Altus Insight - November 2015
It is a common stereotype that an entrepreneur’s personality is optimistic, always seeing the possibilities for growth and opportunity, while an investor’s personality is pessimistic, always seeing losses around every corner. Like many stereotypes, these are founded in truth. It makes running an investment business a little bit contradictory, with the need for optimism and risk taking as they relate to the business growth, but also requiring analysis, caution, and moderation in sourcing our product (the investment). Anyone close to me in a business sense will tell you I tend to lean more to the investor mentality than the entrepreneur mentality. While doing a great job of serving its purpose, pessimism, and possibly even a little cynicism, can leave a person looking at everything that is going wrong all the time. This is evident in the Altus Insight articles each month. More often than not a topic is discussed that while important to understand as it relates to our investment portfolio, it is likely more of a downer than an upper. With that thought in mind this month I want to focus on the all the good things I have going on around me.
As I started taking notes in preparation for writing this article I discovered my natural expressions of thankfulness usually included a qualifier. For example, I would say something like, “Even though…”, “Despite…”, or “While not the optimal…”. With the realization of that tendency I started over. My goal with the following paragraphs is that they are expressions of pure thankfulness. No qualifier needed.
I am thankful for:
- My wife. She is an amazing woman simply because of the fact that she can put up with me, but even that doesn’t tell the full story. She is strong. She is kind. She is beautiful. She also married me in October, 2008 when I had zero income, a substantially negative balance sheet, and was renting a basement bedroom without flooring or a kitchen for $400/mo. That is true love.
- My two children. Most people feel that their industry is among the most stressful places to work. I feel no differently about real estate and investing. That stress can be consuming and I certainly was susceptible to getting stuck in it. Having children has greatly improved my outlook on life and the day to day struggles of trying to run a business and provide value for our investor partners. The job is still serious but for a couple of hours each night my children have taught me to put that aside, and focus on the simple joys in life.
- The Altus team. I appreciate our team in many different ways and the team continues to impress me every day. Each person takes ownership, not just for their own tasks for, but for the performance of the entire company and how we present ourselves to the world. To have a team that is fully aligned with the integrity of how we expect to operate is incredible. Additionally the team is talented. Ours is an ever changing world where one day’s job description may be obsolete the next, but the team members have embraced the challenge and continue to perform at the high level needed for Altus to not just remain relevant, but also to grow. Lastly, the way the team communicates and gets along is remarkable. It is a team of truly good people that really do care for each other. Almost two years ago we had to move out of the offices we were renting prior to the offices we were building for ourselves were completed. What was expected to be a couple month interlude in extremely cramped office spaces kept getting extended and extended as the construction project ran into issues obtaining the permits again and again. Month after month we were squeezed into offices so small that we often had to take our calls outside so we could hear the person on the other end. Day after day we worked at makeshift desks without drawers to organize our work lives. There have been stressful times and there have been times when we all wished we were in the new building already. But through it all everyone was able to keep their eyes on the task at hand and maintain harmony in the office.
- Our new office. After almost three years we should move into our new offices in December. Who knew that it could take a real estate company three years to build out office space?! We are all excited to be moving into the new amenities and we are looking forward to visitors.
- Altus’ advisors. I don’t know that a company our size could have more talented and committed advisors than we have. With incredible experience to help us grow our business, investment experience to help us structure our offerings, and a willingness to coach and advise any members of the Altus team, there is no questioning their fingerprints on our business and on our lives.
- Our investors. It is humbling that talented and smart people invest a portion, often significant, of their balance sheet with us. There are countless places to spend or invest money and that people would choose us as a conduit for that investment is incredible.
- Our network. Real estate agents, attorneys, bankers, contractors, escrow agents…the list goes on and on. Without our network our business simply wouldn’t exist. As an example, for every 100 properties that cross our desk we would expect to purchase one. The ratio is closer to 20 or 30 to one when brought to us from within our network. We strive to take care of people we work with and as a result have relationships that go back over 15 years. When the business is only a little over 15 years old I find that remarkable.
- Our government. I see you raising your eyebrows as you read this, surprised that I would write such a thing. So let me explain. I am not referring to the people in our government, and certainly not the majority of the bureaucracies. I am referring to democracy and specifically our democracy as our founding fathers initially formed it and meant it to be. For all its faults and its inevitable self-cannibalization, only the government of a wise benevolent dictator is better, and the problem with a government ruled by such a leader is when that leader dies, as is guaranteed to occur, there is no mechanism for ensuring the next dictator will also be wise and benevolent. Our democracy, with all its checks and balances, tempers the efforts of the occasional wise and benevolent president but is also limits the damage that can be done by the rest of them. I am even thankful for the two party system that we have. While I am not registered to either and often complain about both, in truth the two parties are close enough in strength that they largely offset each other and keep the political pendulum from swinging too far one way or another. Taken to extremes can you imagine the train wreck our country would be if either party was able to enact all of its ideas in the full strength they desired?
- Our armed forces. Sometimes there is glory. Sometimes there is disdain. But in all cases our armed forces are in place to provide protection. Mostly to the citizens of the United States, but often to others in the world as well. I don’t think I often realize the enormity of the privilege it is to have that protection.
- Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday. A time to be with and focus on family and friends and be thankful for what we already have. No other holiday provides the same perspective for me.
There are many more things I am thankful for and I am sure each reader of this article has many of their own. I hope that everyone was able to enjoy their Thanksgiving holiday and took time away from the concerns of work, finances, politics, and current events to spend time with family and friends and to appreciate what those people mean to them. Recent experiences have reminded me again how fragile life can be. Our jobs, our societies, our investments…all are important, but none are important as being present for those we love.