(Atlanta) Its that time of year again. We evaluate our performance in the current year and make (big) plans for what is to come in the new year.

The Man With the 80/20 Plan

The Man With the 80/20 Plan

In that vein, Tim Ferriss, the entrepreneur turned book author and public speaker has made a fortune by telling folks to keep it simple. By repackaging the Pareto Principle (the rule of 80/20) and weaving in his own interesting life story, Ferris has spent more than four years on the New York Times Best Seller list. His flagship book The 4-Hour Workweek has been translated into 35 languages and has currently sold over 1,400,000 copies worldwide.

From Wikipedia: Ferriss developed the ideas present in The 4-Hour Workweek while working 14-hour days at his sports nutrition supplement company, BrainQUICKEN. Frustrated by the overwork and lack of free time, Ferriss took a 3-week sabbatical to Europe. During that time and continued travels throughout Europe, Asia, and South America, Ferriss developed a streamlined system of checking email once per day and outsourcing small, daily tasks to virtual assistants. His personal escape from a workaholic lifestyle was the genesis of the book

There must be something to the less is more philosophy – more or less.

Ferriss’s philosophy is not perfect, and in some respects it doesn’t fit well in corporate America, but given the interest in his first tome and the follow on book The 4 – Hour Body, millions of people are interested in what he has to say. Perhaps his theories are worth a read.

Shall We Obfuscate With Some Fancy Terms?

As I think about Ferriss’s approach to his business, I also think we tend to make corporate real estate more complicated than it needs to be. Just read a market report or a lease for your fill of lingo. Oh, and we can get you a dashboard of all your pertinent portfolio metrics while we align your real estate with the proper business drivers.

At the heart of the matter, the sticks and bricks, at the best cost possible, are there to support the business; not the other way around. The envelope in which we conduct business should enable workers to efficiently do their jobs, support the corporate culture and protect people and intellectual capital. In addition to those core functions, you might use the space to attract new talent or impress customers. That’s it.

Clarity of purpose in any corporate function is refreshing.

80/20 CRE

As a CEO or CFO thinking about 2013, what should you ask of your real estate team? Imagine if you brought Tim Ferris in for a day and had him bash a few heads. What would be the outcome?

While I bet there will be some debate (which I whole-heartedly encourage), here is my attempt to apply Dr. Parreto’s leanings and the modern day interpretation of Tim Ferris earning’s to CRE in five easy steps (!).


There is an element of budget and space enforcement implicit in CRE, but even police departments are there to protect and to serve. Your CRE team should stand ready to help with innovation, high value talent recruitment and M&A issues. We all need standards and processes is critical, but expect your CRE team to do the unexpected and support the business. They should have the wisdom necessary to make exceptions when required and the proper service attittude on a daily basis.

Shared Mission

Your CRE team needs to know where the business is headed in order to be able to execute properly. Think of yourself as the head coach of a successful football team. CRE should be one of your team captains because used wisely, they can help you win the game. Include CRE in the business strategy planning and they will have a far better understanding of the "why" when they implement real estate "plays." Plus, allowing them to call the coin toss every now and again will certainly help keep them motivated to please you and the executive team.



Expect your senior real estate officials to be corporate leaders. Some of the global CRE’s I’ve met could well be CEO’s of some mid-cap companies. They have a great ability to convey information to the board room or the union shop. They inspire confidence and breed enthusiasm for the mission at hand. Expect them to have the same servant leadership attitude you do. This extends to the real estate staff, but the also to anyone they touch or support within the company. 


It would be nice if money weren’t an issue, but then we wouldn’t be proper capitalist. But this is about much more than money. Delta Airlines, for example, surveys me after every flight and if I have a bad customer experience, they are all over the issue. Think of your real estate team as internal “service providers” and hold them accountable to supporting your employees in that business envelope we mentioned earlier. Don't overcomplicate this either, but have them create a survey as if they were an external service provider and ask the internal customers to weigh in. If an airline can do it, I'm sure your company can too.


Surprisingly, there is more to running a business than real estate. Make sure that your whole team is communicating. Yes, IT, HR, Legal and other internal corporate functions have to play together nicely in the corporate sand box. Send them on a retreat and have them do trust falls until the cant stand it anymore. But insist on no more silos. Back to the football metaphors, special teams, defense and offense all keep the mission first and foremost. The only stat that really matters is won/loss. If you can engender this sense of shared purpose and community, then you will have motivated employees who will work as team whether they are down by two touchdowns or winning the division.

The Tim Ferriss Tackle

So as we come into the planning season, my encouragement is to keep it simple and ask your real estate team to focus on areas that will make a difference to the enterprise. The point is not to get work done in four hours, but to get the most important and meaningful work done first.

So here’s to a 2013 of an intentional real estate team that focuses on the things that are really important to the enterprise and employee productivity. Doing more with less was fashionable in the early 20th century just like it is today. Figure out the “vital few” things that CRE should focus on then expect amazing results in 2013 and beyond. 

Originialy published November 26th 2012