Friday, November 9, 2018

What I Learned from this Year’s Conference Season

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I just returned from a tsunami of travel. Traveling for business is rare for me - which is one of the reasons I chose this profession - as most of my clients are within a short car ride.

October is the exception as this time of year is conference season. Most commercial real estate companies host their annual meetings in the fall and generally all of our professional organizations - SIOR, CCIM, ICSC, CORENet, etc. follow suit. So after six flights, eight Uber rides, and dozens of “what market do you serve?” - today is a recap of my takeaways.

Our industry hasn’t changed - EVER. Largely dominated by old grey haired white guys - we have been slow to adopt new technology and hire women and minorities. I did notice more women and youth in our gatherings - which is awesome. Our European affiliate even noted “most global corporations are looking for diversity when granting assignments.” It’s stunning to me how few of us capitalize on the cool techno tools available to us these days, however. Most still don’t employ a CRM such as SalesForce to track our activity.

Most professionals miss an opportunity. To travel many miles only to hang out with folks from your local office makes little sense to me. Sure. I get it. There is familiarity there. But seriously. Stretch your boundaries. Make new contacts. Put it out there. How else do we learn new “best practices” and build new relationships?

A slowdown is coming. The elephant in the room was the potential softening of the commercial real estate market. We’ve all greatly benefited from a solid ten year run. We know a dip is imminent - we just don’t know when. Most I spoke with believe we will sense a slowdown late in 2019 or early in 2020.

Networking is a contact sport. You gotta press the flesh. I met people from all over the US, Canada, and the UK. My network expanded exponentially. Follow up is critical - thanking and then staying connected. I use old fashioned thank you notes plus an occasional article, email, and call to remain top of mind.

How did we survive before Uber? I am astonished by how this start-up has revolutionized travel. Walk off the plane, quick schlep to the “smart phone app ride area” - yes - airports have them now, whip out your device, boom. You’re off. No more creepy cab rides, endless rental car lines, or expensive long term parking. I’ve even started Ubering to meetings in LA. I get a couple of hours to dial the phone or answer emails. Amazing.

Is Blockchain our disruptor? I listened curiously as one of our keynotes explained blockchain technology. Simply, blockchain is a summary of transactions - the block - linked to numerous de-centralized computers - the chain. Allowed is a seamless exchange of business between parties. Underlying the crypto-currency - such as bitcoin - is blockchain technology. 

So, if your industry has a data set of deals - procurement, logistics, yep - commercial real estate leases or sales - your role of middleman could be vulnerable. I’ve not retired my license just yet - but I wonder where I’ll return my Kenmore tools?

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services. He can be reached at 714.564.7104 or  his website is

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