I don’t know a single person that enjoys beating a dead horse (literally or figuratively). There’s nothing worse than repeatedly going down the same path and checking every which way for something wrong. With each pass, the things that are wrong get smaller and smaller while you grow familiar with the terrain surrounding you. That familiarity changes how you view everything else around you.
Taking the time to really, truly know a process means that you learn every nuance and exception. It takes time, attention, and patience. It usually causes frustration along the way because you see the same road over and over and the monotony can get overbearing. But at the end of the trip, if someone were to ask you about the subtle bend in the road, you’ll likely understand everything about the question without needing to research it.
Experts on a topic live this process their entire career. To really understand something, you have to spend a large amount of time living in a narrow world. Take a professional orchestral musician, there are no new ways to play the flute, trumpet, or trombone. The expertise comes from understanding the nuances of their particular instrument (not instrument generally, but their specific, individual instrument). They learn how to coax every ounce of performance from their instrument. They learn every little thing that can impact the performance and how to manage it. Surprise is eliminated from the process as much as possible.
Understanding everything prepares you for what may come tomorrow. When you are challenged on a particular detail, you have already examined it from every angle – you aren’t forced to ad lib at the moment. Preparedness allows you to stand as an expert and withstand questioning. It helps you know the truth from fiction and to trust the words you are saying.
You may not enjoy it, but it can often be helpful. It’s a lot like taking your medicine.
Commercial real estate and Corporate real estate should be considered two different industries.
Full stop. Mixing the two is very misleading.
I was reading through the attendees and speakers at a few conferences the other day. 80% of them are from service providers. Another 15% are usually there at the invite of service providers. The final 5% are trying to learn something new.
I’ve been working from the corporate side of the fence for going on two years now. Many of the advancements that enhance the Commercial side of real estate are not useful and may even be negative to the typical Corporate side. A few examples:
- BIM. Great for the construction industry and for owners of large buildings. However, if you are a company that leases all or most of your space, what does it get you? Yes, buildings that are well planned are better for you. But are you going to know which those are during your leasing process? Unlikely.
- CRM. Complete negative to the corporate side. As soon as you are identified as the leasing decision maker, expect to be bombarded.
- Mapping/Visualization. Great sales tools for the Commercial side but most of them use it as sizzle to get you in but then don’t know how to actually use it to improve your decision.
Sure, there are plenty of tools that would help the corporate side. We’re in the process of implementing several but all of them are early stage and not getting the sexy press of tools targeting brokers and brokerage firms.
Welcome to the weird world of CRE/CRE.
Deciding on the right project manager (either real estate or technology, both apply) is as much an art as it is a science. A project manager needs to be able to bring a team from many different areas together to get a great result. Depending on the project specifics (budget, schedule, and external constraints) and the team make-up (personalities, resource constraints) the personality of the PM may be the make or break on the project.
Successfully motivating individuals is the heart of management. Whether you are a people manager or project manager, you have to herd the team to get outcomes. It may feel like a degree in psychology is required to be successful at times but that’s the nature of the gig. You can either deal with people or you can’t.
Bulldog PMs are able to take a team quickly in hand and drive them to the result. There is never any doubt who is in charge throughout the project. The bulldog owns everything. A lamb for a PM is much more the team builder and coaxer. They let each individual shine in their role and own their area. A softer PM gets the outcome by herding the team without them feeling like they’ve been herded.
Dealing with people isn’t the whole of the job but it’s table stakes for good PMs.
Being wrong about something important sucks. I’m not talking about wrong in the sense of a math error in a presentation. That’s usually fixable. That’s an error. Wrong is arguing that you should put the new office in Alaska versus Texas. Wrong is taking a position that actually turns out to be a bad outcome.
When we make recommendations, we are expected to support them. The worst case scenario is to have a waffle recommendation doesn’t firmly state a position. If the answer is three different answers, it’s no answer at all. At a certain level, your job is to make decisions and drive forward. Part of that trade-off is that, sometimes, you will be wrong.
The worst part of wrong is when the decision maker is unwilling to take into account new information. This world is one of change. If you aren’t willing to accept the possibility that you could be wrong, you present a bigger risk than a simple non-optimal outcome. You become the risk yourself. People who continue to support bad positions have to start cherry-picking data and results. They become biased to a viewpoint.
Risk management is about understanding the nature of how things can go wrong. There are things that can go wrong today, tomorrow, or 5 years from now. There are controllable risks and uncontrollable risks. There are acceptable risks and unacceptable risks. The biggest risk of all is a flawed decision-making process that leads to a predetermined outcome.
If you are willing to say that you could be wrong, you are more likely to have a robust decision-making process that is appropriately reviewing data and new information. If you are open to correcting course, total risk is reduced. That’s not to say you may not be wrong, but the risk is lower.
There are a lot of theories that could save companies a ton of money, increase their productivity, and make their employees happier. Plenty of consultants can kill a forest and tell you the many, many things you could do to achieve this nirvana. Very few consultants will give you the roadmap for going from where you are today to this state of nirvana.
It’s even more difficult with resources inside of an organization. When you have a full-time job already, finding time to think differently about an issue in the short-term that will drive long-term change is nearly impossible. Very few people are comfortable running projects that will dramatically change their world – and potentially eliminate their current role.
Change Management has been a hot topic for a long time. It’s a fuzzy world that can be hard to describe. Every Change Management project is unique because it involves helping people in different situations and cultures adopt something new. Selling this concept is hard because either the person on the other side of the table understands the difficulties (and the time it takes) involved in change or they don’t.
If you can’t turn theory into reality, it doesn’t matter how good the theory is.
The Pareto Principle (or 80/20 rule if you prefer) is a classic business rule that pops up all over the place. It states that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. Said differently:
- 80% of your time is taken up by 20% of your projects.
- 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your clients.
- 80% of your stress is caused by 20% of your employees.
- 80% of your costs are caused by 20% of your locations.
- 80% of your employees are in 20% of your locations.
Look through your numbers and you will almost invariably see this trend pop up over and over. It’s rare that I find a dataset that doesn’t include several versions of this rule in the numbers. When working with brand new numbers, this is a good place to start to identify trends and causal relationships.
The 80/20 rule is also good for setting out your day. Deal with the small things first so that you feel like you are productive before conquering the big things. Focus on the noise caused by the smaller populations to save yourself time.
It’s also a good thing to keep in mind when you find yourself underwater. Everything comes full circle. 20% of your days generate 80% of your productivity.
No one can be successful 100% on their own. You have to have employees or customers or advisors or teachers to do anything. Even if you make your money in a bubble, someone gave you a direction to look in. Someone taught you the methods (at least the fundamentals) you are using. Someone is on the other end of the transaction.
It’s easy to begin thinking about how we drive our own success. Much of business leadership talks of empowerment and how the individual controls their own destiny. This can be true for a large part but there is no such thing as completely controlled success. Partners and luck always have a role somewhere in the picture.
Don’t forget those who came before. Their roles may have been supporting only. They may have gotten as much out of the relationship as you did. But they are part of the story.