November 9, 2021

Traveling, even for work, certainly has a feeling of skipping work. I get to see new places, meet new people, drive a rental car, go out to eat. I don't answer my phone as much, and that can become an issue. The office concerns get boiled down only to as much as I can accomplish between airplane flights. I celebrate our staff, while they do all the work!

Walked a site today, a group considering a property, considering strategy and next steps, making notes. Some of it is imagination, I suppose, but it doesn’t feel like we made it quite that far. Today's walkthrough was a lot about assessing, analyzing, value judgments, ROI. That’s not entirely fair, this is an established developer, and they're open to ideas. And now, it’s my turn to bring those ideas to the table.

A spreadsheet to answer the questions, and a plan with some color.

When it's all a possibility, before we know what to recommend, it's an unsettling moment of not knowing what to say, what to suggest, a little testing of the waters. I had a wave of enjoying that moment, that uncertainty, that looking for answers, that openness and not having to have an answer.

I think that's the future, and I think that's, honestly, better business management. I’ve been in lots of meetings in that moment where people say unhelpful things. It’s the point when character and qualifications come to the surface, and it’s a very healthy place to observe.

Today, the points for the moment of indecision go to the Civil engineer and the client. Let me please also claim a few points for holding my tongue and assessing my surroundings. I’m much more cognizant of those surroundings now, than in the past, I take more time to take it in. That's not all good news, I step into prejudices and value judgments that I might have previously ignored.

We enjoy the moral of "highest and best use,” when we think of what to put on a piece of land, or how far to take the renovation, and I think it’s an enormously helpful exercise.

Sometimes the conversation goes to lowest entry-of-investment, but in an active market, when the developer pool is a little deeper, (a little younger!) the conversation can start a little closer to "what if?"

And so, tonight, I look at a piece of land and formulate the spreadsheet, and add a little color to the plan, and remind myself to ask," what if?" You have to know that it's not an empty question, it’s actually the job. I drove around the site, I felt the environment, I noticed the proximity of the highway, and the adjacency and the quality grade of the car dealerships. The development behind us, I thought could have been a resource, but it may be a liability. We will have to work well to invest wisely, to say the right words, to recommend with clarity and vision within constraints. Improvement and repair without displacement, without opposition to place and time, to today, and to precisely 15 years in the future, when our clients are satisfied in their terms, and our residents are safe and successful, and a little more comfortable than they expected to be.

Highest and Best use; it’s okay it we’re not sure how to get there. It’s okay if we watch our clients figure it out, watch them test the ideas with their investors and with the present-day property values. And it’s okay, it's necessary, that we push back, and push back at the beginning, before they get it all worked out!

We’re getting a little overwhelmed, if I’m honest – maybe it's just me. It’s the October hole, all the bills are due. We breathe-deep for 24 hours, and then the phone rings.

Got a call from a church tonight, we love churches – for the good parts, anyway – but even the Church's call sounded like all the rest of the calls, "Look, we’ve owned the building for a long time, and we’ve tried to talk the city into letting us just use it as it is, but they say we need an architect, and we just have to get this moving, and if we can get in before Christmas, that would be great." Dear Pastor, you're in a hurry, you've been pushed around by the city, you think you're losing friends, and COVID, we get it, believe me, I get it. But, here we go, we’re connecting now. Slow it down. Don’t push it. Breathe deep! 24 hours, that's all we get, and then let's talk, let’s talk about what you want, what you hope will happen in this place that you bought.