I got my MBA on Delancey Street

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onboard_insights_blogI grew up, and still live in, New York City. For years now I’ve passed homeless people on the street. Some beg for money or food, but others just sit there, ranting about something. You ever see this? They are so passionate about what they say. In fact it always catches my eye, but I don’t stop. I’m a New Yorker; I’m always in a rush.

I do find myself wishing I would stop sometimes just to see what this passion is about. What are they saying? Does it matter? And if it does to whom? My conclusion: they try to communicate in a manner which few people care to participate in.

On the streets if you feel threatened, you return to home base. In business, you get back to basics. Both mean the same thing; at least they used to. School gets you book smart. The streets get you life smart and while I’m well versed in scholastics, I actually received my MBA on Delancey Street.

So I have been thinking...thinking for a long time about our industry, its transformation and about being a spectator to a lot of "movements"  that have been going on for the past couple of years. I’d like to start articulating my thoughts to my fellow CEOs and others who, I am quite sure, stay awake at night pondering some of the same things. What are the right moves? What changes should I embrace today, or are they not that important? There is a lot at stake, and man are there so many distractions out there.

I love the real estate industry

I'm a CEO of a company that I helped to form and build in one of the most interesting  and complex industries in the world: Real Estate. It’s like none other. It's just like that end-to-end hockey game: non stop, fast and furious, then the period ends and there is a lull while skates are sharpened, cuts are stitched up and the game plan is laid out.

We all wait for the action to start again…lately however, I feel as though our industry is just like that homeless guy - so many are yelling and no one is really listening. There is passion, but no focus.

That’s the part I don’t get. And it makes me sad.

So the market crashed and there are several tangible reasons why that happened. I get that. So what are we doing about it? Are we just talking, tweeting and blogging about it, or taking control?

My issues, hardships, dilemmas and decisions are no different or harder than any of the clients whose websites we supply product to on a daily basis. I seek out solutions and rely on what I’ve learned, by stopping and listening to what others are doing around me and being inspired to follow suit.

Last week a client called me and said they were thinking of moving on. They told me that they haven’t  received enough value and will be shopping around for another solution. What did I do about it? What if I wasn’t listening to my client, but I was busy tweeting my whereabouts, or posting the latest article I read or any one of the other distractions out there?

Instead I saved the client by simply asking about what issues she was facing. It turns out, we missed some things that for years we would hit out of the park with our clients. We lost focus on what was really important.

We need to stop spending time on the future of real estate and focus on the now of real estate - the now of your clients and business.

If we aren’t focusing and effectively communicating, we are killing ourselves, folks. 2007-2009 were fabulous years. Though mired in the woes of the market downturn, real estate found solace in this thing called social media. From it came gurus… “experts.” And examples who led us down a path, where the fantasy of what social media is gave us a break from the pain and suffering of what reality really was.

But it’s 2010 now. Like you, I have a company to run. Mouths to feed. Bills to pay. And I have not seen many examples where the promises of social media delivered what we, who run companies need. 25+% increase in revenue and profit in order to stay alive, developing better products for our clients, among other things. How was your last year? Did you grow? Did you profit? Did you watch that reality show too?

Personally, I’ve turned off most of the RSS feeds that float in with the real estate tide and unfollowed the vast majority of Twits who spend their days telling each other where they are, what they eat, and who they just waved hi to. I get the fact that being social is fun. I am all about fun.

But fun doesn’t cut it when you oversee the livelihood of dozens of employees. Strategies, planning, vision, cost cutting, innovation, and technology does.

Back to basics means focus.  It means solid fundamentals. It means listening to your clients, employees and peers. It means giving your opinion and participating in innovation and improving our industry.

If I could have last year back, I would not have passed the homeless guy, who was actually sitting on the corner of my home base which I passed as well. In the street they say a beating makes you tougher for the next battle. No regrets as I have grown from these challenges and have a solid vision for 2010-2011.

Now, back to focusing on today's challenges. Check back to OnBlog as the year goes on. I will be following up periodically to continue the conversation and show you how Onboard is going back to basics, and what we learn along the way.

Image Credit: Wikipedia