Everyone seems to have an opinion, so I might as well throw my hat in the ring.
I think I like T-SPLOST overall, but I think it may be short-sighted. I think it’s apparent that we as a city have some transportation and traffic issues. What I question is whether or not this bill is the BET solution to some of those problems.
I was reviewing the major projects in TSPLOST in the business chronicle and I was struck by how many of them focused on suburban projects. I have no problem with the suburbs and I grew up there myself, but the opportunity cost of spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the suburbs seems enormous.
95 out of 100 Gen Y workers (straw poll) are moving into the city limits (ITP). That’s millions of young people moving in-town as the future leaders and innovators in our city. That influx of people who live, drive, and work in-town is putting a huge strain on our aging transport and infrastructure.
Since Atlanta is a city built around the car, it’s imperative that we pay attention and create solid programs to address people moving into the city. If millions of people move into Rome or London or Paris, no big deal. The sidewalks are a little more crowded and RE prices rise to meet demand. But those cities were built around pedestrian traffic and you won’t see the same kind of gridlock that we deal with daily. In Atlanta, just about every person moving into the city is doing so with a car. So WE HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO COMMUTES.
For decades, Atlanta has been the poster child for urban sprawl and white-flight into the suburbs. Now that this trend is finally reversing and our best and brightest are moving back in town, why are we spending hundreds of millions of tax payers dollars on improving suburban transportation? Or, more to the point, why are we using money that we could use in-town on projects that make suburban living easier?
Again, I have no problem with the suburbs and I’m from Gwinnett County. I understand that we need to maintain our transportation system. If it’s about to collapse, let’s fix it. But I would certainly rather spend $100 Million on improving our pathetic MARTA system (paint job, anyone?) than broadening some suburban freeway to six lanes. Those suburban projects are not bad projects or bad ideas, but there is only so much money to go around and every dime you spend in the suburbs is a dime you could be spending in town.
Maybe the simplest way I could put it is:
Why are we spending so much money on our past (sprawl) at the expense of our future (in-town transit)?
And let me be clear on something. I am certainly not advocating that we abandon all transportation and infrastructure projects in the suburbs. The reason cities and counties have large budgets in maintenance is to keep the roadways safe and infrastructure current. If they can’t, then they need to find a way to reallocate the funds or people just need to move somewhere else. I just get bothered by the idea of Atlanta tax payers paying for Alpharetta roads. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think Alpharetta residents should pay for Alpharetta roads.
Much like people, bills are neither completely good or completely evil. There are good parts and bad parts. I LOVE the Beltline project and think it’s a great long-term investment for our city, but there are at least a half-dozen projects on this bill that I see as superfluous and costly to in-town residents.
So, the crux of the matter is that you have to convince me that the benefit of projects like the Beltline outweigh the superfluous spending on suburban projects. Show me why the good outweighs the bad in this particular version of the TSPLOST bill.
I am open to being convinced . . .
I just got back last week from my 5 year reunion at my alma mater. Apparently that’s a rare event as some of my colleagues who went to UGA, Auburn, Tech, etc couldn’t imagine pulling together 10,000 people for a reunion.
Luckily for us there were only 400 in my graduating class.
As nice as it was to catch up with my old teammates and classmates, it got me thinking. I realized how much I had learned in my first 5 years in commercial real estate that I hadn’t anticipated when I charged into the world with my Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
So, allow me to share 5 lessons I have learned in my 5 years in commercial real estate:
1. He with the best habits wins
I know I’ve touched on this before, but it really is true. Yes, there are big deals and huge strides made in every career, but I am convinced that the guy who sets out to create great habits for himself will end up “on top” on the long run. Your habits will catch up to you sooner or later. Will they boost you up or drag you down?
2. Financial success and intelligence are only loosely related
I’m using financial success as my measurement for success for the purposes of this point. It is amazing to me how much money was made between 2002 and 2007 by people I wouldn’t trust to handle $50. I know THAT time in our financial history may turn out to be an aberration, but it is staggering at times the amount of money made by stupid people. And commercial real estate is a self-proclaimed “B-student’s paradise.” Not that B-students are stupid by any means, but an industry that doesn’t claim to have A-students is, by definition, claiming not to have the tip of the academic sword (for better and for worse).
All of that is to say: intelligence isn’t as highly correlated with success in commercial real estate as I had thought. The richest people aren’t always the smartest people. Intelligence certainly helps to distinguish yourself and there is a certain baseline level of intelligence that everyone in the industry must have. But this ain’t rocket surgery.
3. There are very few truly creative people in ANY industry
I want to keep this statement broad because I have noticed that this phenomenon isn’t unique to CRE. I find that there are only a handful of truly innovative and creative people in any industry.
Taking a concept that worked well in Dallas and bringing it to Atlanta isn’t all that creative. It’s highly logical, but I would consider it par for the course. Even taking a concept from Dubai and bringing it here isn’t all that creative. All you’re doing is copying someone else’s great idea. True innovators create new products, reinvent best practices, and can reshape the entire CRE community. People like that are rare.
4. There is almost never black and white – only grey
I learned this from my time in private equity as we go through foreclosure and bankruptcy proceeding in GA and FL. According to the loan documents, our case is almost always cut-and-dry and in our favor. The borrower almost never has a strong case, legally. But borrowers do sometime win these cases.
If they get a borrower-friendly judge or jury and argue their sob-story well, they CAN win. In my mind, this is ludicrous because I can plainly read the loan documents that said “I will pay you back or you can take everything I own no mater what.” I don’t see room in there for much interpretation, but apparently I’m wrong.
This idea also plays into the “gut” or “art” part of our business. Anybody can run good numbers and spot a decently located property. The best of the best have this “gut” instinct to know when to pursue a property that is in that grey area between the black of “no” and the white of “yes.” They buy or sell when others are hesitant and they make a killing doing so. That is the grey area that I need to get comfortable playing in or I will be surpassed by those who are.
5. The best people in the business love what they do and would probably do it for free
You know these men and women. They love leasing retail space or building hotels or buying shopping centers. If they didn’t get paid to do it, they’d do it anyway. Their career is fun and fulfilling to them.
I think I covet that feeling more than any other in business. To know that you enjoy your role and look forward to performing every day is a gift that few of us receive. It has been my mission since shortly after leaving college to find that role for myself. As I mentioned in the header, people who find that role are not only the most fulfilled, but also are often the most successful. Work doesn’t seem like work to them. They are just having fun and happen to make money doing so. I hope you can find that role for yourself. Otherwise, you’re just getting up early every morning to collect a paycheck and you will have a perpetual feeling of swimming against the tide.
Those are just the 5 that stand out to me. Obviously, I have learned a great deal more about the financial and technical side of our business, but those 5 stand out to me as particularly poignant and meaningful to my career.
Has your experience been different? Did you learn different lessons than I did? Feel free to share in the comments.
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
- Family Guy with the Roommates
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.
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?
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.
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.