Office Leasing, Routines & Fancy Pants
Office space leasing is not exactly rocket science, but it does require a lot of intuition. All my clients that owned buildings would invariably ask, “How long will it take to lease out this space?”
And each time I pulled out my crystal ball and said, “Maybe nine months, but probably a little over a year.”
It was the best answer I could provide. Six months would have been kooky talk. Nine months if we got lucky. A year was reasonable for a market like Kansas City, but I then usually hedged myself by adding, “…it could stretch to eighteen months.”
I never said two years. This would have been too depressing for everyone to imagine such a period of slugging through broker events, tours, proposals, and dead deals on an old dusty space. My team usually got the job done in a timely manner except for one notable space: the sixth floor of 2405 Grand in Crown Center.
For almost a decade I walked down Grand Street from my office to that very building and give a bi-weekly update on our team’s leasing activity. Which meant one of us explained over two hundred times why the sixth floor was still vacant. This would be like us Catholics, with a toiled conscience, approaching the priest every two weeks after mass asking, “Now Father explain to me, why is that man hanging from the cross?” Just like a priest who must express in a new way each week Jesus’s love for us, I had to explain why the latest proposal for the sixth floor had been laid to rest with little chance of a resurrection.
All these update meetings for clients were a form of storytelling. Although we had a tight little spreadsheet of deals in front of us, the client hung on to every word we said that described where, what, why and how each transaction was unfolding. This real estate storytelling was always honest, informative and interesting. I hesitate to call it entertaining, but there was that time when the late Mary Riley-Cheek, who was the queen of suburban office space and a modern-day Mary Tyler Moore with a dose of Joan Rivers, forgot the keys to the building and in absolute shock to herself said, “I’ve never done that before!” With my eyebrows raised and a long look at her, I thought to myself, “Okay Mary, and I’ve never forgotten a stack of brochures before.”
I just might have hammed up that experience for the client but reflecting now, my brokerage career was fantastic training ground for creative writing. It required detailed emails and proposals, descriptive property brochures, and fine-tuning of language in contracts. All this was meant to excite, influence, and ultimately get a prospective tenant to sign on the dotted line. It’s no surprise that lawyers become great writers with their technical training in wordsmithing, but a commercial real estate broker must make the writing colorful and appealing to a broad audience. I wonder if I’m at the leading edge of a burgeoning cottage industry of new writers.
The bigger topic I am thinking about though is: Why do we do things over and over again? Why do we have so many scheduled meetings with management? Why do we go to church every week? Why do we play golf every Friday afternoon? Why do we drive the same route to work each day? There are endless examples, and it is shocking we subject ourselves to so many routines while living in a freedom seeking society.
I argue it is just that: we live in societies that provide endless opportunities and choices. If we did not establish routines, we would all go nuts wondering what is to come, or get bogged down in the most mundane of daily tasks.
Those bi-weekly meetings at 2405 Grand kept things peaceful. Sure, it would have been nice to flop a signed lease down on the table in triumph, but the main objective was to keep the folks upstairs at Hallmark Cards (the owner of Crown Center) from getting too antsy. The routine kept me accountable, hired and my client less stressed-out.
As more personal traditions go, I no longer maintain regular mass attendance like in my childhood. Monsignor, my hometown priest, let me off the hook by telling me recently that Jesus is not keeping score, but I now see how it was a good thing for our family. In the chaos of a weekend, every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. we had to regroup for an hour at St. Ann in Prairie Village. Some of us (me) easily succumbed to this order, but for others (my sister) required a twenty-minute warning of, “get moving Catherine,” which led to a time-is-up, get-in-the-car, series of honks. Somehow that same sister who could not get ready for church in a timely manner is now a big shot partner at a billion-dollar firm, and the orderly twin brother, is “managing principal” of a company that has no revenue.
Living a disciplined life may not guarantee a path up the corporate ladder, but it may make it possible to pursue a winding road to your dreams. Life as a writer thus far has required very little reoccurring obligations. Therefore, if it was not for my habit of starting each day with a couple cups of coffee, an hour-plus of reading and then biking into the office, I would be a wreck. The biggest daily decision I must make between waking up and stepping into the office is what to wear. From then on, I am mentally ready for anything in life that is thrown at me.
Now some people take routines to the extreme. For example, there are several guys here at WeWork that wear nearly the same thing every day. Are they that streamlined in life? Or so inspired by Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg with their Silicon Valley issued t-shirt and jeans? I am not sure about the other gentlemen, but I chatted with Tim, the lesser of the offenders, about his style. Upon closer observation, he has a subtle but very profound style. His t-shirt and pants though cost nearly as much as my monthly apartment rent, so it’s no wonder he has a tight clothes rotation.
Unlike Tim, I am not wearing Leon Emanual Blank handstitched asymmetrical seamed pants and need a fair amount of variety. With a bit of sartorial irony, this reminded me of another piece of advice from Monsignor: life is all about balance. I’m probably hitting my routine 70% of the time. The other 30% is just life. You know, all that messiness that never goes away.
None of this is groundbreaking but it finally leads me to discussing the matter at hand. After a short break to evaluate where I wanted to take my writing, I have decided to invest in this publication and send it out again on a regular basis. Not only do I love telling these little stories but missed the deadlines I inflicted on myself for Vol. 1 of The Munich Times.
In an effort keep shifting my writing career towards a business you will notice this edition is now delivered through Substack. This platform is leading the way for independent writers and will help The Munich Times reach a wider community. There is nothing for you to do and no need to sign up for anything. I just hope you will keep reading this newsletter. I am so grateful for your continued support, feedback and for not clicking the unsubscribe button.
Much of my business routines went away after starting my own firm years ago. When I left the big firm, I said goodbye to most update calls and quarterly projections, but I also said goodbye to the sixth floor of 2405 Grand. I never got the job done after ten years of trying but the word on the street is that the space with fading black leather couches, a creaky rolling metal door at the reception desk and an internal staircase leading down to a blank wall is still sitting empty.