During my tenure as head of real estate I always began the new year with a few resolutions that would become goals for the year ahead. These were typically above and beyond department objectives for the year and represented personal goals for some kind of improvement. Here are a few that I recall:
- Strive for personal development either by taking a career development course such as those offered by IFMA or Corenet; or catching up on a few popular management books. I’ve always been interested in strategy so I would seek out papers or books by Michael Porter of Harvard who is recognized as the guru of corporate strategy. His book “Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors” is a classic on strategy. I also read several books by Jim Collins, most notably:” Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t”
- Attend at least one industry conference for both learning and networking experience. I was a member of IDRC for over fifteen years and served as its president in 1996-1997 before it merged with NACORE. Attending IDRC and then Corenet conferences became a yearly habit. When I switched industries and became an analyst at Gartner, I was obliged to attend the Gartner events as a speaker. I absorbed a huge amount of knowledge and insight about information technology which added exponentially to my knowledge base.
- Update my contact base. I’m a strong proponent of networking both for what you can learn from others but also for the help a network can provide. I would constantly touch base with contacts in the brokerage, design, and engineering fields on all matter of issues. These contacts become surrogate members of your staff and can help to resolve issues or problems quickly and efficiently. I recall reaching out to contacts in various cities when our group was working a deal for a new lease or construction project. What was the market outlook? What are the issues with local codes or covenants? Who’s a superior contractor in the local market? Your contacts in these cities can be an invaluable source of intelligence.
- Constantly encourage innovation. I always had a passion for the “next big thing” and strived to inspire my organization to propose ways to improve our processes or technologies. I recall several innovations over the course of my career. At Xerox I led an effort to develop a Lease Management system we called “Lease-Ad.” By today’s standards this was a pretty rudimentary system written in Microsoft’s database management application. At one point we tried to sell the system to outside users but we ended up letting one of our employees take the system out on his own. Another innovation I developed with colleagues was a consulting group we called “The Harbinger Group.” The mission of this group was to pioneer research in the emerging “office of the future” trend. Our greatest accomplishment was helping a scientist from Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center bring his network technology in front of Xerox senior management. The technology was a fiber optic networking system that allowed huge amounts of data to be transmitted over fiber optic cable. Xerox management had no interest in the technology (“we’re not in the wire business”) so I helped the scientist hook up with a corporate marketing guy who presented the technology to one of Harbinger’s venture capitalist clients. The upshot of this introduction was venture funding of over $1M, a license deal with Xerox, and a new company called Synoptics, which later became Bay Networks and ultimately was acquired by Cisco Systems. The technology became a key component of Internet networking. In essence Xerox walked away from a multiple billion dollar opportunity.
At Gartner I teamed up with MIT and worked for a year developing a research project we called “The Agile Workplace.” This was a multi-client sponsored study and resulted in a landmarkreport on the worker mobility phenomenon. Many of the findings in the report became the basis for all kinds of technologies and practices which now represent the “new normal” in worker mobility.