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All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘Best Practices’

  • Your CRE Site – WordPress & Themes

     

    Clouds part. Angels sing. WordPress cometh . . .

    I have been asked several times over the last few weeks about the setup of my site and how someone else could do it. So let me take a few minutes to let you know what I did and how you can do it for yourself.

     

    Step 1 – Choose a Name

    The first step for me was choosing the name of my site. Even before I started deciding whether to use WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Blogger, Google Sites, or any one of a half dozen other website platforms, I needed to decide what to call the site. I chose AtlantaPropertyJournal.com because it was easy to remember, broad enough to cover anything that interested CRE pros, and, most importantly, available for purchase. I will take you through the specifics of domain names and hosting elsewhere, but for now I just want you to know that I chose the name of my site before I ever considered a platform.

    A Good Place to Start

     

    Step 2 – Choose a host

    Maybe I should have done more research into blogging platforms before this step, but I wanted to make sure I had a place to buy my domain name and host all of the security and warranty stuff. I happened to choose Bluehost for mine (they have been great), but I could just as easily gone with 1-and-1 or iPage or any of about 1000 other hosts. Almost all of them integrate well with a WordPress blog.

    My Saving Grace

     

    Step 3 – Install WordPress

    The nice thing about Bluehost is that they have a control panel with software called “SimpleScripts” that allows you to customize and install things into your site. I simply ran the WordPress simple script and Bluehost installed it for me. I was then given a login page and asked to create a WordPress account. That took about 30 seconds. Once I confirmed my account through email, I was up and running with my new and secure WordPress Site.

    So easy, a realtor could do it!

     

    Step 4 – Customize

    This is by far the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process. I created the site in about 15 minutes. I have been customizing it for more than a year. WordPress comes with a default “theme” and some goodies, but I wanted to make mine look customized. There have been volumes written about how to customize WordPress sites and I would recommend this one as one of my favorites. But, for the scope of this post, let me just talk about themes.

    WordPress' Default Free Theme Last Year

    A theme is basically just a way to tweak the appearance of your site. You can change the color scheme, site layout, text display, fonts, and pretty much anything else that has to do with the appearance of your site. This is extremely important because, as CRE pros know, layout and aesthetics matter. If the site is too “busy” or sloppy or confusing, no one is going to hang around and discover your brilliance. So you want to find a theme that fits your content, is nice to look at, stays simple, and displays your content well. In fact, that could be a good little checklist for you.

    When looking at a theme for your WordPress CRE site ask yourself:

    1) Does this site fit my content? Pink bunnies don’t jive with retail leasing trends. Make sure it is professional.

    2) Is it nice to look at? Pretty straight forward. People don’t like looking at ugly stuff and if it caught your eye it will catches someone else’s.

    3) Is it simple? If you throw too much on there, people will get distracted and the thrust of your content will be lost. I am guilty of this from time to time, so don’t think I’m preaching.

    4) Does it display your content well? Since the content is the most important part of your site, make sure that it is well-displayed. Don’t let it be dominated by headers, links, or photographers. People will come to your site and stay there based on your content. Make it pop.

     

    You can tear your hair out over how many columns to have, where to display your RSS feeds, and a dozen other minor tweaks. But if you get the theme right, you will have a step on the competition.

    Where do you find themes? Great question.

    As I get into customizing your site, I will explain more. For now, just know that there are literally thousands of themes to choose from. Some are free and some cost $20- $50. A good place to start is WordPress.org’s Free Theme Directory. There are 1500 free themes here for you to compare and answer the questions above.

    My favorite paid themes (or “Premium” themes) are on ThemeForest.com and WooThemes.com. Both have thousands of great themes that make your site look more professional and improve its performance. If I had to recommend one premium theme, I would point you toward the Standard Theme by 8bit.io. I know the head of 8bit. He is a stud and so is his product. Check it out.

    So that’s my quick and dirty WordPress and themes intro for all of you who are looking to build your own CRE site. I will follow up with a series of more in-depth discussions on customizing and optimizing WordPress and its themes. For now, hit me up in the comments!

    – Duke

  • The Internet is Commercial Real Estate

    Your turn for the limelight . .

    Lightning struck my brain this morning (figuratively) and I had an epiphany. It’s not really all that rare since I do some of my best thinking on my morning jog. But this one has stuck with me so I thought I would share it.

    The Internet is commercial real estate and commercial property deal-makers are uniquely suited to succeed in creating a web presence.

    I’ll start with the first half of the idea. At its most basic level, the internet is just a collections of places where you can see, do, and buy stuff. It is a collection of places for commerce, learning, working, and interacting. Sound familiar? Define commercial real estate . . .

    Through online collaboration (i.e. Basecamp) and video-chat ( a la Skype), the internet is now a place to work.

    The internet has become the ideal place to store and manage documents. Sounds a bit like self storage or warehouses, eh?

    Do I really need to draw a comparison between a shopping mall and Amazon.com?

    The point is: The entire theme of the internet is placemaking. You want to create a space where people want to be. It’s the exact same concept as commercial property.

    We, as CRE geeks, ask questions like:

    • How can I get traffic to my property?
    • How can I make visitors want to stay on my property?
    • What can I do to the layout of the property to optimize the visitor/tenant experience?
    • How can I entice shoppers to spend more money in my mall?
    • How can I give tenants easy access to my building from their commute?

    The web geek version would be:

    • How do I get traffic to my site?
    • How can I make visitors stay on my page?
    • What can I do to the layout of the site to optimize user experience?
    • How can I get visitors to spend more money on my site?
    • How can I get visitors into my site easily from their natural web-surfing patterns?

    Do you see that these are the EXACT same questions that require the EXACT same mentality and need the EXACT same skill set?

    We spend our entire careers figuring out how people interact with places and that is exactly what web traffic is about.

    I would even go so far as to contend that there is no group of people on the planet better suited to innovate on web traffic patterns and user experience than commercial real estate professionals. It’s our entire career. It is how we have made our living for every year of our professional life.

    Need further convincing? Ok.

    Web addresses. Do you know why every site builder and designer wants a “.com” address? Of course you do. Same reason all of the office buildings in Atlanta want “Peachtree St” addresses. Everyone knows it and everyone goes by it.

    Why is blinds.com a better web domain than woodblindsofatlanta.com? For the same reason that “Atlantic Station” is a better label than “that brownfield development on the old Atlantic Steel site off the connector.” It’s short, pithy, and people remember it.

    Why do web designers spend so much time on their tags and categories? For the same reason you spend so much time studying the demographics around your retail center. You want to know what your target customer is looking for.

    Is this exciting to anyone else?

    I'm told it's my oyster

    Hopefully, those three examples didn’t teach you anything. You already knew the concepts because you’re a CRE pro who understands a customer or tenant’s interaction with property.

     

    So, what I’m telling you is very simple:

     

    If you are in Commercial Real Estate, you are ALREADY very well equipped to succeed in creating a web presence.

    It’s all the more exciting because deals and properties are finite. As the saying goes “They aren’t making any more land.” Well, apparently there’s a fresh supply of internet. We may be hindered by geography, financing, capital markets, or something else in commercial property. On the web, you are limited only as far as the human mind is limited. If you can imagine it, someone can probably create it.

    So, here is the real question:

    What are you going to do about it?

    I’ve just told you that you have an unparalleled skill set that makes you uniquely suited to succeed in a limitless environment. You have a chance to be utterly dominant at building a corporate brand, expanding your influence, growing your skill set, and yes, even making money through the web.

    What are you going to do about it?

    Hit me up in the comments.

    – Duke

     

  • Why I Use a Pseudonym

    Is this me? Nope.

    Let’s take a moment to discuss pseudonyms and three reasons I use one.

    I wouldn’t say I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan. I certainly like the guy and think his mission to stop the debt-happy insanity in our country is admirable. But I’m not really his target audience. I’m a finance guy that hates debt. His messages don’t add much value.

    I do love my wife. And she wanted to take Dave’s Financial Peace University before we got married. Long story short, we took FPU for 8 weeks at Wieuca Rd Baptist. As I suspected, I didn’t get much out of it in terms of financial tools, but I did get a great book recommendation.

    Ramsey tells a story of talking to the wealthiest man he knows, a multi-billionaire, and asking for the man’s recommendation for “the greatest book on investing someone can read.” The billionaire’s response is one of the only things that stuck with me from those 8 weeks.

    This nameless billionaire claimed that the greatest investing book of all time is . . . .

    The Tortoise and the Hare

    “Cool. But, Duke, why are you writing about Dave Ramsey and children’s books in a post about pseudonyms?”

    Because, kind stranger, I write with a pseudonym because of The Tortoise and the Hare. The theme of tTatH is “slow and steady wins the race.” I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I would amend it slightly:

    The best way to go far is to NEVER go backwards and NEVER stop.

    The tortoise won the race because he never stopped, never slowed down, never deviated from his path, and never took his focus off his goal. That’s my intention for my career. A thousand small, steady, focused steps toward my goal.

    A legal battle over postings on a website could fall under the category of “step backward.” A pseudonym tacked on the end of any post allows plausible deniability to any author and places any legal burden on The Atlanta Property Journal and the parent company that owns it. Both the APJ and the parent company have excellent legal counsel and can protect themselves from nasty words like libel and slander.

    If you have read any posts on this site, then you know we aren’t in the business of talking smack or trashing anyone. This is a forum for ideas, discussions, book reviews, trends, and anything else interesting that affects commercial property in Atlanta. This ain’t TMZ and I’m not Perez Hilton. But I have been around long enough to know that there are plenty of unethical people and ambulance chasers who will sue you just for fun. So, I protect myself and the writers of the APJ.

    I have access to every account that runs through this site and can claim that any author of the site could post under any name. So all liability comes back to the company and never to the author. It may seem like a small distinction, but it is the difference in the company paying $20,000 in legal bills and my friend paying $20,000 in legal bills. That’s a big difference to me.

    You can't find me.

    So, the main reason I write under a pseudonym is to protect myself and my authors from legal liability. I never want anyone associated with me and my business to be forced to take a step backwards in their career because of some article. That’s the main reason, but there is another reason:

    Environment

    Writing under a pseudonym allows an author to feel more free and open in her writing. If you know that you, your family, and your employer are all protected legally from your writing, you can be totally open and honest with your work and not feel the need to pull punches or water down your content. It may just be a subconscious trigger, but people who are comfortable with writing the truth tend to write more truthfully.

    And I can promise you this: More open authors are more interesting authors. And more honest content is more interesting content.

    The APJ was created to foster an environment where people can come to be real and truthful about whatever vexes the CRE world. Keeping the attorneys away from everybody will help nurture that. Tip-toeing around the truth for fear of hurting anyone’s feelings leads to overly-vague and philosophical content. If you can’t get specific and detailed about something you end up sounding too general. On the other hand, if someone wants to come in and start talking noise and being terrible . . . they’re blocked. Piece of cake and I sleep like a baby.

    The third and final reason I use a pseudonym is humility. Maybe I am the only one who struggles with this, but I can be a tad prideful. I like to think how smart I am or how great my accomplishments are and that gets me into trouble. (In moments of clarity I actually believe that anything I accomplish is simply because God allowed it, but that is another post for another time.) Whenever my focus starts turning to accomplishments I lose focus and become the hare.

    So, I don’t want my name on this site. If this site and it’s affiliates have success, I want the success attributed to them not me. Otherwise I might start thinking how great I am and trying to “promote my personal brand.” I’m not that great. My friends and partners are great. They deserve to be lauded.

    Anyway, those are my three reasons for using a pseudonym. Do they make sense? Do you think I’m crazy? Tell me in the comments.

    – Duke

  • Why You Should Write About CRE

    A peaceful spot to write something . . .

    I find that I get a little push-back on writing (see: blogging) about commercial real estate. I hear excuses about “not enough time”, “nothing to write about”, “preserving intellectual property”, blah blah blah.

    Ok. Maybe those are true, but I doubt it.

    I won’t say that every other industry has embraced the blog as a viable form of information delivery, but several very mature industries have not only embraced but even openly encouraged blogs centered around the industry’s trends, challenges, and news.

    Take MotleyFool as an example. Or The Street. Both are content-rich, blog-centered sites that report and opine on the high-finance industry. It doesn’t get much more white-collar than that.

    And I would argue that the industry is the better for it. The constant flow of information and ideas from these two sites alone can change the way a person or firm operates and interacts with the financial industry.

    So, let’s bring it back home.

    Writing is wonderful and beneficial. Neato. But why should you write about CRE?

    Here are five (not-so-obvious) reasons why (and I am going to assume that you are a commercial real estate professional):

     

    1. Connectivity

    This may be obvious to you, but when I first started writing online I didn’t realize how much I would need to connect with the online CRE community. Through research for articles and building my social media profiles, I ran across some tremendous resources. Learning from people like Coy Davidson, Duke Long, The CRE-Apps Team, and the 42 Floors guys has VASTLY increased my knowledge base on the fundamentals of global CRE. I can’t imagine any other way that I would have been able to grow my tool kit as quickly or thoroughly as I have through gaining connections with the online CRE community.

     

    2. Knowledge

    This plays heavily into Connectivity, but I want to point out that through my direct research for articles I have been forced to understand concepts that I may have glossed over in business. Just taking the time to research bankruptcy has made me decently knowledgeable on the differences between Chapters 7, 11, and 13 in US bankruptcy court. It has been both fascinating and rewarding and I’m not sure I would have taken the time to study it if I hadn’t wanted to present it clearly and concisely on my site. Maybe the best way to say it is that directed research for an article is the best way I know to gain depth (as opposed to width) of knowledge in a subject.

     

    Tempted? I am.

    3. Retention

    One concept I have come to understand is that true thought leaders on the web don’t repackage information. They aren’t just regurgitating news from the local paper. Thought leaders create new, original, and interesting content in a palatable, concise format. To do so, they have to read, interpret, and understand the news and information that crosses in front of them. They need to gain an applicable understanding of the subject in order to present it well. I think that leads to retention (it has for me). It’s very similar to school. Remember, those advanced statistical questions you had to memorize for calculus? Yeah, me neither. What I do remember is the papers I wrote and studies I did that forced me to take the info, interpret it, and bend it to my thesis. I retained that knowledge and could discuss it today. Memorization is intellectual junk food. You don’t retain knowledge that you memorize or redeliver. You retain knowledge that you interpret and apply. So I have found that creating original content will make unique concepts stick with me for substantially longer than news stories that I retweet.

     

    4. Clarity

    This one goes hand-in-hand with brevity. Web-based articles shouldn’t be novels. They are brief, fact-filled, and to-the-point. The web isn’t a friendly place for rambling. So to create good content, you need to develop the ability to present ideas clearly in as few words as possible. That forces you to think clearly about the concept and find a creative way to present it with brevity. What you will find is that you will start forming opinions and thoughts through this process that are clear and concise. Think of the brightest people you know. Do they drone on and on about subjects they discuss with you? Probably not. They have clear, pithy truisms that they dispense quickly and sharply. I aspire to that. I want to present quick sharp thoughts eloquently and I find that the more I wrote and opine on my site, the clearer and sharper my opinions become. I want you to have that as well.

     

    5. Control

    This is an open forum. Write about what you want to write about. As long as you aren’t bad-mouthing anyone or being overly profane, spread your wings. I’m not your momma. Do what you want. As long as it pertains to CRE, rock on. How many other forums in your career allow that type of freedom and creativity? Not many, I’m betting. I find it very satisfying to know that there is a forum with very few rules where I can create new ideas, projects, or concepts for my industry. It’s a lot of fun.

     

    So, there it is. My 5 not-so-obvious reasons why you should write about CRE. Can you think of any others? Think I am off my rocker? Let me know in the comments!

    – Duke

    photo Courtesy SXC user Ydiot

  • Millenial Manifesto: Working Environment

     

    I was raised to work on multiple, varied projects quickly.

    I had an epiphany about myself and (potentially) my generation this week and I want to share it with you briefly.

    When I turned 8 years old, the pace of my life started picking up. That’s when I started playing football, basketball, baseball, and any other “ball” sport.

    Being the son of two hard-core Christians, I also went to church at least every Sunday and Wednesday and usually had some type of youth group event every week.

    I also begin reading books more regularly and began to get into a routine of nightly homework.

    The point is, I did several different things in one day. On a typical day, I might get up, go to school, have an afternoon practice, have an evening church event, do my nightly homework, and then read or watch TV until bed. That’s 6 different events in 6 different environments.

    High school was even more involved. Morning lifting for football, 6 periods of school, afternoon football/baseball/basketball practice, evening church or worship/FCA event, nightly homework, and then bed. Again, 6 different activities in 6 different places.

    Moving on to college, the schedule looked something like this:

    • Get up, fool
    • Run or lift
    • Class until early afternoon
    • 3 hours of baseball practice
    • Evening Worship Service
    • Homework
    • Family Guy with the Roommates
    • Bed

    So, by my count, that’s 7 or 8 things in 7 or 8 places.

    Something else I would like to point out is that I went to a Liberal Arts college. So I was studying a diverse array of subjects for each of my four years. I was an Econ Major, Spanish Minor, and had a pretty serious concentration in New Testament Studies and History. That’s 4 different subjects I studied heavily almost every day and that doesn’t even include the courses I took on Galileo, Chemistry of Art, Beginners Japanese, etc. The point is, my studies in school were widely varied and diverse.

    If your elementary, middle, and high schools were anything like mine, you know what this is like. First period is biology, followed by anthropology, followed by calculus, followed by English, and on and on and on. In school I jumped from subject to subject in short one hour or 90 minute bursts (and I bet you did, too). The above line-item of “Go to class” included very different experiences every hour or so.

    Ok. So what’s the point?

    The point is: I spent 15 of the first 22 years of my life learning how to accomplish great things through short bursts of intense focus. Since I only had 50 minutes every day to learn AP Calculus, I had to learn to adjust my temperament to an extreme and intense focus for a short period of time, then move on and do it in the next class/practice/event.

    Yeah. So?

    So, then I graduate from college and I am looking for a job (because that’s what you are supposed to do, right?). And guess what these employers are selling?

    It goes something like this:

    Duke, we want you to sit at your desk for 10 hours every day and do the same thing all day! Doesn’t that sound great?

    Come again?

    You are basically asking me to do the exact opposite of what I have been trained to do for 15 years. That’s like telling me to 1) take the only way you know to accomplish diverse tasks,  2) forget it, 3) do it OUR way, and then 4) be grateful for this generous offer.

    What?

    Let me out of this conference room!

    I’m not here to turn the business world on its ear, but can you see the lunacy is this? I understand that there are certain pre-existing constructs in every work environment, but asking someone to be productive in a manner that they have never been productive before is a little silly.

    I will get into ways an employer can configure the work day to play to Gen Y’s strength and productivity, but for now I just wanted to point out the fundamental conflict between the way I was raised to accomplish and the way I am asked to accomplish at work.

    Think about it this way:

    What do admissions officers at universities look for in prospective students? It’s not just about the highest test scores or grades. They (allegedly) look for the proverbial “well-rounded” student, right?

    How about employers? When McKinsey is scouring Ivy League campuses are they looking for the smartest nerd in the business school with the highest grade? Nope. They want a young man or woman who has demonstrated excellence in several areas at the same time. They want someone who is “well-rounded“, too.

    So, Mr. Employer, let me see if I have this straight. You want me to demonstrate that I have achieved excellence in multiple areas at the same time so that I can come and do one thing for you, in the same place, all day?

    Middle school was structured to get me ready for high school where a high value is placed on being well-rounded. High school gets me into a college where the admissions office heavily favors well-rounded students. College gets me ready to enter the workforce where the best employers want the most excellent students that are well-rounded. But once I enter the workforce I’m supposed to specialize at one single task all day every day and be the best at that.

    Hmmm . . .

    Am I the only one confused by this? Is anyone else struggling in this battle? Let me know in the comments and I’ll comment back.

    – Duke

     

  • Random Thoughts

    fatal-pics

    Crunched for time early this week, so I will stay random.

    1. I realized this weekend that CRE pros are like actors. Just because you can make some money on a deal doesn’t mean you should take it. You want to be Daniel Day-Lewis, not Eddie Murphy. (Sorry Eddie! We cool?)

    2. I still need to be convinced that there is demand for a BILLION DOLLAR gambling complex in Norcross. It’s a cool idea, but Norcross? I’m from Gwinnett County, but Norcross? We’ll see.

    3. Shout out to DDR for the SetUpShop concept they have been experimenting with here in Atlanta! Basically it’s like co-working space for retailers (kinda), and apparently they are killing it with those favorable lease terms.

    4. Who’s jacked up about the Brookhaven cityhood vote? I’m ashamed to say that I have no opinion since I don’t know enough about the pros and cons. What a terrible resident I am. maybe I should write a post about both sides . . . .

    pseudo-thoughts

    5. Decatur might as well be Macon. There is no direct way for me to get there from my home in Brookhaven or my office in North Buckhead. I know they have tons of tasty treats and may be the most walkable part of Atlanta, but I could get to the airport in 20 minutes and get on a plane to Dubai before I arrived in downtown Decatur.

    6. There has been some speculation that I am Duke Long‘s son. It is a fabrication. “The Duke” is my pseudonym that is used to preserve the liability of any of my employers or clients who disagree with my posts. My real name is Ron Mexico (and if you don’t get that joke then you ain’t from ’round here).

    7. By the way, if you haven’t checked out www.CRE-Apps.com yet, do it. If you are under 40, it will get you jacked up about the future of tech in our industry. If you are over 40, you will probably be unimpressed and mutter something about face-to-face interaction blah blah blah.

    8. I’m only half kidding about the over 40 thing. I have found many boomers and older Gen X-ers embracing and encouraging technology as a medium to transform and streamline our industry. But I find still more in that age bracket who like to talk about walking to work in the snow, life before the internet, and reading proformas by candlelight. Personally, I love when people refuse to embrace tech changes. That clears the path for me to have an obvious advantage over them.

    9. I’m reading The Power of Habit and it’s pretty good. Look for a review in the next week or so, but after reading most of it I still submit that “He with the best habits, wins.”

    10. I just hired a virtual assistant to help manage my schedule and research tasks and she has already saved me a tremendous amount of time over the last few weeks. It’s amazing how much I can accomplish when I don’t have to focus on the stuff I hate (research, data entry, paperwork, etc.). She is selectively looking to add clients. So, if you are interested, post in the comments and I will hook you up.

    That’s your weekly dose of random, kids. Now leave Daddy alone and let me get back to causing trouble.

    – Duke

  • Book Review: Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

    Image Courtesy Amazon.com

    Image Courtesy Amazon.com

    Big plans are easy. Grandiose schemes and strategies can be put together by anyone. What separates the great leaders from everyone else is their ability to execute on those plans and effectively implement strategy.

    That is the central thesis of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Bossidy was an executive at GE, CEO of Allied Signal and CEO of Honeywell. Charan is basically a CEO “Coach” and expert on corporate governance. Together they argue that great companies and great leaders have a knack for execution and they attempt to identify tactics used by those leaders.

    One of the best aspects of Execution is the authors’ use of real life examples. Charan will take the reader through real life examples of billion dollar companies and how their CEOs have had both resounding successes and catastrophic failures. All of them seem to start out with great plans, solid resumes, and a firm grasp of the business, but the great ones have a knack for execution and accountability.

    Bossidy does the same thing with his tenures at GE, Allied Signal, and Honeywell. He gives real, quantifiable examples of business issues that he and the executive teams faced and how they executed a strategy around maximizing value for shareholders.

    I love that they used real life examples, with real people, and included numbers and names. Too many business books use theory and hypothetical situations. Bossidy and Charan tell it like it happened and I find it easier to wrap my brain around real events and people that just a hypothetical.

    If I could summarize the main thesis of the book it would be

    Be intentional with every aspect of corporate strategy. Anyone can create aggressive goals and create impressive growth plans. Great business leaders create aggressive, realistic, quantifiable goals for each business unit and then create a corporate culture in which every employee both takes ownership of those goals and is held accountable for reaching those goals.

    I would highly recommend this book for anyone who plans on pursuing a career in commercial real estate. Sooner or later, we will all be part of a strategic planning or growth meeting (you may even run the meeting). Execution will give you a useful road map for creating goals, milestones, and action plans and it can help ensure you get them accomplished.

    Execution in Two Sentences: Every executive can make aggressive plans and impressive growth strategies. The greatest corporate leaders create plans that give employees a sense of ownership in the goals and create an environment where all employees are held accountable for reaching the quantifiable milestones necessary to achieve those goals.

    Pros: Very interesting real-life examples, good ideas for business leaders, decently well written

    Cons: You could argue that the authors are tooting their own horn a bit and bragging about their business success (I don’t feel that way, but others have argued that on Amazon).

    Target Audience: Anybody who aspires to a role in business leadership or who wants to be a part of a business

    This book is best for: Executives

    Overall Rating: ♦♦♦♦ (out of 5)

     

    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.
  • 10 Things You Should Know About Your Creditor

    image courtesy WayneFontes.com

    I'M COMING FOR YOU!!!!

    Over the last few months I have been working for a private equity firm that acquires commercial mortgages from the FDIC. Through a structured sale, we purchase these notes and then share profit on the notes with the FDIC.

    You could call me a “Successor Creditor.” Note that I don’t go by “Lender.” Lenders want long-term relationships. I want resolutions.

    I have found that most of my borrowers are confused as to who we are and what we do. Once they get that, borrowers tend to be mystified as to how to deal with someone like me and my company.

    So I put together a list of things you should know about me and successor creditors and how we conduct our business.

    1. I Have A Soul.    I don’t enjoy making people unhappy. I’m not here to take your kids out of private school and send you to the soup kitchen. Every evening, I go home and tell my wife about my day at work and I have good and bad days like everyone else. So, speaking solely for myself, please understand that I am a real person who really wants to make a deal with you.

    2. I Get Paid For Resolutions.     As I just mentioned, my role is about making deals. I don’t get paid to hurt you. I get paid as loans sell, properties sell, and discounted payoffs are funded. It is not in the best interest of my employer to torture you for 18 months. Let’s make a deal and move on with our lives.

    3. I’m Not Afraid Of Bankruptcy.     Having said #2, I am not afraid to take my time and work through bankruptcy with financially crushed (or uncooperative) borrowers. I work through cases of Chapter 13, Chapter 11, and Chapter 7 bankruptcies on a daily basis and I talk to bankruptcy trustees regularly. So don’t think that threatening to go BK will scare me or make me go away. As a secured creditor, I am in a great position to emerge well from your bankruptcy and you won’t be able to borrow money from anybody for at least 7 years (more likely 10). So, go ahead and file BK if you want. I’d rather work something out with you, but if that is your preference. . . knock yourself out.

    4. I Don’t Have The Final Say.     Everything I do is subject to approval by credit committee. I can give you preliminary approval for a deal and I know what credit committee wants. I have never had to re-trade a deal before, but you should know going in that I don’t have final approval authority and it is possible that I will say “yes” and credit committee will say “no.” You can get mad at me all you want, but I am at their mercy just as much as you are champ.

    5. You Will Be Held Accountable For That Personal Guaranty You Signed.    When you borrowed these funds originally, you were so certain that you would repay this loan that you signed a document that said that you personally guarantee the repayment of these funds. You were so certain you would perform that you put all of your personal financial assets up for grabs if you didn’t. Then you didn’t pay. Now I have a legitimate legal claim to ALL of your financial assets (if your guaranty was unlimited and most of them were). Don’t try to walk away from that because it will just piss me off. Give me a deal that will satisfy the guaranty and THEN you can walk away. I assess the value of the mortgaged property and the value of the personal guaranty. If Donald Trump had a loan with us that was $200,000 underwater, I wouldn’t care because I would just ask him to write us a check for the shortfall. The property isn’t worth the loan amount, but Mr. Trump’s personal guaranty is certainly worth $200,000. So keep that in mind when you are negotiating with me. The personal guaranty needs to be satisfied before you can walk away from any loan.

    6. Honesty Is The Best Policy.    I do this all day every day and I have gotten very good at spotting liars. If you are upfront with me and show all of your cards, you will enjoy working with me. As I said in #2, I’m not here to hurt anybody. If you try to hide things, transfer assets to your wife, or simply refuse to cooperate with me, you will not enjoy working with my attorney. Tell me the truth and we can be allies in finding the best solution. Lie to me and my attorney will crush you financially.

    7. Effort Counts.    Remember that I am selling your resolution to credit committee. I want to tell them that “Mr. Borrower has done everything he can; begged money from relatives, sold his collection of baseball cards, and moved into an apartment to help us resolve this loan. We need to approve this deal.” I’m not telling you to move into an apartment, but work hard trying to find creative ways to come up with cash and financing options! There are hundreds of private lenders and wealthy family members out there willing to help if you go look for them. Turn over every stone and we WILL get a deal done. If I get the impression you are sand-bagging or not even attempting to find a resolution, then my attorney will give you a little kick in the rear to get you going. One way or another, you are going to have to do some work to get this deal done. I’d rather not do it in court. Just put in a little effort and find a way to get a deal done and let’s move on.

    8. The Law Is On Our Side And We Have More Money Than You.     Some of my more, um, confident borrowers  get it in their head that they can exploit legal loopholes in the loan documents or that they can just wear us down in court. These borrowers are the ones who lose the most money to us (which is great for us, by the way!). Even though we are buying mortgages from failed lenders, the legal documents are pretty much all boilerplate with your personal data injected. They all have the same covenants, restrictions, and clauses and the legal system has upheld all of these documents when borrowers have attempted to exploit any weaknesses. Think about it: If all these documents pretty much say the same stuff the same way, what judge wants to make a ruling that says these documents are not legally binding? It would crush the lending system if a court ruled their documents were not legally enforceable. It ain’t happening, so don’t waste your time or your (our) money. For those who want to wear us down and sue/counter-sue us, feel free. We do this all day every day and I have never heard of anyone beating us in court except for blatant fraud or illegal transactions. We are a multi-billion dollar company with some of the best attorneys in the country. You are more than welcome to try to manipulate the US legal system to protect you, but I wouldn’t recommend it and I won’t feel sorry for you when you come back to me $200,000 poorer and in the same place you were before all that jazz.

    9. What Is Equity?     Unless you borrowed at 50% LTV in 2005 (and we both know you didn’t), your property is underwater. Get used to that idea and don’t try to throw appraisals from 2005 and BOVs from 2006 at me. Those are worth about as much as toilet paper. You have no equity in your property. Get over it, move on, and let’s free you up to find some deals where you CAN have some equity.

    10. We Can Be A Great Ally.     We have thousands of loans all over the country and we are looking to move ALL of them in one way or another. Work with us and you will have access to some good deals that we need to move. Someone could make a great deal of money by purchasing deals we are selling. So don’t burn bridges with us. If you want to be a long-term player in CRE, you will want to have a good relationship with us. I’ve sent several deals to former borrowers who I liked working with. That’s how this business works. I deal with people I like and trust. Earn my respect and my trust through a contentious relationship and I will go out of my way to help you in future deals. Good borrowers make my life easier and I want to return the favor.

    So, there they are. Those are my ten insights into the world of successor creditors. Has your experience been different? Do you have any insights to add?

    – Duke

  • CRE Resource – CRE-Apps.com

    Atlanta W Rooftop 04

    Just ran across this site last night and I love it. Check it and and let me know what you think.

    www.CRE-Apps.com

    CRE Apps is a site dedicated to commercial real estate technology and software applications.

    Some of my favorite articles are:

    5 Must Have iPhone Apps for CRE Investment Brokers

    Rent Post: Property Management the Way it Should Be

    Ten Eight: Yelp for Office Buildings

    DropBox vs iCloud

    Need Comps? Get $5 Trillion on your iPhone

    No Siri? No Problem

    TourWrist: This App is All in the Wrist

    Photosynth for iPhone: Virtual Tours Galore

    GeoMeasure: Become a Surveyor Overnight

    PDF Expert on the iPad

    Real Estate Back of the Envelope App

    Hands on with  LinkedIn CardMunch Biz Card Scanner

    ProspectNow Mobile App

    Augmented Reality for Commercial Real Estate

    LinkedIn Real Estate Pro by Rofo

    Google Maps Floor Plans

    DocScanner App

    CoStarGo iPad App

    Loopnet Mobile App

    BatchGeo Mapping App

    360 Panorama by Occipital

     

    Keep up the great work and we will add CRE-Apps to the RSS feed on the right!

    – Duke

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Book Review: Atlas Shrugged

    Image Courtesy Amazon.com

    You may ask why a site about commercial real estate would need a review of a book by Ayn Rand. Fair question.

    I would argue that Ayn Rand is not really an author. She is a philosopher, and, more specifically, an economic philosopher. She happened to write a few books in her career, but her main occupation was philosopher. Her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, is essentially a treatise on economic theory and the free market economy. Therefore, this book is extremely relevant to commercial real estate and all of the industries interconnected with it.

    Let me begin my review by saying that I think Rand is an exceptional philosopher and an amazing woman. I have written about her before and I hope that I conveyed how exceptional she truly was while she lived. Whatever I may say about her book, she was one of the more gifted philosophers of the past century and deserves credit.

    Having said that, I’m not sure I would ever read Atlas Shrugged again. It was interesting and entertaining . . . for the first 500 pages or so. Actually, I listened to it in my car on 50 CDs. So I should say that it was interesting for the first 25 CDs.

    I read my fair share of books. Last year I finished more than 20 different titles. So I have learned over time that there are certain writing styles I prefer. For example, all of the books that I read not named “Harry Potter” are non-fiction and business books. So I tend to enjoy a writing style that is heavily factual and balances interesting anecdotes and facts (think Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell).

    Therein lies my problem with Rand.

    Atlas Shrugged (and The Fountainhead) is a work of fiction. All of the characters and situations came from Rand’s vivid imagination. She has an exceptional talent for detail and description. She can take your breath away with her knowledge of the steel industry down to the grittiest detail of bolt sizes on industrial smelters.

    But I don’t really care about the bolts.

    I just want to know what Francisco and Hank Reardon are doing at the mill when one of the smelters over-heats and threatens the entire mill. Just tell me what happened, what they did, and why. That’s all I need. All of the superfluous details are . . . superfluous. Remember, I’m a business book reader. I want a quick anecdote, lessons learned, and how to apply it to my life. If Dagney’s lapels match the bluest hydangea on a wet spring day . . . I don’t really care. I want facts and lessons and I want them in as few words as possible. I highly value brevity and, as a writer, appreciate the skill it takes to develop the balance between description and brevity.

    Maybe the simplest way I can critique her is as follows: Rand is an exceptional philosopher and an average writer.

    You can probably tell that this isn’t necessarily a problem with Rand. It’s just my preference. I simply don’t prefer her writing style.  As I said, I value brevity and concision. She doesn’t. I only need Jim Taggert to speak a few times to know that he is an idiot and a dangerous man. Rand has him speak 200 times and beats that dead horse. To each her own.

    So, while I may not prefer her writing style, I strongly admire her philosophical reach and wisdom. She ardently promotes individual achievement while vehemently condemning those who would bring down the achievers around them. She abhors people like Jim Taggert who believe they are entitled to success and money and need only bring giants down to make themselves feel tall. I agree with her.

    She would hate that the top 5% of income earners in the US pay 60% of all taxes. She hates Robin Hood.

    Frankly, I can understand where she is coming from. As an aspiring high-achiever, I would be pretty peeved if I worked my hands to the bone to make a small fortune and then was made to feel guilty for my success, called greedy, called privileged, or called lucky. That would probably piss me off. I’m not trying to make a political stance or anything, but I can see how you would be upset if you worked that hard only to be called “lucky.”

    I can also see how it would be frustrating to have Uncle Sam take a disproportionately large chunk out of my income apple. The country is telling me:

    Hey! You! Successful rich guy/girl! You owe us a big piece of those huge paychecks you are bringing in! That’s our money! We know how to use it better than you would anyway!

    Yeah, it’s safe to say that would make me pretty unhappy. Rand gets that. And the whole premise of her book is: What if those high achievers and successful leaders refuse to cooperate? What if they just all walked away? What if the best and brightest people on the planet all quit and walked away because they were tired of the government taking their money and then changing the rules of the game they play? What would you do then? Who would you tax to pay your government bills?

    Interesting concept, right?

    I thought so too. And Rand does a fine job of taking that question to its most extreme conclusion. To ruin the ending for you: they all do quit, the world “stops”, many people die, and then the do-ers have a clean slate to start over with. You know they will build something great, because that’s what do-ers do.

    Rand has recently seen a burst in popularity as the current political party in the White House has been promoting regulations and ideas that tout “social benefit” or “the greater good” or “helping the less-privileged” while seemingly hampering individual achievement (cough, rights, cough). Rand uses weasels like Jim Taggert and Orin Boyle as the hideous underbelly of “social responsibility” and uses Dagney Taggert, Hank Reardon, and John Galt as her ideal men and women who value achievement and individualism above all else. When you learn the difference between these two groups of people, it’s easy to see why her popularity is peaking.

    So, in that sense, I’m glad I read the book. There are some deep philosophical waters to wade through in Atlas Shrugged and I enjoy discussing them with others who have read it. The $29.99 question is: Should you read it?

    Maybe.

    If you have more patience than I do, enjoy ornate descriptions, or just have an unhealthy obsession with philosophy, Atlas Shrugged is probably worth the price. If not, take this review and other reviews, get the main point, and apply it to your own life however you please.

    Either way, beware of Robin Hood and those who wish to punish the successful.

     

    Atlas Shrugged in Two Sentences: What if all of the achievers and brilliant men and women of the world went on strike? What would happen if they stopped the engine of the world and left it to people who make a living off the greatness of others or off the guilt of the successful?

    Pros: Very interesting philosophy on economics and free market capitalism, very detailed descriptions of industries like railroads and steel, well written dialogue

    Cons: Loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong, at times redundant

    Target Audience: Anybody in any country over the age of 16, I suppose

    This book is best for: Readers interested in philosophy and economics and who have the patience to learn about it through the medium of business fiction

    Overall Rating: ♦♦ (out of 5)

     

    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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