Coffee with Harry

Harry Hustler, as he had done countless mornings before, stirred a little sugar into his first cup of Starbucks “high test” and opened his Wall Street Journal to purvey the business happenings of the day. The news remained bleak. Bernie Madoff gets 150 years in the crowbar hotel. GM can’t quite figure if it is a car company or a political operative. Iran is suppressing the masses. Unemployment continues to rise. Real estate continues to take a hit. Harry read on, getting his morning elixir of the economic mess our politicos, bankers and Wall Street friends have showered upon all of us within the last couple of years. However, in the economic strife-torn malaise of doomsday prognostications, Harry has remained comfortable in his circumstance, but unsettled by the unrest.

To Harry, it has certainly been a time of reflection. A time of looking back on what made him successful in spite of the ups and downs of past market turmoil. He contemplated how his successful journey through many prior “hard times” could possibly help others. Obviously, his financial comfort and peace of mind was afforded him by many who asked for nothing in return except the burden of transferring the wisdom and knowledge given so freely to him to someone else. Harry felt a little guilty that he had not adequately fulfilled that promise.

Harry has always played his cards a little differently. In many respects, local commercial real estate practitioners have viewed Harry over the years as an oddity in the business. He has always been a bit of a contrarian who has been held as almost suspect by using strange approaches and concepts to the real estate landscape. Above all, however, Harry knew that maneuvering through several cyclical downturns had actually made him wealthier than when the real estate market was in top form. He has credited most of his enlightened success to the members of the Society of Exchange Counselors who graciously invested their time and talent in his early years. There were others who shared equal status, but the Society was unique. In answer to his contemplation about the worldly real estate funk and looking for some way to fulfill the promise and approach those who are struggling, Harry had been given an opportunity to share some of the magic of his success. Recently, he accepted an invitation to share his insights with several hundred kindred souls and fellow commercial brokers at the State Commercial Real Estate Convention.

Harry, now staring out at the morning traffic, took a moment to reflect on his own uninformed ignorance thirty years ago. He tried to place himself in that mindset once again. It seemed to be such foreign territory, but as he reflected, he started to recall the hardships and anxiety he had experienced and how the words and saving grace of a gifted real estate mentor, long since departed, imparted knowledge and wisdom that started Harry on his way to freedom and security.

Harry started contemplating the early “dog-eat-dog” hard luck years he had experienced. Gently he put down the Wall Street Journal and started making random notes on his legal pad. “Would these conventional ‘blue-suede-shoes-type’ commercial brokers be receptive to some new ideas about doing business in an upside-down world?” “Could they possibly break old habits to create new ones for success?” “What could I say that would entice at least one person to see the real estate world a bit differently?”

Harry quickly answered his own thought. This is an unconventional market and to be successful an agent has to be unconventional. The thought of himself long ago slashing and burning through the wreckage of bad deals and bouncing aimlessly from one client to another, always expecting rewarding results and being continually disappointed, reminded him more fully of the dark days. This is, as his old friend Chuck Chatham said many years ago, the mindset of the “jungle fighter,” not the professional.

Harry started to recall the first time he heard alien thoughts from his early teachers and he began to write. The words started to flow onto the paper.

  • Augment your time and talent.
  • Never let your enthusiasm cloud your judgment.
  • There is always another deal; work only on the ones that are motivationally enhanced.
  • Real Estate is a sequential business.
  • Problems always have a beginning and an end. Shorten the time.
  • There is no problem property, only people problems.
  • The church does not do real estate and you should not try miracles.
  • Nurture your faith — you will need it.
  • Don’t share what you do or how you do it unless it is with those who are equally informed or slowly with one who is seeking the new and different path.
  • Perfect the art of “conversation.”
  • Perfect the art of asking “non-threatening questions.”
  • A “down-home” approach is universally accepted.
  • Your body is a temple, not an amusement park.
  • Don’t overpromise.
  • Guard your integrity. There are those who would steal it from you without hesitation and without due cause.
  • Admit mistakes and move on quickly.
  • Your luck increases with the intensity of your work ethic.
  • Down Markets Always Provide the Best Opportunities.
  • Creativity Flows through You…Not In You.

Harry stopped for a moment to finish his coffee. He reflected on how these simple words had stuck with him so long. By now, many of them had been ingrained in his actions and business dealings without thought and yet these short ideas spilled out on the page. He surmised that if these guidelines had helped him in his journey, perhaps they could help others in theirs. Harry decided to take a chance by elaborating on each point and exposing them to the conventioneers in the hope that if that one practitioner was helped, he would have made a difference and repaid those whose gracious patience and tutelage he owed so much.

Harry picked up the notes, his newspaper, and filled his coffee cup. He departed with a sense of mission and with the satisfaction and expectation of finding at least one.

One Comment »

  1. Steve, what a finely written article, Chuck Chatham would be proud of you. Ron