Become an Idea Machine

No monopoly on good ideas.

I love to tour our properties with potential investors. For one, it feels good to show off a job well done. More importantly, it’s nice to get some feedback on areas of potential improvement from a fresh set of eyes.

Ideas are the currency of our modern economy.

We can receive them with skepticism or with an open source mentality.

In my experience, skepticism is a good tool for many things, but it can be damaging when ideas are coming from a place of love.

Open source, on the other hand, allows everyone to contribute. Every contribution is judged by its merits and accepted for the growth that could result.

Stock and Flow

Stock and flow applies to most transactional situations. It blew my mind when I started to connect the dots.

  • Stock: current steady state
  • Flow: activity to consciously change the steady state

It’s easy to see in real estate. Current supply of rentable units (rooms, apartments, square feet, etc.) And their quality is the stock. Development is the flow – improving land and buildings.

Take one step out from there and thing about public policy. I know…

Existing law is the stock, and politics, lobbying, and elections are the flow.

Medicine: best practices and treatment courses are the stock. Research is the flow.

You get the point.

How do you think this perspective can influence the way you interact with your stakeholders?

How to Manage Your Content Factory

Stop writing. Start bulleting.

I’m totally guilty of this, and it’s something I’m changing.

We are brought up to think that volume is important. So… you wrote 150 filler words to get to the 500 word requirement. You increased font size by a negligible amount to get to the page count.

Nobody wants to read your prose anymore… until you make it worth their while.

More content is produced in 10 MINUTES today than in 10 HOURS last decade. You have to build a community one bullet at a time.

This goes for all areas of life. Yes… even family.

So I ask myself these questions:

  • What 20% can come out?
  • What 10% must stay?
  • How much time do I want my intended audience to spend engaging with me before, during, and after this read?
  • Can I fill the volume requirement with tangential, relevant, value-oriented bullets?

Rather Late than Sloppy

There’s a fine line between MVP and garbage.

The MVP I’m referring to here is minimal viable product, and it’s the concept that many software companies use to push their teams to ship.

This is a valuable concept for any business, though. No matter what you do, you have to make a strategic decision about when to ship or keep working to tease out the bugs. 

Construction, marketing, legal, you name it. We all have daily decisions that force our hand.

I always ask people that work with me if their deliverable is of the quality that I could forward to our CEO. If the answer is no, I ask them to spend a little extra time getting it right.

My philosophy: I’d rather be late than sloppy.

You can build a sustainable business on slower, high quality work. Fast and sloppy will only bring you so far.

Love is Critical

Love is an important tool for business.

It’s also incredibly underrated.

I’m not sure if love is trendy, or it’s always been important and discussed openly in certain success circles. But, I’m seeing and hearing about it everywhere, lately, and I’m ecstatic about that.

Loving our stakeholders needs to be more than an empty platitude. Our circles of influence need to understand what that love actually means and how to translate it to business.

Love in business means:

  • Giving freely without expecting anything in return
  • Celebrating the little wins to elevate the people around you
  • Expressing empathy for those around you working through a challenge
  • Being thankful for everyone that contributes – explicitly and implicitly – to your success

All business centers on people. This is especially true in real estate investing and development, where relationships are everything.

Identify how you express love for your stakeholders and double down. I am confident that, like me, you will find an exceptional return on your investment.

How I Use Email

I’m at an inflection point with email.

I love email for so many reasons:

  • It’s ubiquitous – everyone uses it
  • It’s simple – everyone knows how to use it
  • It can be effective at opening door

I hate email for many of the same reasons.

Email is good for a lot of things, like transferring files, documenting conversations, and arranging meetings. These are all things that follow or precede a voice communication.

Email is not good for many more things, like requesting action on a big to-do, explaining complex concepts, demonstrating capabilities, and getting to know a new contract. These are things that require a more fluid communication channel, like face-to-face, voice, or video.

I always strive to be user friendly, which means optimizing based on how the recipient will interact with my communication. Therefore, I’m using the following rules to change my email approach.

  1. No more than five sentences per email
  2. If it takes longer than 2 minutes to compose, it’s a phone call
  3. Immediate RDFS: read, delete, file, schedule
  4. Write compelling subjects (even for forwarded messages)
  5. Summarize key takeaways from attachments and forwarded messages

My inflection point… If 90% cannot meet this criteria, it’s a phone call or meeting.

Get Rid of Your Cash

Cash is a terrible position for active real estate sponsors… 

…especially if you’re waiting for a uncertainty to clear before you buy.

Real estate investment and development firms make money when their money is working in hard assets.

I missed many opportunities by sitting on the sideline waiting for buying conditions to improve.

Then I realized, there’s never a market bad enough to prevent a good deal, nor a market good enough to prevent a bad deal.

We’re at a point in the business cycle where we must focus on fundamentals and intensive asset management. The best operators can make a good deal even in this uncertain environment.

So how do you reconcile having a cash deployed with a strong cash position to buy when there’s blood in the street?

Simple, OPM – other people’s money.

As real estate operators, we bring tremendous value in sourcing, underwriting, and packaging deals. We add further value in efficient execution.

We constantly search for mutually beneficial capital relationships to take advantage of opportunities when they appear. This is the nature of the business.

We’re excited to be growing our network of dry powder everyday to have cash on hand to take advantage of any market condition.

Public Restrooms are the Soft Underbelly

Let’s talk public bathrooms…

This is one of my favorite rants because nobody ever takes action.

The quality of a hospitality experience is tied directly to the upkeep of public restrooms. You can tell a lot about an operation by the cleanliness and maintenance of these spaces.

Some thoughts on a basic checklist for operators:

  1. Eliminate the urine smell
  2. Find a fragrance that neutralizes the cleaning chemicals
  3. Remove non-functional fixtures, like empty paper dispensers
  4. Repair and paint damaged walls
  5. Clean the corners of the floor often
  6. Set a schedule and cultural norm for wiping counters dry and picking up stray paper towels between deeper cleanings
  7. Tighten toilet seats at least once per week
  8. Repair or replace stalls that don’t close and lock with one hand
  9. Replace manual flushers with automatic (people are lazy and trained to expect it)
  10. Clean dusty vents every week

This stuff is Hospitality 101. It’s the same reason you wipe down menus and salt shakers frequently.

Guests should never have a reason to think about their restroom experience. Don’t give them one.

Small is Impactful

You don’t have to be big to make an impact.

In fact, small is usually an advantage when seeing to influence.

We’re all guilty of dreaming big. It totally make sense.

Economics 101 taught us that more is better.

We’re also tricked into thinking that the most impactful brands have big operations because their impact or branding is big.

Consider luxury travel. The first two names that come to mind are probably Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. These two brands are known for remarkable service and unique experiences. Both have been delighting guests for over 30 years, and each has fewer than 125 locations worldwide.

These companies set the gold standard for modern, white-glove service. Companies across industries look to these brands for guidance on how to surprise and delight their customers. Still, Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton have a relatively small footprint and young brand identity.

Their differentiation comes in how they present and deliver on their values… consistently.

Luxury is expensive to service, thus the expensive product. However, new CRM and automation software makes it easier, cheaper, and more productive to recognize and fulfill customer needs and desires.

We just need to do the hard work of connecting to understand what those are.

Filling the Gaps

Are we in the midst of another technological revolution?

I’m not talking about quantum. I’m contemplating a new era characterized by filling the gaps.

A rough labor market in 2009 laid the foundation for the growing contract economy we see today. We all see the freelancers and gigsters, but big corporate is also shifting its entire workforce to more flexible arrangements.

In my view, cornerstone apps, like Uber, Shipt, Postmates, etc., will continue to streamline and improve chunky pieces of our lives. But, as with everything, the God is in the details.

The little gaps that add up to a major time suck are still outstanding… for now.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see 2020 bring a new era focused on connecting our cornerstone apps and optimizing the little things. Ecosystems, like Google and Apple, give a glimpse into what something like that would resemble.

There’s big business in the little stuff. We just need to shift our focus to see the opportunity.