From Thanks To Action To Impact: Why, Why Not?
Okay “Guest Blogger”, I neither know you nor invited you and if you even are an actual blogger, you might want to let Google know.
I’m Good! You?
Quiet. Answer two questions if you want to disrupt further me from disrupting stuff. First, is this another well-meaning, but somewhat generic post about reflecting on our blessings?
Is this another post about how this is not just another well-meaning, but somewhat generic…
I’ll Just Go Ahead and Start
Uplifting messages light up the blogosphere during Thanksgiving week. I hope my contribution is uplifting, but my purpose is to challenge. Challenge sort of fuels you, the CRE Tech Maverick.
Be thankful, +52. Gratitude as a platform.
But is thanks enough? An attitude of gratitude is only a platitude to many less blessed than you. If thanks is the idea, then giving is the finished product.
I encourage you to give attention to a potential opportunity – one which has been underserved, overlooked, if not dismissed, since probably before you were born.
There are two distinct markets in most metro areas:
There is the area where the far majority of our business is conducted, where our office is located, and where we live. This is the bulk of the market.
Then there is the area we try to forget. You know, the one maybe still in decline decades after suburban flight first became a thing; where many of its inhabitants remain because there is not a more affordable place to flee to; where real estate investment is rarely even considered – meaning you only pass-through to reach more acceptable investment outposts.
The Great Divide.
You are a sect irritated by imbalances of power, inefficiency, and underperforming results. You are proven innovators, problem-solvers, and pursuers of excellence. It takes focus and tenacity to launch a business. I’m not sure what it takes to survive a business. Probably some other neat skills.
You understand the connection. You build bridges. When the CRE Tech brain hears “divide” it produces chemicals that stimulate the bridging process.
The CRE/Technology Bridge was years in the making. We all commute on it now.
You know what it’s like to be excluded from the business table. To be ignored, resisted.
This industry is still powered by who-you-know. Educational and cultural backgrounds, University alumni, country club membership, age, race, religion are among the mix of characteristics determining how we relate.
What percent of the CRE industry is white? Male? Over 45? Had industry connections even before joining the industry? [My assertions in this section may be tested by visiting pretty much any CRE website or attending any CRE event (okay, not CREW). Here’s some visual research: http://ccim-find.webauthor.com/]
Think this insulated network is conducive to a meritocracy?
Is it any surprise that industry make-up is discomforting to the low-socio-eco individual trying to access our ranks? Or that CRE is uncomfortable with low-socio-eco? Or that virtually no CRE activity occurs where most needed?
You are idealists. The building doesn’t care. Who’s the best for the job? Who can double the number of jobs they can complete? Who can redefine what the job is?
These are the types of innovations behind your companies. You are easing access, transparency, and equality. Hey Batman, Batgirl, your skills are needed one or two submarkets over. You might want to grab your tricked-up coffee and your IPA before heading over there. I’m kidding you. But not kidding.
Not Your Problem? Our Problem
Urban blight is very complex and decades in the making. It will not be eradicated overnight. But pretending it doesn’t exist is no longer acceptable.
How many more children should have to grow up in the cycle of poorly-equipped schools, in dangerous neighborhoods, feeling that they are unworthy of stores, restaurants, employers, decent infrastructure?
Who’s to blame? Who cares. Residents and businesses just care about action. About getting a grocery store anywhere near their home; getting consumers to come to their neighborhood to support their businesses.
How do you get a grocer into an area where it doesn’t fit the store’s economic model? Ask them to keep modeling until they’ve designed a feasible concept for underserved markets. Ask them to be as creative in low-income areas as in high-income areas.
Yes, we know this custom analysis may bite next quarter’s earnings in the ass. Embody innovation in all your potential markets and you’ll earn more business across all markets. I will drive by your competitor to get to your store if I respect your values. How would your earnings be impacted if even only 5 out of every 100 people did the same?
This is how I make purchase decisions going forward (no particular order): price, quality, convenience, company history of fucking people over.
Residents, how about crowdfunding for a co-op store? Food trucks? Delivery service? Expanded convenience stores?
The underserved predominantly already live in the poorest neighborhoods. Moving closer to existing stores is no option. I don’t know if access to decent, reasonably priced food should be a right. I just know it’s wrong when business deserts you because you have become too poor.
CRE Tech, venture into unfamiliar territory. Do what you do best – asking “why” and “why not”. Bring the same creativity to these problems that you show daily in innovating CRE.
Wanna’ be a real game-changer, a real disrupter? Get involved where there’s barely any game being played, where any disruption to the status quo is welcome.
Is this charity?
Is it long-overdue neglect finally being serviced?
Is it partial repayment on a 30-year (50-year?) obligation that we fell just a little behind on? Wow, sorry. We had a thing up north. Has it been 30 to 50 years since we were last together?
Is it today’s best investment opportunity?
It depends…How the hell do I know from afar anyway?
I do know real estate in economically depressed areas and in otherwise passed-over parts is far more diverse than painted to be.
Play Ball, Game-Changers
My hometown of Dallas has many initiatives in place to repair years of neglect. South Dallas, however, has a perception problem as much as a degradation problem. Intellectual laziness from Dallas’ CRE mainstream has damned the whole southern sector.
How much have we cost ourselves by blindly adopting conventional thinking? By failing to be thorough?
Properties range from those worth widespread investor attention to ones in such bad shape that any answers have only come in the form of Band-Aids.
Ultimately, it will be up to Big CRE whether change occurs or not. Can the money guys and their trusted advisors be persuaded to…Wait!. You are not falling for this are you? Old-guard thinking, establishment dogma, bullshit.
How do we know it’s B.S.? You’re proving it right now, CRE Tech. Shifts, major ones, can travel bottom-up. Who is leading who?
Your innovations are changing industry operations. From your spare bedroom, your shared space…your parents’ basement? You have made people money, saved people money, and showed people that it doesn’t take a bunch of money.
Ready to elevate your game? You may not have created the divide, but do you want to widen it?
You bridged technology and real estate. Can you extend that bridge to the part of town that feels like it’s on a deserted island?
Incremental value doesn’t always move the needle in mainstream CRE. But value in the margins might be invaluable to the marginalized. The simple act of earnest engagement with the communities we are ignorant of will multiply opportunities for all.
Your contributions will matter. The naïve proclamations you may have made long ago about changing the world may not have been so wild-ass after all.
The consequences of urban decay impact everyone. We’re lucky if our burden is just in monetary costs of prisons, economic assistance, health care, and increased tax burdens. Someday we may look back in disbelief that we gave up on large segments of our cities.
Trying is no longer sufficient. We must maintain the will to see our ideas through.
When is the best time to revitalize and return respect to our inner-cities? Besides 30 years ago, today is the best time.
Why? Why not? This Thanksgiving and beyond, I challenge you to test further default real estate mindsets. You might be very thankful you did.
From Thanks To Action To Impact: Why, Why Not? Guest Post: Gavin Mogan.
Connect with Gavin email@example.com