Careers in CRE: Know Yourself (Part II)

He is smarter than he looks.

In my last post, we discussed the importance of knowing yourself and what truly fulfills you. If you aren’t doing something that fulfills you, then you probably won’t be very good at it.

Today let’s talk about (what Jim Collins calls) your hedgehog concept. In Good to Great, Collins tells the story of a proverbial fox stalking a hedgehog. The fox is very clever and sneaky. He is stealthy and silent as he eyes the tasty hedgehog. Without warning, the fox sprints out into the open and speeds toward the innocent hedgehog.

Sensing danger, the hedgehog does what hedgehogs do. It rolls itself into a tightly-wound little ball of spikes. When the fox arrives at the “ball,” he pokes and prods, kicks and snaps, but no matter what he does he cannot force the hedgehog to unroll. The fox can’t fit the ball in its mouth and could only get a bite out of the sensitive hedgehog flesh enclosed inside the “ball.” So, after several minutes of frustration, the fox gives up and trots away looking  for an easier meal. Realizing that the danger has passed, the simple hedgehog unrolls itself and waddles away unharmed.

In Collins analogy, we want to be the hedgehog, but to many people try and be the fox. People who are the fox are a little too clever for their own good, try and outguess the market, always dart back and forth trying this and that, always trying to be the smartest, quickest, and best around.

Hedgehogs are people who know what they are best at and stick to THAT. The hedgehog didn’t try to outrun the fox. He didn’t try and fight the fox. He didn’t dig a hole. He just did what he does best, curled into an impenetrable ball.

That is what you want to be.

In CRE, if you try and be all things to all people, attempt to outguess the market, try and out-quick or out-think everyone else, you will end up chasing your tail and biting yourself often.

If, on the other hand, you stick to what you are best at and focus on staying great at that, then you will find as much success as you need in this business.

Maybe you are best at salesmanship and need to find your career in investment sales.

Maybe you are best at handling tenants and need to pursue property management.

Maybe you are best at recognizing value and how to add it and need to own property.

Maybe you are best at creation and vision and need to develop properties.

Maybe you are best at solving problems for clients and need to become an asset manager.


I should mention that you can be talented at more than one thing. You may be very skilled at several things, but chances are fairly high that you are GREAT at one thing. You are better than anyone else you know at __________.

Whatever that _______ is, do that. That is your “hedgehog” concept. You don’t have to out-quick or out-smart everyone. You just need to play to your strengths.

It sounds simple, but you would be surprised how long it takes most people to figure out what they are best at.

Think about it: How many people do you know who have set their career path and are currently working in the field that they will retire in?


Now, how many of those people would you say have figured out exactly what their greatest strength in business is and have used that skill in all of their business deals?

What percentage of your contacts is that?

10% maybe . . . .?

Whatever the number is, it probably isn’t very high, right?

So do you see what a HUGE advantage you will have if you just figure out 1) Your hedgehog concept or skill and 2) how to best use that in every deal? You will be light years ahead of your competition.

And I would bet that you will find your career more fulfilling and rewarding. People who are trying to be something that they are not will always struggle and feel as if they are swimming upstream. People who are doing what they were made to do will find that deals and relationships come quickly and easily.

So, again I say that you have to know yourself before you even start in CRE. You should not only know what you find to be personally fulfilling, but you should also what you are uniquely capable of doing better than anyone else.

If you can figure those two concepts out, all that’s left is the application. Put those two concepts into motion and watch your career take off in ways you never imagined.

– Duke


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