Monthly Archive for: ‘September, 2011’

  • Thought Experiment – Clean Slate Project

    This is just an experiment. Let’s not get carried away.

    I was thinking the other day about traffic congestion, sustainable building practices, urban planning, and so on, and I had a crazy idea . . .

    What if we could start over?

    That is, what if we came across this land that is now the Atlanta metro area and we could start a city from scratch?

    I’m sure someone has run this scenario before. I can just imagine our city officials putting together a nuclear-war-rebuilding plan during the height of the Cold War.

    But let’s not be dark about this. Let’s be happy-go-lucky Native Americans with access to steel, asphalt, concrete, brick, and timber. (We are the coolest tribe of all time, btw)

    How would we ideally position the city to take advantage of our local terrain, our crucial location in the Southeast, and our unique natural resources to create a utopian city?

    Who cares, right?

    I care. And I care because I care about the future of our city.

    If I am going to be a citizen of Atlanta, then I will be voting on legislation that affects our building codes, transportation, tax base, or whatever. How should I vote? What direction should Atlanta go?

    Should we try and be like New York or San Francisco? We don’t have the natural barriers they do.

    Should we even try to model another city?

    It seems overly-simplistic to assume that an entity as large and complex as an entire metropolitan area can be reasonably compared to another. I have a tough time describing the dynamics of my little neighborhood in Brookhaven. Trying to compare it to another neighborhood in Atlanta in a comprehensive manner seems just short of impossible. So how could I reasonably say that Atlanta should be more like Dallas or Chicago?

    My only point is that comparisons with other cities are a waste of time. We need to focus on the perfect version of Atlanta.

    So, let’s think it over.

    We will need to consider where downtown will be. Where would the major roads be built? Would we have a grid system? What % of the land is publicly owned and what % is privately owned? How much green space should we preserve? Where will we get our clean water from?

    Obviously this is a topic larger than one simple post. So going forward I will have a series of discussions and topics to cover under the “Clean Slate” tag. Look for these articles and feel free to give suggestions or argue with our logic.

    Either way, it will be a fun exercise to contemplate and may end up giving us some ideas for policy. Who knows?

    – Duke

  • Careers in CRE: Goal-Setting

    Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
    The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to
    Alice: I don’t much care where.
    The Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

    – Alice in Wonderland

    So, you have figured out who you are and what you are best at doing. Great!

    From here, let’s figure out where you are going.

    If you are going to have any semblance of direction or purpose to your career you need to make and WRITE DOWN your goals. Having a specific destination and pre-determined set of goals will give you a clear sense of purpose that will propel you ahead of all of your competitors.

    Think about it at the most basic level. Which of these two people would you expect to find success over the next year . . .

    Person 1: My goal is to make a $1 Million in 2012.

    Person 2: My goal is to buy at least 10 self-storage facilities in 2012.

    I’m betting on Person 2. They have a clear goal and a sense of purpose. In terms of deals, I don’t even know what Person 1 wants or how they want it.

    From here, Person 2 can put together intermediate goals by quarter, month, or week and can check her progress on each of those goals at intervals. They can figure out what the investment climate is for self-storage and what type of debt is available for self-storage acquisitions. They can choose target markets and submarkets, network with self-storage brokers, and target specific properties to purchase. All of that road map came from a single well-written goal.

    I don’t have any idea what Person 1 is looking for.


    So, let’s say you believe me on the importance of setting and writing down your goals. Here are a few tips I have learned over the years for writing aggressive and useful goals:

    1. Be as specific as possible

    2. Set goals that are quantifiable

    3. Err on the side of over-aggressive

    4. WRITE them down

    5. Share them with someone

    6. Check on them and update them often


    I will dive deeper into each of these topics in the coming days, but for now the takeaway should be:

    If you don’t set good goals, you will never maximize your potential output and income. At least give yourself a direction to charge off toward. Even if that ends up being not quite the right direction 99 times out of 100 you will find yourself closer to your final destination than you would have otherwise.

    More to come so stay tuned.

    – Duke


  • Random Thoughts

    Lots of admin work this week on the site and other projects. I will be around, but posting may be light.

    A thousand apologies.

    Mental vomit commence . . .

    1. For me to get comfortable with a property that I’m acquiring or building, I need the following team members: architect, builder, property manager, and lender. If I have the info I need out of those 4, then I feel good about my projections and assumptions.

    2. Haven’t noticed much of a reduction in traffic on 400 (in either direction) since they opened that new interchange at Hammond Dr.

    3. I am beginning to appreciate jazz music.

    4. A big CONGRATS to Mike Elting and his new position!

    5. I am not sure I will ever try to acquire property outside of the city core (aka OTP). I don’t think I am good enough at guessing demographic trends and traffic patterns in the burbs.

    6. What if we could start over from scratch with the layout of Atlanta? What if we left all of the natural resources and landmarks and just built a new city design around that? What would that look like?

    7. The more I work on my own, the less I ever want to work for someone else ever again.

    8. I know that I’m biased because I’m a UGA fan, but do objective observers and casual fans like a school whose official color is a shade of urine and whose mascot is the second most annoying insect on the planet (gnats are #1)? Figure it out Tech.

    9. Does it make me immature that some of my favorite movies of the last decade have been Pixar movies?

    10. I love this weather. I may have said it before, but Fall in Atlanta is pretty special.

    Don’t hate.

    – Duke

  • A Note on Notes

    For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume that if you are in commercial real estate then you will have occasional (or frequent) networking meetings with other CRE professionals.

    Working on that principle, I should warn you of a dreaded part of that process that most of us dislike but force ourselves to complete in order to maintain our relationships . . . “thank-you” notes.

    The general process for me is as follows:

    1. Find a deal, idea, property, or company that I am interested in and contact someone affiliated with it.

    2. Set up and time and place to meet (including what I look like and how to reach me if you are running late or need to cancel).

    3. Met, chat, discuss life, break bread, shake hands, and say goodbye.

    4. Send a follow up thank-you note or email.


    I love Parts 1-3. I deal with Part 4.

    I love people. I love chatting. I find other people infinitely interesting and almost always enjoy my time getting to know someone new.

    But I don’t love writing thank-you notes.

    I know it is odd to hear that I don’t enjoy writing when you are reading something I wrote, but understand the distinction. These posts are opinions, reasearch, theory, ideas, and generally just interesting topics that I enjoy discussing. A thank-you note is redundant to me.

    Let me explain why . . .

    I pride myself on being extremely honest with other people. If I tell you something is true, then you better believe that I mean it or sincerely believe it to be true. At the end of the day, when you look back on your career, all you really have is your reputation. And I want my reputation to be that of someone who is honest to a fault.

    So, when I say to you: “Thank you for meeting with me today. I appreciate your time,” I mean it. I ‘m not just saying it because I am supposed to say it. I’m not saying it because people think I should. Like I said above, I genuinely enjoy meeting other people and I do appreciate their time. So I really do mean “Thank you for your time.”

    The fact that I am supposed to write a thank-you note to express how overwhelmingly grateful I am for someone’s time undermines that principle. Writing a thank-you note is like saying: “When I looked you in the eye and thanked you for your time, I didn’t really mean it. Now that I am taking the time to write something out and mail or email it to you should show you how serious I am in thanking you. I didn’t mean it before, but I mean it now.”

    Do you see how that undermines the eye-to-eye handshake and heartfelt thanks I gave at the restaurant or coffee house? If I meant what I said, then I shouldn’t need to write a thank-you note. My highest level of honesty and sincerity is in the word I give you face-to-face.

    So, I say all of that to say, I think thank-you notes are a shade above pointless if you realize that I sincerely mean what I say.

    Having said that, thank-you notes are still a good practice. For people who don’t know you, it can reinforce your sincerity and (much more importantly) can make them feel important. That is People Skills 101. Make people feel important and they will run through brick walls for you.

    Think about the mail you get. Do you get excited to get mass-mailings and generic pamphlets? Or, do you get excited to get that personal note or card from a friend or family member? Probably the latter.

    So, disregarding the issue of sincerity, thank-you notes can be an extremely effective tool for making others feel important and creating lasting business relationships.


    Given that thank-you notes are a necessary evil, here are my tips on the best and most effective ways to create your thank-you notes:

    1. Write them the day of the meeting. The info and conversation is still fresh. Don’t put it off or you may forget.

    2. Use a template. Most of my thank you notes say the same thing with a few of the details and personal comments changed per our conversation. Save time by keeping 80% of each letter the same and personalizing the remaining 20%.

    3. Type it. This applies to those of us with poor handwriting. I know its a cute idea to hand-write notes to people, but often times that is just punishing the poor reader by making them read your chicken scratch. Save them the headache and yourself about 20 minutes per note. Type that junk.

    4. Sign it. The only time your pen needs to touch the paper is for your John Hancock. Print off the note and sign your name in pen.

    5. Snail mail it. You and I both know that letters are more meaningful and memorable than emails. Take the time to buy a stamp and enevelope and send it off by mail.


    A few final thoughts for you on TY notes:

    Know your audience. Not everyone cares or even wants a TY note. Don’t waste your time sending them to people who don’t want them. Many of us in Gen Y and Gen X could care less about thank-you notes and you can come across as stiff or overly formal if you send one after every casual encounter.

    Having said that . . .

    When in doubt, send a note. It is always better to err on the side of making someone feel important.

    And finally . . .

    If you happen to be meeting me, don’t send me a thank-you note to follow up. I trust that you mean it when you say it was nice to meet me. If you don’t mean it and I find out that you were being insincere, then we won’t do any business together anyway. So you won’t have to worry about maintaining our relationship. Save a tree and save yourself some time. I always prefer a sincere handshake over a note.

    That’s it. Go forth and thank your heart out.

    – Duke


  • Random Thoughts

    Random Thoughts for this week:

    1. I bet it takes 20 years from now to “finish” the Beltline project.

    2. I don’t think the credit crisis is a “credit” crisis. I think it is a behavior crisis.

    3. If you kicked me out of the US, I would move to Switzerland in a heart beat.

    4. Did anyone else see the ABC article that said Selig is the #1 office developer in the city? I know it was based on sf developed last year, but it was still surprising to see them at the top of an office list.

    5. If I had unlimited money, I would probably live on Mt Paran Rd, Northside Dr, or the far west part of W Paces Ferry. I love the large lots and hidden homes on those streets. They seem very high end, but also tasteful and secluded. They don’t scream “LOOK HOW RICH I AM” to all the passersby. Maybe I just love large lots and having ample land.

    6. The way the Braves, Falcons, and Bulldogs are playing is enough to send a fella into depression.

    7. I didn’t know how involved and complex it can be to run a full-scale SEO campaign for your website. That junk is complicated and time-consuming.

    8. There is a a direct relationship between free-time and happiness.

    9. Every CRE transaction analysis should include a best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, most-likely scenario, sharpe ratio, and black swan analysis. More on that later.

    10. Check this out:

    That’s it for this Monday!

    Stay Random.

    – Duke

  • Book Review: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

    The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

    image courtesy

    The thing I love about Malcolm Gladwell is his ability to take complicated and sensitive issues and break them down scientifically into their core components. His books tend to range a broad spectrum of topics and subjects while still following a central theme or thesis. He can explain racial, demographic, or socio-economic phenomena in terms of basic psychology or sociology. You never get offended or upset by what he says or how he says it.

    The Tipping Point is arguably his best work to date.

    In its pages, Gladwell explores a series of epidemics that span multiple centuries and multiples continents. He uses the aforementioned psychological and sociological bent to examine the common threads among these epidemics.

    Through interesting anecdotes and comparisons, we learn that all true epidemics share three common characteristics: the law of the few, stickiness, and context. I will let Gladwell explain what each concept entails, but suffice it to say you leave the book thoroughly convinced that every epidemic in history shared these three characteristics.

    One particularly interesting section describes the roles on Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen in the spreading of an epidemic. I am fairly sure that I am connector and I think it is interesting to consider the evolving role of the maven with the proliferation of data collection through the internet and social media.

    I can envision someone reading this book and not being able to apply its concepts to their own life or profession. Since each of these illustrations is so unique and different, I could see how someone may come away wondering “How do I make my idea sticky?” Making Blues Clues sticky and making medical device sales sticky are two very different concepts. So I can sympathize with someone walking away from the Tipping Point saying, “That was interesting, but it doesn’t help me sell more widgets.”

    If that is you, I encourage you to read the book again. Your first read was to understand the concept. Your second read can be for application. Read it again and apply each chapter to your unique situation. I bet you come away with some good plans on increasing the effectiveness and stickiness of your ideas.

    So, the only thing keeping me from giving The Tipping Point a 4 diamond review is that fact that not everyone will be able to walk away with tangible ideas to implement in their lives. Other than that, this is a great book than covers dozens of epidemics and ideas that caught fire. It is well worth the read and is highly entertaining.

    (Also, please not that I have added the “in Two Sentences” section to our book reviews. This is just a tool in which I summarize the book in two sentences in order to break down the ideas into the shortest and simplest form).


    The Tipping Point in Two Sentences: Whether it is Hush Puppies, Blue’s Clues, Crime in New York, Teenage Smoking, or Micronesian Suicide, all epidemics share the characteristics of a few key people, a sticky idea, and the proper context for ideal growth. If you want to create an idea or product that gains “viral” status, make sure you incorporate each of these three concepts into your strategy and you will have the proper recipe for explosive popularity.

    Pros: Interesting and applicable themes for everyone, complex ideas explained clearly, entertaining, fairly easy to read/understand

    Cons: It may be difficult for some people to apply the principles to their lives. I think it is possible, but it may not be easy.

    Target Audience: Anyone who is selling a product or idea (which is pretty much everyone)

    This book is best for: Adults that want to affect change or sell an idea/product

    Overall Rating: ♦♦♦♦ (out of 5)

    Here is the Amazon link to buy this book:


    Ratings Guide

    ♦ = Not worth your time

    ♦♦ = May be worth your time if it is specific to your industry or interests

    ♦♦♦ = A decent book and worthy addition to your library depending on your interests

    ♦♦♦♦ = A great book and an excellent addition to your library.

    ♦♦♦♦♦ = One of the all time classics. A must-read for anyone and everyone.

  • Careers in CRE: Know Yourself (Part IV)

    Are you a sprinter or marathoner?


    Part of knowing yourself is knowing how you are most effective and efficient with your time.

    Hopefully, when you enter the CRE business you have some type of work experience or at least some experience doing large quantities of work in college. If so, think about the time and circumstances in which you were most effective in accomplishing your work or study goals.

    Are you most productive in the morning? Do you wake up with your hair on fire and find that you tend to accomplish 80% of the day’s work before lunch?

    Conversely, do you tend to put your most difficult task at the end of the day when you are the sharpest? Are you a late riser that has trouble getting going?

    Do you work best in short bursts or in long benders? When you studied in college, did you study for an hour at a time every night or did you study for 8 hours straight one day?

    All of these habits are clues to how your are most productive and efficient with your time and if you want to stand out as excellent in our business, then you need to play to your strengths.

    In my case, I am most effective in short bursts and I tend to accomplish the majority of my work before lunch. So I have structured my day into three short working segments and I have organized my tasks according to time of day. So, on a typical day:

    I work on my larger and more computer-intensive project between 7 am and Noon. These task are emails, models, research, organizing, etc. These are all computer-facilitated activities that require me to be sitting in front of my computer.

    Then, I break for lunch, clear my head, and get focused on my next short burst of work. This lunch stretch usually runs from 12 to 2 pm and I don’t necessarily have to be networking or even sitting down for lunch. I may just go let my dog out or run errands, but I always to something to clear my mind and cleanse my intellectual palette. That way, I arrive back at my desk fresh and ready to power through the next few hours of intense work.

    The next stage of my day is usually more focused on deal-making and networking. This is where I am on the phone, visiting property, driving markets, or doing something other than staring at my computer. I accomplish a great deal of “relationship” work in this period and can be more effective in my people management than early in the morning. This stretch usually lasts from 2 to 6 pm.

    The next stage of my day is time with my lovely wife. She and I will have dinner, talk about our day, walk the dog, or whatever. The point is that my focus is completely on her and completely OFF commercial real estate. This is another mental cleansing session and brings me back to my work re-energized.

    The final work stage of my day is the period before I go to bed. This session is from 8 to 11 pm or 9 to 12 pm. I use this session to get organized, send some easy emails, write my goals and plans for tomorrow, and do some fun research. This is my “fun” or “entertaining” work. I always enjoy the work in this session and tend to go to bed in a good mood and state of mind. That allows me to rest easy, recharge, and wake up ready to set the world on fire again at 6 am.

    With the above schedule, I can get 12 hours of work in every day (13 if my lunch is a networking lunch) and feel like I accomplished a great deal of work. But since I broke the hours up into smaller slices, I never got bored or fatigued and maintained my effectiveness throughout the day. That is what works best for me.

    The point of me sharing that schedule with you is not to imply that my schedule is universal or useful for everyone. Quite the opposite, actually. My schedule is tailored to my unique strengths and my ideal working conditions. As you can probably tell, I am most effective in short bursts and tend to accomplish my most complex and difficult tasks in the morning. I’m a “Morning, Sprinter.” You may be the opposite. You may be the marathon guy who needs to be at his work for 10 hours straight in order to accomplish major tasks. You may be a late riser who is most effective in the afternoon. If so, don’t get into the office at 6am. Roll in at 10 when you have had time to wake up and clear the fog out.

    The way I see it, there are four types of workers:

    “Morning, Sprinter” – Most alert and active in the morning. Works best in short bursts.

    “Morning, Marathoner” – Most alert and active in the morning. Works best in a long, concentrated period.

    “Afternoon, Sprinter” – Most alert and active in the afternoon. Works best in short bursts.

    “Afternoon, Marathoner” – Most alert and active in the afternoon. Works best in a long, concentrated period.

    Which one are you?

    However you are most effective is extremely important when you are structuring your work week and daily routine. If you don’t know how you are most effective or when you accomplish the majority of your work, then you will just aimlessly wander through the work day. You will just sit at your desk from 9 to 5 (or 8 to 6, the American way) and plug away at whatever task is put in front of you. You will sacrifice productivity and appear less capable as a worker. You are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and that is never a recipe for success. Many successful people do well IN SPITE of structuring their day poorly. Imagine what they could accomplish if they structured their days effectively . . .

    So, can you see why knowing your most-effective structure and peak-performance periods is crucial to success?

    To summarize, you should know when and how you work best and structure your day around your strengths. Most people will do the opposite and try and fit their talents and efficacy into the prescribed work schedule. If you can find a way to tailor your work schedule to your talents and maximum-effectiveness, you will have a leg up on 90% of your competition.

    – Duke


  • Random Thoughts

    “Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”
    Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


    Happy Belated Labor Day!

    I hope you enjoyed the time off and the relaxation. Time to hit it hard again!

    Let’s get random . . .

    1. Maybe I am getting ornery as I get older, but going places where there are tons of people and huge crowds rarely appeals to me. I find fewer and fewer events that are worth being bumped into, cut off, and generally ignored by inconsiderate people.

    2. I want to test that new CoStarGo mobile app.

    3. Can someone explain to me why the strip of Piedmont Rd between Lindbergh and Ansley Park isn’t incredibly high-end real estate?

    4. I am thinking about outsourcing my contact management.

    5. I wonder what type of reputation Cassidy Turley is gong to garner as they integrate with Carter here . . .

    6. You will never convince me that there is any intrinsic value in watching Jersey Shore.

    7. Why don’t more fictional stories take place in Atlanta? Are we too nice or too vanilla? We aren’t as weird as New Orleans, as glam as LA, as ecclectic as NYC, as high-tech as San Fran, as cold as Chicago, or as over-the-top as Dallas. I guess we are just too vanilla to invite drama.

    8. Is it fair for me to expect from others what I expect from myself? I expect myself to be excellent at anything I do. Can I expect the same from others?

    9. I want to create a post about how to use an iPad in commercial real estate.

    10. I am currently working on my first apartment development and I will be posting about the process here. It is going to be a challenge and I’m extremely excited.

    Don’t look now, but Fall is coming.

    – Duke



  • Friday Treat: 90s Music Video

    Because it is Friday and I am in a merciful mood, here’s a 90s Jam to start your weekend off right:

    Boyz II Men – End of the Road

    Take it away fellas . . .

    End of the Road

    Stay smooth.

    – Duke

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    Book Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People

    How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie


    This one is the grandaddy of them all. Along with Graham’s Intelligent Investor, this book serves as the foundation of better business practices. In its pages, Carnegie deals mostly with human psychology.

    He assumes that your goal is to be liked, trusted, and respected by everyone that you encounter. He further assumes that you want to positively influence everyone around you.

    Working with those two assumptions, he constructs a framework of business and life practices that will maximize your influence on others.

    One of my favorite tidbits is his stance on criticism. He opines that criticism and argument are useless and a waste of time. He says that criticizing someone doesn’t make them see things your way or admit their error and beg forgiveness, but rather causes them to get defensive and justify their actions.

    Likewise with arguments. How many arguments have ended with one party saying “You’re exactly right and I am exactly wrong! How could I have been so foolish?”?

    Probably none. That’s because people always think they are right, innocent, and justified. No one thinks themselves to be wrong, stupid, or mean. If you view them as such, then you will have trouble ever convincing them of anything (like to work hard to make you look good in business!).

    Those are just a couple examples of the useful and universal tips that Carnegie offers to anyone and everyone who desires to influence others. That, presumably, would be everyone.

    I will caution you that this book was originally published in 1937 and can seem quite dated at times. In fact, some of his analogies and anecdotes are almost funny because of how often he references prominent figures from the 1800s, Civil War, and earliest Hollywood.

    Try not to focus on whether you recognize all of the names and places he references. Instead, figure out the lesson he is teaching with those examples.


    Much like Good to Great, I won’t go as far as saying that you MUST read this book in order to achieve business success. However, I will say that I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone and I think I will be reading it at least once a year for the rest of my career in order to remind myself of its timeless principles.

    *Note: My version of the book is the Audio CD version. I have listened to it in my car twice in the last month.

    Pros: Highly applicable advice for everyone, simple ideas explained clearly, entertaining, easy to read/understand

    Cons: Dated

    Target Audience: Anyone who wishes to influence others in a positive way

    Overall Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦ (out of 5)

    Here is the Amazon link to buy this book:

    Ratings Guide

    ♦ = Not worth your time

    ♦♦ = May be worth your time if it is specific to your industry or interests

    ♦♦♦ = A decent book and worthy addition to your library depending on your interests

    ♦♦♦♦ = A great book and an excellent addition to your library.

    ♦♦♦♦♦ = One of the all time classics. A must-read for anyone and everyone.

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