Recessions always follow periods of high growth just like periods of high growth follow recessions. Like waves at the shore, these things are inevitable. People that like to impress people with the brilliant predictions always find a large enough audience looking for an article to support their agenda.

Buy now before prices skyrocket (great word … “skyrocket”)!

Better sell now, our analysts say, we are headed into a recession … ooooh!

Sell, buy, sell, buy ….

Back during some of our worst overbuilt real estate markets, I was amused at the “market is going to get better” pronouncements of one major national commercial real estate house. Of course, they are going to get better! There was nowhere else to go!

What about using the current circumstances to your advantage in your real estate negotiations? With what fiendish delight do we wring our hands over the carnage of these recent events?

Does this hurt our economy? No doubt? Is it a recession? No. Not in its truest sense.

Much like in the 1959 movie classic, On the Beach, as newspaper blew across the abandoned streets of New York as all of the northern hemisphere was destroyed by nuclear war, our streets seem equally abandoned. But, unlike in that story, the human race has not been wiped out, and we will come back, and come back strong in my opinion.

Certain business activities have gone underground, but not in a shady sense, but rather in a bomb shelter mentality. As in war, life goes on, business continues. It is just not the same.

It risks coming back so strongly that once again writers will be predicting our next recession!

But it will be a new world.

The office world has just gone through its biggest shakeup in history. Many people who said that their businesses could not operate out of their homes have found that not to be the case. People who have played around and had technology that has largely gone unused are now having to use it and, after getting it to work properly, which in some cases had never been a necessity, have found it to be quite clever and useful and are now being forced to rethink their former convictions.

Many traditional businesses may find their ability to hold on to their employees a bit more challenging as some of these may be surprised that they can in fact work from home, like it, and for that reason may explore other ways to ply their trade. The businesses will be forced to adapt. Find new ways to perpetuate their appeal as they compete in this new job market.

The coworking phenomenon that many viewed as a grown up version of the college cafeteria, with all of it excellent “social interaction” has met with the same challenges as the colleges as seasonal bugs send half of the students home to their parents, “young adults” without adult supervision. Is this their Achilles heel?

And yet, Amazon, Walmart and others, have used this occasion to only further introduce the populace to the advantages of at home deliveries, expanding the options, as at the grocery store, placing the candy in the checkout line, making this irresistible to buy for the few pennies more, no one is watching! Will this not only increase the demand for this type of servicer?

This has certainly not helped retail. Of course, many of the stores were nothing more than costly marketing facades for their ever-expanding online marketing trades. But, many of these have now taken this to a new level, at home deliveries becoming necessary and routine.

Unemployed by a single retailer, professional shoppers are out buying our groceries and delivering them to our home.

The recent, “last mile” investment strategies of many of the funds have made them to appear as geniuses, at least ultimately.

Restaurants have now been forced to explore new ways to address their markets. Many were already involved in at home delivery. Many more are now doing it.

Uber drivers have found many ways in which to employ their services.

How does this effect you as the tenant?

Some landlords will be anxious to do anything to get the deal done. Better safe than sorry.

Others can afford to wait and will.

It will be weeks, possibly months, before we get any sense of where events are leading.

As with everything in the brave new world, proceed with extreme caution, don’t assume anything.

Hope that you are doing well!

These are unsettling times. Over the last decade, we have watched our warehouse customers migrate to larger and more centralized logistics centers, as our office clients have come to rely more on office coworking facilities. These and even the holdouts must now consider alternative measures to deal with the added “security” demands of a deadly virus. Will they become a part of the trends or join forces with friendly competitors to form cooperative office and distribution centers, minimizing unnecessary duplications in personnel and equipment and adapting and becoming more reliant on available technologies in their warehouses and their home offices.

What will this mean for your operations? Have you considered options? Seriously!

Maybe, we could schedule a time to discuss this by phone?

Hope to catch up with you soon.

Tom Wesley

Coworking Firm Considers Funds in Addition to Initial Public Stock Offering, Reports Say

I am not ashamed to acknowledge that I have a selfish interest in this thing. My family has made a very good living off of office space, both representing owners and tenants.

Also, as a human and more so as as Christian, I have an interest in what I see happening to my fellow man. As someone who has to live in a status quo economy, my world order matters to me.

As an office expert who looks at what co-habitation does to office space, I look at the long term issues that it presents, many of which are being ignored.

To the building owner with a vacant, preoccupied space, the buildout costs are often less than for a conventional tenant. There are many, large and empty floors … do not miss this point. Backfilling these with co-working facilities solves an immediate problem. The asset manager scores points. He has a full building.

But, these floors are vacant for reasons that remain to be resolved. The asset manager retires. It is his successors problem. He did his job.

Tenant spaces are getting smaller, more employees work out of their homes or co-working facilities. The tenant improvements required to subdivide and renovate the space of a former full floor user to accommodate smaller tenants are much greater than just paint and carpet. They include firewalls, exit corridors, substantial modifications in air-handling and electrical systems

The owner has, in effect, cast his lot, placed his bet on co-working. If it does not work, the long term future of the asset is in trouble.

This is not just because of the unaddressed issues noted above, when that sexy, co-working tenant moves out, the space has to be remodeled for other tenants; and sexy office space is more expensive to remodel than conventional space because you often have to replace a whole set of super cool finishes that the next tenant would not want. Even reutilizing super cool stuff can cost more than conventional space.

If co-working begins to falter, and we suspect that it will, these issues are all set to happen when a whole lot of other problems occur in the economy – the perfect storm scenario where a set of problems meet a second set of problems which only serve to make both that much more consequential.

Here is the next set.

As a Christian, I believe in the priority of work for both the employer and the employee. Stable employment is critical to establishing a career, a profession and raising a family, having time to teach our children important things. That means that the jobs must have an ora of permanence, and my attitude towards my work should project this.

The short term office phenomena may mirror permanence, but it lacks substance. Both employer and employee are prepared to escape on short notice. For the employer, he has limited commitments; for the worker, the alternative job market becomes as easy as walking down the hall to the break room.

As a child, I once heard this music myself. The game was musical chairs. The way that we played it, we always had one less chair than players. We went around in a circle as the music played, giggling. It was all great fun until the music stopped, and you were left, staring at the others, lacking a chair.

One day many of the chairs will evaporate into thin air.

Like the building owners before them, the business owners will have solved a short term problem – no employees, no costs, no responsibility.

This will be devastating.

The team or tribe in the business world can start out as small as two people and grow from there.

Going back to the fact that a gifted worker will inevitably generate surplus, this most often comes in the form of additional opportunities to do business. Because a gifted worker will invariably have standards which he applies to the way that he does business, these opportunities can become overwhelming without the support to continue to deal in a manner that he views as compatible with his standards.

As addressed earlier, this support can come in the form of outsourcing to persons with gifts specific to the tasks which make up the assignment. And, this can be effective to a certain degree. However, in order to take full advantage of the potentiality that occurs through our applied gifts, it is best to employ others with similar gifts who are also employed in and familiar with the full range of tasks that the assignment might require. These individuals cannot be outsiders. They must be members of your team or tribe.

There is an inevitable conflict between quality and quantity. Team members must be supervised and corrected as necessary to insure that the final work meets the standards of the originator. This means that time must be allocated to accomplish this; or, put another way, no gifted worker can ever expect to achieve the highest level of satisfaction in his work without providing time for the passing on of his ways to others.

In our very competitive culture, it seems odd to equip others to do our job or eventually even to take our job; however, this is how it must be done. Through the course of time, this transference of skill should go both ways. In a team environment, without the presence of selfishness and obstinance, this can be a very rewarding benefit that, in our opinion, is a critical element to navigating through an ever changing business climate. This requires common values, a commitment to long term thinking and unselfishness.

By increasing the number of gifted associates, we insure a continuous source of business opportunity from which all of us can benefit and achieve recognition in our industry for the high standards that we demand of ourselves in our service to our client.

This organization exists for the growth and perpetuation of a standard of doing business which will inure to the benefit of our clients and our associates without fear that our future will ever be sold off as a means to provide for a former associate’s “golden years”!

Reviewing the Haddow Report earlier this year, I was surprised to see “in print” that staff positions have for the most part ceased to exist in most companies. This has become somewhat obvious without our collective willingness to acknowledge it. Possibly, it was the economic devastation at the end of the 20th Century and the “dot.bomb” that left many of us hoping for a return to what we viewed as normal. But, normal never came. I doubt if it ever will. It seems that we had the technology but had not seen a need to employ it to the extent that we do today in our everyday business. My, how times have changed.

We anticipate that this trend will only progress further providing salaried employment only in fields such as logistics and manufacturing with even these being vulnerable to the steady trend of transference from human-to-machine. Certainly, professional positions in architecture and engineering, education, healthcare, hotels and hospitality and utilities will continue to exist but these are requiring higher educational standards and, resultingly, a greater commitment of time and effort than in the past. We have seen this most obviously demonstrated in the need for having a graduate degree, a simple college degree being no longer adequate to attest to our worthiness for a steady paycheck.

This leaves a huge void in the area of what has long been referred to as supplemental family income or, where there was traditionally a primary wage earner, the income required to bridge that gap during child raising and to allow for the goal of retirement. Simple secretarial skills have lost their economic importance.

We have seen a shift to single task employment, outsourcing tasks like the printing, binding and production of materials to facilities equipped to do this for us.

This requires a tremendous amount of creativity to adapt our natural gifts and abilities to a world of seemingly limitless opportunity – assuming that we are willing to adapt our economic expectations accordingly. This requires once again an ability to think, creatively.

A still greater potential should lie in our willingness to recognize and employ the gifts of others to complement and supplement our own efforts.

We see a feeble attempt at this in the world on “networking” because, with this, comes very limited accountability. “I see that you know Matt on Linkedin.” This is little more than an attempt to exist off of relationship sharing, without a share in the long term consequences of a referral. This is a weak sister to forging formal alliances in an integrated business model which allows no means of escaping the blame for the poor performance of our counterpart.

We apply this principle of accountability in what we refer to as a tribe or team. There are other relationships that go beyond this that are a bit less formal. But, I must emphasize that we believe that any relationship requires monitoring for the sake of safeguarding our corporate integrity.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Call it a tribe, a team, a partnership, whatever, the concept of community, corporate effort is as ancient as civilization itself. There is something holy about this ingredient of life that we have so cheapened that it is beyond our comprehension as to how far from its pure essence we have wandered.

Just because we put a name on it, so that it can be differentiated from others and it generates relatively consistent revenue to support salaries and other costs associated with it operations, does not mean that we have put a cap rate on it and sell it. There are people involved who own a part of what that company is. It is their work that has helped to make it what it is. In some cases, these folks are long gone, dead and buried. They deserve more than to have their heritage sold off, often accompanied by a name change whereby all recognition of their past endeavors disappears, buried in some dusty archive, never to see the light of day again.

Corporations should exist to produce goods and services for the community and provide employment in which workers and utilize their gifts, their skills to best of their abilities.

If you have read my previous writings on gifts, you understand that I believe that the substance of civilization is fundamentally the utilization of the excess that is derived from our work in exchange for the excess produced by others. Hostile forces attempt to steal this excess without making any effort at providing a meaningful contribution of their own. As with other fundamental principles of civilization, I don’t know that these hostiles understand that they are doing this. It seems that, as with these corporate raiders, these parasites ransack civilization like mobs in a riot, breaking out windows and stealing whatever they can get their hands on with a perceived justification born out of the fact that everyone else is doing it.

We will not.

There must be other ways to provide for our needs without having to burn the ship as part of our exit strategy.

This past week, the Atlanta Business Chronicle posted an article lauding the fact that a long time member of Atlanta’s office skyline, Colony Square, had signed a lease with a WeWork, a large national co-worker operation, for 3 floors in their 100 Building and that that operation would ultimately “bring almost 1,000 workers to the mixed use project.”

Being a slave to logic, I immediately thought back at the numerous opportunities that I had had over the last 45 years to visit this project and how difficult it had been typically to procure a parking space. Like most urban projects, Colony Square’s parking was built to accommodate a “float”, that being an average number of occupants at the buildings at a given time, rather than the actual number of desks located on the floors. In this case, the parking was designed to accommodate 2 spaces per 1,000 square feet where the actual occupancy was probably closer to 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet. Imagine my surprise to find that Colony Square was leasing space to a tenant whose population was 18.8 persons per 1,000 square feet.

Of course, WeWork does not expect 1,000 people to actually occupy those three floors at a single time. This is rather the number of people that, using their own “float”, they feel that they can accommodate on those three floors without forcing folks to sit in each other’s laps. With co-worker environments, people share chairs, desks, offices, conference rooms …. space. Some are virtual workers who never venture upon the premises. Some of the more traditional, executive office suite companies estimate that their effective occupancy is 1 person per 100 square feet. Still is this much less than the 18.8 per 1,000 (1 per 53 square feet) projected by WeWork at Colony Square.

CONDECO produces a sensor program (watch this video) that monitors that use of desks or workstations and even conference rooms to determine whether a company is getting its money’s worth out of its office facilities. This is the type of thing that should keep office building owners and lenders awake at night. This is one very big reason that, with very limited exceptions, there are no spec buildings going up in the Atlanta office market right now.

Does anyone fully understand the long term implications of this super-utilization of office space? No. But, if you are going to a meeting at Colony Square, better take the bus.

.               Personal computers and sophisticated phone systems have almost eliminated clerical workers

.               Not needing traditional office space and often working from their homes, employees locate in cities preferred for lifestyle reasons

.               Transportation becomes less important with a preference to travel shorter distances for one’s sustenance

.               Because travel is often limited to flying out to another city, commuter traffic issues can be minimized; the need for the expansion of highways is questionable

.               Hotel use is up because of the number of workers use these occasionally to visit a central office or to attend meetings with their colleagues or clients

.               Online shopping has led to an increased need for 3rd party logistics and fulfillment centers that, in order to reduce travel distances and the cost of shipping, or more likely to be located closer to the consumer

.               Curb side pickups have affected traditional retail and grocery stores that are increasingly smaller and more likely to accommodate customers who stop by to pick up packages that are ordered online

There remain a large number of traditional office operations that are not set up to align themselves with this new paradigm, but the number of these is more likely than not to decrease over time. Organizations are rethinking their entire structure in order to attract the highly qualified professionals that refuse to commute long distances to accommodate tradition work environments.

37signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson recently co-authored the book, Remote: Office Not Required. It is a detailed account of how their organization, consisting over 300 workers worldwide operates with a minimum requirement for office space. It addresses communications, online meetings, recruiting and hiring and the establishment of corporate culture.

I encourage every business owner to get a copy and reflect on its potential as relates to his business operations.

These headlines appeared in this morning’s Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Of course, you have to be living on another planet to ignore the loft office boom in Atlanta. It’s the “in thing”.

David Haddow, one of the best real estate consulting minds in Atlanta, recently noted in his quarterly newsletter, “Office development has been slow to bounce back following the 2007 – 2009 recession. The loft office component of Ponce City Market (550,000 square feet) is the only significant delivery in the past six years. It was very well-received, experiencing strong demand from technology and other creative companies attracted to the building’s industrial feel, Beltline location, and mixture of uses.

“Developers of a new wave of loft office projects are betting that the success of Ponce City Market was not an anomaly but  indicative of a broader shift in workplace preferences. As of August 2016, five loft office developments, totaling 525,000 square feet, were underway in Atlanta. Loft office space is not a new trend in Atlanta, but it was once an affordable alternative to Class A buildings. However, rents in this new generation of projects are generally competitive with traditional office towers and range from $26 to $34 per square foot.”

He goes on to add, “The flurry of loft office development raises the question of how deep the demand is for this product. It is too early to tell, but strong job growth in the technology sector and the leasing momentum at Stockyards Atlanta and Armour Yards are encouraging signs.”

OK. Cool.

But today’s article in The Atlanta Business Chronicle tells us that the new, lead tenant for this hip and cool loft office development in the Old Fourth Ward is none other than Room to Work LLC. If you read on you will note that Room to Work LLC is a “co-working concept”. Like loft office space, co-working concepts are springing up all over the place. They are to the traditional office model what Uber is to the taxi and limousine business. The article refers to three of these, WeWork, Industrious and Regus’ Spaces while ignoring the number of “mom and pop” operations set up by local landlords trying to fill empty space in their buildings that no one wants to lease.

The bottomline is that co-working concepts are “synthetic” office use and will not support a convincing enough cashflow to have anyone other than private equity firms committing long term resources to these things. Unfortunately, given the poor returns in other traditional investments and the hoopla given these new hip real estate investment opportunities, there are way too many, too eager investors rushing into this type of thing.

Caveat Emptor – “Let the buyer beware”!

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: … mind your own business and work with your hands …, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

am·bi·tion amˈbiSH(ə)n/ noun – a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.

What do we want from life? Peace and quiet? Do we have to wait until retirement or death to enjoy this?

Have you ever noticed how, when you are watching a show on network television that the advertisements for the programs are broadcast at a higher volume. We often have to turn down the volume just to stay in the room.

Noise attracts attention. Noise motivates. A siren can be good if it alerts others to an approaching ambulance or police car. However, noise is also used to intimidate. And, this is not always in our best interest. Those that would control us, yell. Drill sergeants yell!

The world is a loud and scary place.

Respect? Wouldn’t we live better lives if we enjoyed the respect of others? Would the respect of others cause us to have more self-respect?

If we are not dependent on others, we are independent, right? Is that truly achievable?

Yet, we are told not to be dependent on anyone. This is to be our ambition. We are to avoid anything, anybody that requires dependency in exchange for protection. Dependency will not bring us peace. Nor will it bring us respect.

I do not mean to be insensitive to complex situations. We have to pay our bills, take care of our responsibilities. Possibly, we need that job because we need the experience that we will learn by doing it. This is fine. However, if we lack the skills to do anything else and, as a result, are dependent on that job because of our limitations, we must develop others skills that will allow us to escape the entrapment of dependency.

If you are dependent on your boss’s generosity for your survival, do not be surprised if you are treated like a dependent and compensating accordingly. What if something should happen to where he is no longer there to support you? You’re in trouble … whose fault is that, really?

Worst case, your boss or spouse may use your dependency to abuse you, to demean you, to take advantage of you, to ignore the relative value of your role and that of your coworkers by unjust compensation or arrogant despotism, and you put up with this. You lack the “ambition” for the one thing that is critical to your being – independence – not being dependent on others. Ambition requires “determination and hard work”. You must flee that trap. Better to live a modest life on modest means than to be a slave to an unjust employer.

Seek professional help. Follow your gifts. This is where you are most likely to find success and job satisfaction. Independence.

Here’s a great list of gifts. Math, languages, music, sports, just a few of the abilities that separate us from everyone else. Some of us make professional careers out of these; most everyone else just takes them for granted – never encouraged to pursue these to possibly a more satisfying career path or lifestyle.

Fundamentally, there is more to this though than just having a good golf swing or remembering the names of actors in movies from the late ‘60’s. Our gifts are “the fundamental” of survival. Our gifts were what provided our ancestors with the ability to hunt for game, to forage for food and, later, to raise herds and grow crops, to create, to build, to provide a surplus which was employed to provide for their other needs. This is the basis for an economy. Our surplus employed to provide for the needs of others; their surplus to provide for our own.

The first fundamental unit of civilization, the tribe, incorporated this fundamental into a team activity. Tribes exist to this day in most civilizations. Surplus resulted in prosperity, peace, community. It was only when man recognized his ability to take what did not belong to him that things went awry. Raiding parties evolved to warlords. Tribes had a certain amount of natural affinity, but despotism was the inevitable consequence of the power of brute force.

Our search for ease of living, safety, creature comfort and promises of quick wealth makes us ready prey for easy manipulation. There is always someone there looking for ways to take away our surplus.

We see this in governments and corporations. We sacrifice our freedom of expression, our trading power of the commodity of our skills, our gifts – our natural surplus for the security of having someone else worry about it for us. IBM’s famous “cradle to the grave” offered human comfort in exchange for a commit to service.

This is fine if, when we think about it, we recognize what’s going on and are satisfied with this. But most of us don’t think about it. We just accept it. And, this is a problem. This is a problem because they take us for granted. Like nice barnyard critters, we go about our day, taking from the system and giving back, with no aspirations to be the farmer, isolated from the knowledge that there is another, better world out there.

There is a systematic indoctrination element of this which cannot be ignored. There is a loss of identity. We must reclaim our individuality and help others to break free of this trap. Social services are to serve man; not the other way around.

We must identify our gifts and create independence through well-honed skills, unless we are satisfied with much less than we should be willing to accept from life.

I recently came across a copy of The Haliburton Second Reader. This was the schoolbook from the early 1900’s that folks used to learn phonetics – to read and to write. It was employed in homes and in many one room schoolhouses throughout the country. But, it was not called the “second reader” because it applied to the second grade. Where it certainly provided a gage of accomplishment, it did not present a barrier to advancement either.

The one room schoolhouse required one teacher who taught all of the grades with each student progressing through their studies at his own pace and yet all of them benefiting from the communal atmosphere that required the older children to handle the harder tasks and younger ones to do slighter tasks according to each’s ability and stamina. To say that there was an education outside of just book learning would be a vast understatement.

When our own children were young, we would make it part of our daily schedule to share breakfast. It was during this time that, as the father, I would read from a wide variety of books, from the Bible to Aristotle Made Easy, encouraging communication and thinking. Our son, being the oldest by 4 years was the target of much of our instruction. After all, his sister was still too young to deal with many of the issues that he was facing as a young man. As years went by, we came to understand that the younger child retained more of the instruction intended for her brother than he did.

This brings me back to the one room schoolhouse and education in general. Unlike in today’s schools where subjects are studied in a single grade, where they are “age appropriate”, these children were allowed to learn when they were able to. No one was holding them back from retaining knowledge, and many learned to be teachers and went on to be teachers by giving help to the younger children. Everyone, including the school master, was constantly learning. Social sciences like, History and Government were continuously and repeatedly communicated in the classroom, rather than being restricted to certain grade levels. There was a solid foundation laid; and, to my way of thinking, a better foundation than our modern system of higher education offers today.

Life was not easy for these people. This was an agrarian society. Most would never go on to institutions of higher learning. Many would have to teach their own children at home because the distance into town was too far or they needed them at home. For the most part, the Haliburton Readers and their Bibles would be their only tools for instruction.

It is easy to perceive how much of what we call American patriotism might have sprung from these roots.

One of the tragedies of today’s nuclear family is that an essential element of interaction with our children is missing. We tend to rely on artificial stimulation and institutions to raise our children and, by doing so, abrogate our role as parents.

In her book, For the Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Mccauley stresses the importance of this interaction and illustrates how parents can succeed in today’s helter-skelter world.

Some of the points that she makes are that this is an adult world, and children that learn at early age to live in the presence of adults are better equipped to be successful as adults. Children are bored in the presence of other children; and, where they may learn a certain amount about social interaction, this is not likely to equip them for dealing with grocery stores and restaurants in which they are expected to behave like adults.

As hard as it may be on the parents to endure that interruption on a business call, our dogs do this, and people understand. Children have to learn when it is appropriate not to interrupt, even more so today when so many of us work remotely.

But, most importantly, Ms. Schaeffer stresses the critical role that parents play in identifying their children’s gifts. These are what will differentiate us as adults and give us a greater sense of our personal worth and, perhaps, lead us along a more satisfying career path.

We are not allowed to accept the norm. The advantages of this modern world have separated us from our children and incentivized us to rationalize that we are doing all of this for a worthy cause – our retirement.

Spending time with our children today will yield greater dividends than any other investment that we can make in our future today. They do not have to be robots. They can serve to build a better future for both themselves and others.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

In Walden Two, behavioral psychologist, B. F. Skinner, writes about a utopian world in which babies are programmed to hate the sweet smell of flowers and love the odor of garbage so that, at some point, they will function as totally content garbage collectors.

I am often reminded of this when I witness the soulless application of today’s fill-in-the-blank educational system in which achievement is as much about the completion of checklist as it is about the processing of numbers – “You’re done with your education. Get out of here. Go find a job.” Or, as Spock would say, “Live long and prosper”.

Somewhere along the line “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic” became too complicated, too demanding.

But, why?

Unlike a video, reading gives one the ability to stop and concentrate on what he is reading. To think.

Writing introduces one to the concepts of declension: nominative, dative, accusative – gerunds. Correct sentences require structure. This requires creativity, thought.

Arithmetic is not just about answering a series of multiplication or division problems – please don’t mix these together. It requires the comprehension of information and the application of known theorems or formulas to arrive at the correct answer.  Again, this requires thought and reasoning ability.

Education has become soulless. Loud music and videos (conveniently stored on our iPhones) allow us to go through live and avoid the often inconvenient activity of thought.

I recently visited the campus of one of the most respected technological universities in this country. I was disturbed at how everyone moved along, earplugs in place, without acknowledging the presence of other human beings. A din of the noise from their devices protected them against interaction with others.

At the risk of being labeled a conspiracy theorist, I have to ask, is this all by design?

Just like with Walden Two, utopian systems cannot survive where there is independent thought.

Consider this the next time you cringe when someone else’s thoughts disturb your comfort zone.

Having traveled long distances on a bicycle and had the opportunity to spend hours alone with my thoughts, it was easy for me to feel that I was there, all alone with God.

I believe that this is a good prospective from which to start to judge our modern day world and institutions. Because, without digging down this deep, we cannot be totally genuine about an interest in an unbiased perspective.

David was the King of Israel, the killer of Goliath, the writer of much of what we call the book of Psalms in the Bible. David started out as a shepherd. He had the benefit of having many hours to be totally alone with God. This time was not easy. There were bears and lions, cold miserable nights without shelter – a great time to curse God, if you would, and yet David had a fierce loyalty, a kindred spirit with God. It was said that David was a “man after God’s own heart”.

David is the closest thing to Adam, the first man, with which we can identify. It is David that wrote, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” These were not empty words for David. He must have meditated, contemplated them for hours, repeated them to himself often, throughout his life, from the start, from his very humble beginnings.

Regardless of our religious persuasion, we must be able to identify with a time when man was there all by himself with God. It was called the Garden of Eden, peaceful, abundant, care free.

Then man started screwing it up. He started using his liberty, his freedom, to choose between right and wrong, to do something that God did not want him to do. He used his liberty to choose an aberration over a balanced fellowship with his maker. And, we are told that, once he had done this, he tried to hide from God.

I can’t help but be reminded of the power of pornography and its domination of the Internet. Men and women hide in the hope that they will not be found out, that they have to acknowledge the powerful almost uncontrollable effect of lust. We have not changed. We still believe that we can hide from God … or just proclaim that He is not there. Ah, that’s simpler isn’t it?

Today you hear a lot about the importance of institutions. The individual has been reduced to a vote, a means by which a party can implement a platform which, in all earnestness, lacks much relevance to that individual. He is a consumer. His desires and weakness are constantly evaluated and exploited by the manipulators. Government, media, enterprise. There is little respect for the individual.

But, man does not exist for the institutions but rather the institutions exist for man. Don’t they?

This is where we start. If you want to seriously evaluate modern day models for education, governance and industry, you must start at their relevance to the individual.

One of the champions of the late bloomers is Colonel Harland David Sanders who reportedly founded Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 70! Actually, it was much earlier than that, in 1952. He was 62. But, probably the legend is more related to the fact that its meteoric rise was only noted several years after he first started and most significantly when he sold the business to a group of investors in 1964 at which time he was 74.

One of our biggest failings in modern history is the notion of retirement.

It is the shared opinion of many experts that early retirement is one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s and dementia. I will not waste space here relating the results of studies verifying its impact on longevity, but I need to look no further than to my own personal experiences to note the number of seemingly totally healthy associates who have died within months of retirement. The issues with alcoholism in retirement communities is legendary. Life is purposeless when it has lost its purpose. When it is no longer engaged in its work.

By the age of 70, most folks understand how unsatisfying accumulation, artificial stimulation, intoxication and even extensive travel can be. Having been through the crucible, they are better able to focus on the impact of decisions and events on others than being almost totally absorbed with fulfilling their own needs. This is when their leadership and perspective is most needed.

To install leaders in corporations with mandatory retirement dates and to incentivize them with stock options is only encouraging them to exercise short term and selfish thinking – to devise their own brand of golden parachutes which inevitably leave their constituents without work and short change investors.

The same might be said of politicians and their entry into public office which might seem to be more driven by the desire to sustain their jobs and gain their retirement benefits than to truly do what they are there to do. Public office has become an entry into a world of lucrative speaking engagements, under the table deals and cronyism. No one should allowed into public office who has not already provided well enough for his or her own needs without having to use the office for economic enhancement. Our leaders should not be incentivized to sell “the governed” short.

Graduating from college in 1938, my father was a product of the Great Depression. I am told that he wanted to work for J.C. Penney – the company and the man. The Synopsis in Bio says, “J.C. Penney was an American businessman born on September 16, 1875 in Caldwell County, Missouri. He worked at a dry goods store where he learned the business and eventually opened his own store in 1902. He expanded to 175 stores by the time he retired in 1917. He stayed active behind the scenes at the company to help plan the chain’s future. During the Great Depression, his stores survived by offering a good value to customers on a budget. He was a member of the company’s Board of Directors until his death on February 12, 1971.” The Great Depression began in 1929 and lasted into the early ‘40’s and the 2nd World War. J.C. Penney was there when the company and the country needed him.

Our institutions have wandered far from their responsibility in protecting public good. Our elders must be unselfish enough to recognize the importance of their role in providing guidance into the future; and, as with cultures before us, we need to relearn to respect the counsel of these people.

For someone growing up in the post Isaac Asimov world, the idea of a hostile robot is not hard to fathom.

For years in countries where unions are more part of the management of corporations and exist more as trade guilds – their purpose being less about protecting seniority and demanding higher wages – the delicate balance between the cost of labor and profitability has continued to be checked by the creation of robot type implements that replace many of the traditional jobs held by humans.

As a clear indicator that this technology will replace many existing jobs, a recent study by Georgia State’s Center for State and Local Finance (August 1016), points to the need for the State of Georgia to point its limited resources away from manufacturing jobs.

To quote directly from the study, “The report found that manufacturing jobs in Georgia declined by 27.5 percent between 2000 and 2014”. “’We’ve got limited resources,’ said David Sjoquist, an economics professor at Georgia State and the study’s author. ‘We’ve got to decide whether to spend them pursuing manufacturing or some other type of effort.’”

Amongst other factors such as outsourcing to low-wage workers in other countries, Sjoquist said, “technological developments … let manufacturers replace workers with robots. ‘Newer manufacturing requires highly skilled workers but fewer of them,’”.

Sjoquist encouraged that, “Rather than waiting for plants to close before offering training to unemployed workers, it suggests developing programs to prepare existing manufacturing workers for expected changes in required skill levels for new jobs.”

In other words, we need to preemptively retool our otherwise obsolete people.

When I recently purchased my used 2013 Toyota, I was amazed at the new gadgets that had been added since my 2004 model. After a week, I mastered most of the “skills” necessary to operate this phenomenon of modern science. However, I quickly learned that I no longer needed former skills like watching for columns and other automobiles as I navigated this machine through hostile parking deck obstructions. This wonder of modern science did this for me.

We need to realize that skills have limited value when it comes to long term survival. The ability to adapt is far more critical. This is where our focus should be. Teaching people to think rather than constantly training them in new skills.

In our efforts to create a better world, we have sought to lessen the pain of having to think.

After all, they might think that they would prefer to do something else.

Think about it.

Consumers often buy product based on their brand name. After all, it’s a “known commodity”.

Buyers of fine quality goods often do the same. After all, who could ever question the quality of a Rolls Royce or a Maserati, right? They’ve got to be good? Look at how much they cost!

The story is told of a couple in the city that were furnishing their home and, wanting to make wise decisions, sought out artwork and furnishings that, as best they could ascertain, would at least retain their value if not appreciate over time.

One of the objects that they needed was a Chester drawer. All of their research kept pointing them towards a brand that did not particularly look that much different than the other pieces of fine furniture that were available but, inevitably, received higher scores! Much to their surprise and delight, the manufacturer of this furniture happened to be located in a mountain area no more than an hour’s drive away from their home. This presented them with an adventure, a nice drive in the mountains, an opportunity for discovery!

Arriving at the address coordinated by GPS, they were less than overwhelmed by the simple building that awaited them. But, upon entering and explaining why they were there, they were introduced to the furniture maker himself.

They immediately explained their dilemma. What made his furniture so much better?

Leading them back into the work area where the furniture was produced, they came to a nearly completed Chester drawing. The artisan pulled a drawer from the chest that responded solidly and smoothly to his use of force. But, to their surprise without saying a word, the artisan removed the drawer and, turning it over, asked them to rub their hands across it to feel the finish. It was excellent. A real work of art.

“But, who would know?” asked the couple.

The furniture maker responded, “I would.”

As children, we had an unfinished basement. We had concrete floors in a portion of it, two doors, one leading outside and a second to the garage and steps that led upstairs to the kitchen. It was a great place to roller skate during the winter and do other fun stuff, like setting up boxes with which to practice with our bows and arrows – we didn’t own BB guns.

Christmas was always a time of great expectation. We checked off items in every Christmas toy catalogue that came along in hopes that we might get something that we really wanted.

You might imagine my surprise, at the age of 10, when my father led me down to the basement to show me my brand new workbench! I am not exactly sure where he got this idea – there were none shown in the catalogues. But, it was more common in those days to do things yourself, so I guess that he felt that it was high time that I set about learning to do this.

I later learned that it was with some great degree of nostalgia that my father had called his shop teacher from Atlanta’s Boys High (he was surprised to find him still alive, I suspect) and sought out the manufacturer of the very benches that he had learned from in “shop” class while in high school. He was very proud of my new gift.

It was a nice bench with a butcher block top – before these became cool – a wrench with which I soon learned that I could crush just about anything. It has a hammer, a saw, a crank drill, some screw drivers and a level-ruler with an angle on it which gave me the ability to mark a 45° or 90° angle on a piece of wood for sawing.

Dad had collected some pieces of scrap wood and some nails and set about showing me how to build an absolutely useless airplane. The training for the use of the hammer, saw and the angle ended at that point. Using a drill and a vice required absolutely no instruction at all – I spent hours boring holes in wood and crushing things.

In any event, given limited resources – primarily scraps of wood tossed aside at neighboring construction projects and articles retrieved from trash dumps (we lived in the country … city folk thought nothing of driving out and dumping their junk on the side of the road not far from where we lived), I set about creating a lot of different contraptions from seemingly nothing. I must have reused the wood from that airplane in 5 or 6 different projects before it had too many holes and splits to be useful for anything but firewood.

I became quite adept at the use of a hammer and a saw – I still enjoyed tinkering with this today. But, neither I nor my father became builders, carpenters or electricians – our interests were in following the paths of my forefathers  in real estate. However, I have always felt a certain kindred spirit with these people and have always felt that, given a second chance, I might have gotten just as much satisfaction out of one of those careers as the one I chose – at least they can’t take their work home with them at night.

When I look back on the great gifts that were given to me by my father, this was possibly the greatest of all – the ability to create something with limited resources. I believe that this has contributed more to my success than most any other element of my upbringing!

I  must add that, as a man created in the image of his Maker – the great creator, where I am not surprised that I have these abilities, I must be most thankful that He has given me the insight to employ them effectively in order to survive.

Physics tells us that, when a container is sealed, if you apply heat, pressure will build within the container. Conversely, if you apply pressure, whatever is contained within that container will grow hot.

Potters are artists. More appreciated possibly in less developed parts of the world where their wares provide for the transportation, storage and preparation of food. Pot making is not a simple task, it requires great skill not only in molding the clay but also in its baking – if the fire is too hot, the pot will crack, making it useless for cooking.

The unscrupulous pot maker learned to place wax in these cracks and cover this over with potting material in order to make the pot appear whole. The unsuspecting buyer would take this home and, when it was employed over the fire containing the liquids required in preparing their food, the wax would melt, the food would be ruined.

Neither that the pot maker nor his pots were “sincere”, a word derived from sin ceres which in Latin means “without wax”.

When under pressure, it’s going to get hot.


At the end of the movie Independence Day, all of the earthlings celebrate the salvation of earth from the terrors of a hostile and scientifically superior alien force. They are seen in all of their ethnicity, in their native dress – including Peruvian llamas and the Great Wall of China, staring at the sky and cheering in unison as all of the bad guys’ spacecraft come tumbling to earth. Oh, what a joyous moment! United we stand! Hip hip hooray!

Inevitably science fiction is futuristic in nature. Most of the movies conclude with a message of hope – a “better world”. It seems that we are addicted to this message of a “better world”. Governments and business insure their survival by selling a “better world”. Not surprisingly, many of our leaders have aligned themselves with Hollywood types, possibly seeking inspiration for future fantasies to motivate a receptive and ever hopeful population.

However, as we approach our future – leaving our past behind, many questions arise as to whether this is and will indeed be a better world.

Through the course of the last 75 years, our company has represented both government and large and small corporations in the acquisition and design of real estate facilities. During that time, we have experienced firsthand the changes that have occurred in government and corporate cultures and how these have manifested themselves in their facilities.

As an independent organization with over 100 years and 4 generations of real estate perspective from which to draw, we have also viewed how these changes have affected both our organization and those of our competitors.

It is our hope in providing this blog that we can offer insights or truths – and some fun – that will not only enhance our general welfare and culture but also can provide all readers an expanded perspective that will aid them as they navigate the course ahead.

We do not attempt to draw conclusions but believe that these truths will ultimately impact all of our futures.