For An Edge In Real Estate Investing, Follow The Talent

My law firm has an internal message called “ATR”.  It stands for:

Attract, train and retain talent!

For a law firm it is the whole game.  Clients sometimes leave or even get merged or go out of business; however, if you have a high-quality legal product you can always get more clients.  If, on the other hand, you lose your talent – i.e. your lawyers – it is game over – because you have nothing left to sell.  Also, once the talent starts to leave it is like a run on a bank and almost impossible to stop.

So we focus relentlessly on this message internally.

Also – I can’t resist a very dramatic movie quote from a movie I like called Rock Star.  In the (dramatic) scene the band is shouting at each other and breaking up.  Mark Wahlberg – the lead singer – walks out angrily.  The remaining band leader turns to Jennifer Aniston and offers that even without Wahlberg she can still manage the band.  Aniston replies:

“There is one rule in the music business and that is ‘follow the talent.’  Well all the talent in this band just walked out the door.”

Aniston leaves and the movie unfolds and I won’t spoil what happens with more about it here….

In any case, I have been wondering whether that is what real estate investors should be focusing on when they determine where to invest?

Consider an obvious situation unfolding now – Hartford versus New York City.  Aetna – a long-time stalwart in Hartford – just took the step of going to New York City for its top brass – and it is big news.  Why did they do that?  Obviously New York City is a place where the top talent already is, and wants to go, and stays.  Even after 9/11 the talent didn’t leave.

Hartford is known informally as the insurance capital is of the US.  But – I genuinely mean no offense – for many people Hartford is not as attractive a place to live as New York City.  Does this mean that other insurance companies will follow Aetna’s lead?  Can they compete with Aetna without also being in New York City – or another place that would attract top talent?

Hartford is a lot cheaper than New York City, but where would you want to invest in real estate right now?

I made this point in my “Brexit and London and Talent, Oh My” article, where I took the position that London would be just fine post-Brexit, because London is a cool and exciting place where the talent just wouldn’t want to leave, so one way or another London would be just fine.  So far – a year later – that seems to be the case.

I made this point eight years ago in the depths of the financial crisis – when I was giving a speech to my firm.  They will no doubt recall how afraid we all were.  My speech said effectively that New York had nothing to worry about since the talent wasn’t going anywhere – indeed, where was the talent going to go after all?  I don’t like to be a humbug (that much), but I was certainly right about that as New York has continued its position as the global center of finance, and much more.  This is all because the talent has stuck around.

Indeed, our ATR message is one for cities – and you regularly see them competing for businesses that will attract jobs for talented people.

And you even see the ATR message for countries now, as they try to prevent their talented citizens – especially the wealthy ones – from leaving.  Indeed, sometimes they compete a bit unfairly, by making laws stopping you from leaving.

My point is that ATR is – or should be – the message for just about every organization – every city – and every country.  See also my article, “Why Are You in Business” from November 2016, which was my ‘first’ Real Estate Philosopher article, where I suggested that ATR should be a focal point for just about any organization.

If you follow my thinking, then a real estate investor that is considering where to invest should add to its demographic due diligence a Talent Analysis, which analyzes whether talented people are coming or going.

How would one do this?   I admit I don’t know.  Certainly just reading local news articles for the past three to five years would give insight.  And I bet the predictive analytics types and the tech people could come up with programs and heuristics to figure this out too.

In any case, that is my recommendation – before investing, do a Talent Analysis of the jurisdiction in which you are investing.  And if the jurisdiction (A) isn’t trying hard to do ATR and (B) isn’t succeeding in ATR, then just don’t invest there.

By the way – as an aside – for all those who think NYC is crazily overpriced, I wonder if your pricing determination takes into account a NYC Talent Analysis?

Power Niche Marketing: The Second (Marketing) Threebie – A Very Simple One

In my last article, I explained that when I need to remind myself of the most important basic marketing things to do, I am mindful of the three basic items, which I call the “Threebies.” I previously discussed the first Threebie, which is to “Get Out and About!”  In this article, I will talk about the second Threebie.

The second Threebie is very simple:  Be Enthusiastic!

Yes, just that. Be enthusiastic! That is all I am advocating here. So far these Threebies are pretty easy, aren’t they?  Just get out and about and be enthusiastic. Anyone could do that, couldn’t they?

I can tell you this — no one wants a sad sack around. Or someone that just drones on and on. Have you ever been to a party or a group setting or just gone out to lunch with friends or co-workers? Who is the guy you just don’t want to sit next to or hang out with?  Of course there are a fair number of undesirable personal traits that people could have, but someone dull and droning and boring and negative is hardly going to get you to think: “Boy, I want to talk with that guy.”

On the other hand, enthusiastic people are such a thrill. Even if the person you are with is just talking about Band Camp, the fact that he loves it beyond imagination makes people pay attention and find that person exciting and interesting, maybe to your surprise.

This second Threebie – Be Enthusiastic! – is straight out of the Dale Carnegie course I took. It is discussed in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People (affiliate link), but they recognized its importance and built an entire course around this seemingly simple concept, in order to help people… well, win friends and influence people.

Let’s make time for a dorky drill here that I learned from the Dale Carnegie course. I use this often if I have a big meeting or a big pitch or I am attending something where I am on stage or have to make a strong, and good, impression on someone. It could even be an internal meeting at my law firm.

I, together with my colleagues that are going to the pitch or the meeting, repeat this five times, out loud and not whispering either:

If I act enthusiastic, I will be enthusiastic 
If I act enthusiastic, I will be enthusiastic 
If I act enthusiastic, I will be enthusiastic 
If I act enthusiastic, I will be enthusiastic 
If I act enthusiastic, I will be enthusiastic

Go ahead and try this yourself now. And don’t whisper either, say it out loud, and say it five times in a row. Okay, you feel like an idiot, right?

Now, for extra credit, find someone nearby and get him or her to do it with you. I bet you are laughing at each other for being so foolish.

However, is your mood different than it was before you did this exercise?  The answer is: “Of course!”  It is just about impossible to do this drill without your mood going from whatever it was to a higher, and more enthusiastic, plane. It is just about impossible.

As stated, my partners and I do it. We start laughing at ourselves – at what idiots we are making of ourselves, but by the time we are done we are jolly and happy and loose and smiling and in the greatest of moods and – almost always – our meeting goes just great.

Go ahead and try it before you go out and about.

Back to my main point, which is about the importance of being enthusiastic.  Sometimes people say you should just be yourself and, of course, that is true in part.  You can’t fake who you are. But if you are naturally dull, boring, uninteresting and unenthusiastic, then it is time to do something about it. I bet your entire life will get a lot better.

In this regard, a woman named Amy Cuddy has an incredible TED Talk called “Fake it Till You Make it.” This is well worth watching, as she gives one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard. She talks about “power poses” and other ways to rev up your enthusiasm. The point here is that even if you feel plain old stupid on this concept, if you “fake” being enthusiastic enough times, it will just happen that you will in fact become enthusiastic. That is what that silly drill above is doing; it is tricking your mind into uplifting your mood.

Even in your writing and your emails and text messages this can resonate. Consider how I am writing this article. Can you feel my passion and excitement – and enthusiasm – literally flowing through the words I am writing right to your cerebral cortex?  Sure you can feel it – I know you can!

I am a naturally enthusiastic person, so for me the Dale Carnegie course was like throwing gasoline on a flame. It encouraged me to go even further with that type of thinking and acting.

I urge you to do the same.

Stay tuned for the third and final Threebie in my next article…..

Power Niche Marketing: The First (Marketing) Threebie: Get Out And About

When I teach marketing to my young associates, as well as my partners, and when I need to remind myself what is important, I go to these three things, which I call the “Threebies.” Why do I call them that?  Being honest, just so it gets remembered, I gave it a kind of silly-sounding name.

These three Threebies are utterly critical to do. You cannot remind yourself of this enough times. If you master these – and anyone can master these as you will see – you are going to succeed at business development. And if you don’t really master them and internalize them, you are going to fail.

The first Threebie is very simple:  Get Out and About!

One of the great truisms of marketing and sales is that for those people who get “out and about,” good things (and bad things) happen to them. For those who don’t get “out and about,” nothing (good or bad) ever happens to them. They are essentially those “cold and timid souls” that Teddy Roosevelt referred to in his famous Man in the Arena quote, who “know neither victory nor defeat.”

On this front, I can say safely, and with the certainty that comes from informal empirical verification over many years, that those who sit in their offices and answer the phone when it rings are dramatically less likely to be successful in marketing and sales than those who are always out and about – having breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and drinks, attending sporting or other events, learning and interacting with others in their industry.

This entire concept is an outgrowth of the statistics issue that I discussed in an earlier article. Those people who are out on the town – at a breakfast, at a lunch, at a seminar, at drinks with the girls or the boys, going out with people in the practice area, etc. – are the people who actually bring in this is loosely called “networking.” What is networking anyway?  Some people think it is some esoteric thing that requires an outgoing personality. But it isn’t. It is just two things:

  • An exchange of information; and
  • Two or more persons getting to know each to develop a comfort level so that they can work together or do business together

Said very simply, in networking you are just telling people what you do and having them tell you what they do, and seeing what pops out of that.

Whatever you may be thinking as you read this, I strongly urge you to get out of your chair, stop hiding behind your desk, and get “out and about.” You may feel like this is a waste of time, because at first you don’t know anyone and you have nowhere to go, but you have to admit that if you don’t get out and about, nothing is certain to happen; however, if you get out, then something “might” happen…..

You might be thinking that you don’t need me to tell you this as it is obvious, and you don’t need to read my article to tell you obvious things. Well, sorry for my French here, but that is utter bulls**t. I watch carefully what goes on, and almost all lawyers absolutely need me to tell them this because so many of them in fact just sit in their offices and don’t get out and about. Instead of being the like The Little Red Hen and hunting for leads, they sit back and largely wait for the opportunities to come to them.

And here is a weird, strange, and oddly inspiring statistic, at least in the legal and professional services world. If you want to be in the top 10% of professional service marketers, just do one single thing. This is because 9 out of 10 lawyers do absolutely no marketing at all!  So if you just do one thing, you are in the top 10%!!!!

That is kind of interesting, isn’t it?  I admit I read this in a book by David Maister called Managing the Professional Services Firm (affiliate link), and I am not sure these percentages are really true, but based on my own experience and observations, I think it is probably fairly accurate.

In any case, the first Threebie is to get out and about. Don’t sit around. Be like The Little Red Hen. She didn’t sit around. She went out and got it done.

My next two articles will – unsurprisingly – reveal the second and third Threebies….