July 12, 2016

Leading vs. Following: Both Methods can be Profitable

By Norman Cross
– The Memphis Business Journal –

If two people agree on everything, one of them isn’t necessary. Not to worry,  pioneers and those who follow are rarely in agreement.

We’re all familiar with the classic mantra "lead, follow, or get out of the way." While we often ascribe this quaint saying to deranged and over zealous type A’s, let’s see  how it is the de facto creed for the vast majority of real estate developers.

Depending on the business philosophy of the developer there is money to be made and market share to capture by either leading or following, in a  measured and strategic manner, but never from getting out of the way.

Pioneers are visionaries in action. They usually end up one of two ways: Dead on the prairie with arrows in their back or laughing all the way to the bank.

Let’s look at some local pioneers who are survivors and who have left their marks forever on our community. Families like Belz, Boyle, Clark, Snowden and Trezevant; and individuals such as Al Andrews (Panattoni), Tommy Farnsworth (Farnsworth Investment Co.), Steve Nelson (IDI), David Peck (Weston Cos.) and Henry Turley (Henry Turley Co.).

To be sure, they would all have their fair share of souvenir arrows they have collected along the way but they were all driven on by their vision, a "can do" attitude and a never say "uncle" mentality.

A little vision can go a long way.

Pioneering isn’t necessarily all about having a PhD or a large bank account.  Sometimes it’s just being able to recognize the obvious when others can’t.

At the beginning of the space race the Americans spent a few million dollars to  develop a pen that would write in zero gravity; the Russians saved those millions — they used pencils. Advantage…low tech.

People love to heap great praise on those who can "think outside the box."  While that can sometimes be beneficial, my praises go to those who consistently outmaneuver and outperform the competition "inside the box".

Jack Nicklaus has the classic "can do" spirit and was the best at beating his  competition "inside his box" — the golf course. He always sized up his competition during the first two rounds not so much by their game but by what they said. He knew the 20% he’d be playing against on Sunday; they weren’t  whiners. Of the other 80%, the herd, 20% complained that the fairways were too tight; 20% said the rough was too deep; 20% didn’t like the speed of the greens; and 20% whined about the clubhouse food.

Nicklaus recognized that whiners aren’t winners. Successful real estate developers don’t whine either. They avoid the whining herd like the plague.  They turn a deaf ear to those who offer a plethora of reasons why an idea won’t work and then they go out and make it happen.

Some of the better "inside the box" victories are Weston’s redevelopment of  Colonial Country Club into Audubon Woods Business Campus; Boyle’s redevelopment of Ridgeway Country Club into Ridgeway Center; Belz’s  redevelopment of Sienna College into the Oak Court Mall and Office Building; and Henry Turley and Jack Belz’s Downtown redevelopments from Peabody Place to Harbor Town.

How many arrows of "you’re crazy" and "our bank just can’t see this being successful so we can’t make you the loan" do you think the Belzes, Boyles, David Peck and Henry Turley had to dodge along the way? More than they  could, or care to, count.

Many businesses are content to simply swim in the wake of others who precede them. These men and their companies have made mighty big wakes from their residential subdivisions and master planed communities, office parks and buildings, shopping centers and malls, to their warehouse and distribution  facilities.

So, jump on in. The water’s fine.

Just leave your arrows on the bank.