So my wife made the annual Pilgrimage to check off the supply list and make sure we have our own personal office supply store at home (God bless her). The children had a great time with the whole process. I can remember the time as a kid myself; the combination of excitement and trepidation as you faced the new school year. You miss the long lazy summers, but there is something fun about a challenge and meeting new friends. I don’t think I realized it then, but every kid, just like every executive feels the same emotions at the start of the new season.
As I watched the kids carefully arrange all their things for the new school year, I couldn’t resist thinking about packing a "real estate backpack" for the upcoming year. What are the things you, Mr. or Ms. Business Leader, need to succeed this semester and fly through finals? I’m sure you are all excellent students – at the front of your class – but it’s a new school year, so lets recalibrate on your gear and how you will use it.
- Calculator – Have your staff double-check the rent bill and operating expense escalation at all your locations. Even if your leases are relatively new, follow the advice of Ronald Reagan, “Trust But Verify.” Also, if you have internal billing, make sure that move/add changes/ are correct in the system and that all the departments are getting a charge for their ratable share. If you catch a good error, maybe the teacher will give you an apple.
- Ruler – Look at how you are using your space. Can you do more with less? Maybe a new furniture configuration is cheaper than leasing more space? Spend a few bucks and repaint the accent walls to pep things up. Have some fresh eyes take a look at things and ask “what if." Sometimes you can get a stunningly great but simple idea, and it was right in front of you the whole time.
- Yellow Highlighters – To help the troops focus on what is really important. There is much going on and it is easy to get distracted! Where is that plan again? What should be doing this week? What about right now? If there was ever a time in our careers to turn the news off for a minute and thing about what is important but not urgent its now. You can be the voice of calm and reason and help your folks work the plan, not fret about what is on CNN.com.
- Composition Book (er, iPad; see number 10 below) – To list carefully to what the sales-guys, division level leadership and even front line folks forecast for the future. The more time you have to do your homework and adjust for future plans the better off you will be.
- Red Ball Point Pens – You can so easily cross out what doesn’t make sense in the business plan as it relates to real estate. Also, dreaming in class by your employees will get what we used to call a “Christmas Miracle” of red. Plus red is such a nice power color from a senior executive!
- Pencils and Erasers– Order pizza and pull the team together for some planning. Do you need to adjust course in the fourth quarter? Times, they are a changin’, so ask early and often for revised input into needs for space growth or disposition. And don’t even get us started on the plentiful M&A opportunities on the horizon. Jack and Jill will need to be nimble in the coming months.
- Box of Kleenex and Hand Sanitizer – Well, you know flu season is coming. And you need to be strong and healthy to keep your grades up. As mom would say, wash you hands and take your vitamins. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. You get the idea. I’ll tell your mom you’re a great kid.
- New Glasses – Cause you gotta be able to see clearly to predict the future. Plus you need to be able to read the chalkboard, or is it the report card you need to focus on?
- Student Planner – Write it down so you can get your homework turned in on time, every time, or at least before Christmas. Let’s hope neither one of us knows what after school detention is like in corporate America. I know I don’t want to find out.
- A New Computer – Use all the tools you can to stay at the head of the class. You don’t need to be an early adopter, but a smart adopter of technology that helps you see things more clearly, communicate more succinctly and automate manual processes of any kind. Then you’ll have more time for football games, movies and living your life. Plan that hot date!
- Lunch Money – No, not to fend off the bully; that’s what your buddies are for. If you can keep extra money tucked in your budget you will surely feel better. With the coming volatility, you never know when you get a chance to have the cash for an unknown need and get a gold star!
Extra Credit – Put all your gear in a “Shiny New Backpack” (with a flash drive or a cool new cloud back up) to take your show on the road to all your locations and even your investors or board of directors. Feel free to pick out a super cool bag with your favorite superhero on the back for extra, extra credit. Then set the morning alarm, firm the resolve, and focus on the positives in the months ahead. I know you can do it!
Have a great year, class!