Friday, September 2, 2016

Back To School / Back To Business

When I was growing up in Forest Hills (Queens), New York I recall looking forward to going back to school.  It was always the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day.  Starting in about the 3rd grade (maybe 4th) we started bringing loose-leaf notebooks with us to class.  I believe my mother took me to buy school supplies before school actually started, knowing that different teachers would ask us add certain things – which mean another trip (happily) to The Center, the store we bought our school supplies at on the corner of 108th Street and 64th Drive.

In those days we didn’t carry backpacks.  We had these rubber strap type things that fastened over our books.  It was the loose-leaf book at the bottom and then several textbooks on top of that carried under our arms.  Pretty simple eh?

Other than my first day at first grade, going back to school was a pleasant thing for me.  What happened in you may ask?  My mother escorted me to school and when we got there, waiting in the schoolyard with all the other students for the bell (or whistle) that would signal time to go into the building, I noticed that I was the only boy wearing short pants.  I may have cried but I certainly tugged at my mother and made her take me home to change into long pants. 

P.S. 175 (Annandale Park School) was just two blocks from our apartment.  Pretty early on, I was allowed to walk to school myself.  I didn’t know until many years later that my mother stood in the window of our apartment with binoculars to make sure I had crossed 64th Avenue and then, the more dangerous Yellowstone Boulevard safely.

Actually, I was grazed by a large black car one day when irresponsibly crossing 64th Avenue but no real injury.  I’m sure, had the roles been reversed I would have watched my child walk across the street, across the Safeway parking lot, across 64th Road, across Yellowstone Blvd. (where I believe there may have been a crossing guard) on to the block where the school was located – it was a full city block and included the school itself, the ball field (asphalt) and basketball courts and a playground that included the staples: a sandbox, jungle gym and fountain that sprayed water during the summer.  Btw, these amenities still exist in NYC playgrounds albeit, thanks to the generosity of donors, some have more elaborate equipment

I’ve considered the time after Labor Day in the U.S. as ‘Back to School’ for the real estate industry as well.  Even though things have changed over the years from sort of nothing going on to ‘business sort of as usual’ over the summer, this coming weekend is one of those that at least mentally has change connected to it.

The fashionistas say that after Labor Day you’re no longer allowed to wear white clothes, for example (Hey, what about those nice white jeans I bought over the summer and have only wore once?).  Especially, if the weather starts getting a little cooler than the hot and humid August days (or, as my brother Jay in Tucson experiences the hot-hot-hot dry days), then it seems like fall is in the air.  I haven’t consulted The Farmers Almanac so don’t know what to expect but at some point this fall, it’ll be come fall for real.

Over the past two summers, we have worked hard to get new presentation coaching business on our calendars for the fall and early winter.  While many firms are interested in bringing us in, due to the fact that in many/most of these firms some participants in those workshops will be coming into a central location, coordination is sometimes a challenge.

This summer, we approached it differently: take some time off to recharge and not stress about things.  Why?  It doesn’t help to keep pushing for things to happen when they aren’t.  Sometimes pushing to get a decision simply doesn’t work.  If someone is interested in what you’re doing, have patience and let him or her come back to you – often they will.

Of course, with folks in our industry having so much on their plates at one time and some firms hiring fewer people and expecting more of those that work there already, there is a lot of stress and people, rightly so, are focused on their most important thing each day.

The ‘don’t push’ philosophy can work well not just for service providers like us.  It can also hold true in many facets of the commercial real estate industry.  Witness over the years, how many firms won deals by bidding high (sometimes crazy high in the opinion of myself and others) and then not being able to close and the runner-up, the tortoise if you will, wins the prize – the coveted deal.

In the Type-A world of global capital raising and commercial real estate it may be difficult to consider trying a change of approach to your job.  If you look back in history, it’s not always the most aggressive firm that has done best for its investors / clients. 

When institutional investors (pension funds, endowments, foundations, sovereign wealth funds, family office and rich people) look under the hood of your investment management firm, seeking to check those 5 most important boxes, do they see a firm that has a track record of being smart or being fast and pushy?  What type of firm do you want to work for?  What type of firm do you want to invest with?  What are the three most important characteristics you are seeking in an investment management firm or service provider?

Yes, I know this may be radical thinking and not everyone is introspective and open to thinking differently but in this vein you may want to read a new book called, “Think Simple – How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity.”  The author is Ken Segall, New York Times bestselling author of Insanely Simple.  Ken worked directly with Steve Jobs at Apple as his ad agency creative director for 12 years.  He led the team behind Apple’s legendary Think different campaign (remember those huge posters of ‘thinkers’ like Einstein unveiled overnight on pubic buildings in the U.S. and Europe?). 

Kenny has been a friend since high school and was the drummer in the first rock and roll band I ever played in ‘The Better Half’ in Livingston, NJ.  Think Simple has great examples of how simplicity benefited a number of companies of different sizes and in different industries.  While it’s ‘deep’ it’s an easy read.  After all, wouldn’t you like to find a way to simplify your life?

Those of you in the U.S., enjoy this long weekend and use some of your time to how your approach to developing new business works best or what you may want to consider modifying.  My partner Liz and I are doing just that and are excited about getting back on the road to conduct Behavioral Presentation Coaching workshops, Women’s Leadership Workshops and our new open-enrollment Presentation Coaching workshop.

Look forward to seeing you somewhere on the circuit this fall!

Bumper sticker I saw this week:
“Women Who Behave Rarely Make History.”

Photo: One of the amazing LEGO sculptures on display at the North Carolina Arboretum (a 5-minute drive from my apartment).  This one, Kneeling Gardener, uses 43,340 LEGO pieces and is the work of artist Sean Kenney.  If you are in the neighborhood definitely stop by and check it out!

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