The hazy, crazy days of summer

Thanks to technology, the pace doesn’t seem to slow down


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I was remembering the days when summertime meant those of us in commercial real estate could kick back a little bit, sneak out to play a little golf. But that was last century. I am supposed to be off for a few days in Vermont but the emails and voicemails keep coming – maybe I need to go deeper into the woods!

The point is that with all the connectivity, there is very little downtime. By downtime, I do not mean zero work focus, but ideally enough pause to be cerebral about projects, issues, deals, etc., that are stalled, sidetracked or coming unraveled. In our world, a “no” is a definite “maybe.” But the challenge is to stop the instant communications from terminating deals or even conversations.

I was on the phone with my partner and a client the other night trying to interpret the underlying message or intent of an email. We used to sit down and draft a letter (perhaps even dictate it), and then it would be typed and reviewed before signing and mailing. Plenty of time to ponder, consider, reconsider. Not today! Bam! Hit send on a half-baked text or email and the message (good, bad or indifferent) is out there.

As an older member of the profession and a practicing mediator and arbitrator, I am keenly aware of how poorly thought-out communications can muddy the waters (to say the least). I find myself reviewing communications from our younger staff. I am trying to give guidance on nuance and the potential for unintended interpretations. So quiet time is more important/vital today than ever.

In our Monday morning sales meeting, we tee up plenty of projects and tasks for the week (perhaps too many some weeks). The challenge is prioritizing them and tackling only those that have a reasonable chance of advancing the ball – in the right direction.

Of course, it is easy to make these observations while sitting at the kitchen table with a fresh cup of coffee with plenty of time before the next conference call. One of the firms in our industry takes Friday afternoons off in the summer – what a great idea, three or four hours of R&R should more than pay for itself in the following week’s productivity.

Alas, I think I am being more than a little bit nostalgic here. I do not see the pace of things slowing down. It reminds me of the sign in my basement shop – “measure twice and cut once.”

The summer of 2016 shows no signs of letting up. The Brexit vote happened. The unraveling of the EU will not be a good thing for the global economy. The fall elections in the U.S. will be front-and-center, but it is not entirely clear to me how that might affect the economy and business cycle.

So leases, sales and development will continue unabated, but somewhat less robust than in the past two years. I suppose I need to transition back to action mode and leave the contemplative thinking for another time.

Bill Norton, president of Norton Asset Management and principal of Harrington & Reeves, is a Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and a Facilities Management Administrator (FMA). He can be reached at wbn@nortonnewengland.com.

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