it . In some ways, it is the definitive history of the shopping center industry through the eyes of a guy who tells it like it is.

Final trip notes

On this last trip I got to spend some time with Rick Wincott.  Rick is Senior Executive Vice President, Research, Valuation, and Advisory, Altus Group USA (boy, that's a mouthful!).  But this visit was social.  For years, Dr. Wincott has been telling me about the musical instrument collection he has amassed in his Houston home.  I've vowed to visit and finally got my chance.  I have only one word:  Wow!  Rick, a blues bassist, has a room filled with vintage guitars, basses, other stringed instruments I can't remember the name of, classic amplifiers, a rare Fender bass keyboard (the type used by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek) and a Nord keyboard. We got to play a little blues together as well as sample some San Francisco Bay area Bluxome Street Wine where Rick is an investor - it was yummy! Rick told me that he's planning to put a few of the guitars on the market via eBay.  If you're a guitarist or collector, let me know and I'll put the two of you in touch.  This was truly a once in a lifetime experience!

After leaving Houston and before the IMN event began I got so spend a few nights at Casa Kalmonson near Laguna Beach.  That's really a fancy name of saying I stayed with my college friend Michael Kalmonson, his wife Diane and Michael's mother Bertha who turns 96 in May, still drives and is sharp as a tack.  "The Duke" as he is affectionately known by a few close friends and I met via basketball at Fairleigh Dickinson University in NJ.  We also played on the same softball team in Michael's hometown of Bayonne, NJ.  After some of those games ended, he and I (and occasionally another teammate or friend) went on an eating excursion.  It began with an Orange Julius in Journal Square, Jersey City, NJ.  Then on to the just recently closed Naples Pizza in Bayonne for either a great thin crust pie or their legendary Mozzarella sandwich.  Craving more, we headed through the Holland Tunnel to Manhattan for corned beef sandwiches at Katz's Deli followed by a potato knish at Yonah Schimmels.  You may be wondering what we then had for dessert:  it was a cannoli at the famous Little Italy bakery, Ferrara's.  Michael was an avid friend of the band I played in called "Everyone" and came to a bunch of our gigs.  There were also lots more experiences - stuff you share with one of your best friends.  

Michael and Diane were ahead of the pack, moving from New Jersey to SoCal in the 1970's.  After a period of being out of contact (B.I.=Before Internet), we got back in touch.  I see them at least once a year, around the IMN Conference and have stayed with them a few other times when I was living in Napa and had business in their general area.

Since I began writing this column in 1999, I can count on receiving at least one email each week with some type of comment.  Yes, from The Duke. It's usually something that makes me smile or offers a constructive bit of feedback.  In some ways, this column has allowed Michael and I to continue not only our friendship, but also the relationship we began writing for our college newspaper, The Bulletin. This was the very paper on which I gave author and presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan her start when I was Editor-in-Chief.  Michael showed me a scrapbook of some of his old columns which reminded me of what a great writer he is.  I'm hoping he'll start documenting some of his life experiences so that it can be shared with future generations.  It's about time, Duke!

On the Road….

Hope to see you somewhere on the road.

Happy birthday - tomorrow - to my brother Jay the attorney - in Tucson!

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