War teaches you a lot about life, death and yourself.  Over 2.2 million Americans have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, and everyone had different experiences and take-aways.  I learned a lot while fighting on the front lines of Afghanistan, and had a lot of fun doing it.  Here are 3 things that have made me a better broker, businessman and person:

1. Hit the Streets

When I first arrived in Afghanistan in 2006, we couldn’t travel more than 50 meters outside of our firebase without getting into a firefight with 50-200 Taliban fighters.  After a few months of daily combat patrols and some serious fighting, we were able to successfully defeat an insurgency in our area, and could drive roughly 8-10 hours in any direction without incident.

Point is, you can’t defeat an insurgency from inside the firebase, and you can’t be a CRE broker from your desk.  You need to get out and drive the market, and see the people until you’re an expert in your domain.  Once you’ve become the expert, you’re not done – continue doing “presence patrols” to keep up with the changes in the market, new vacancies, new listings, etc.

2. Prioritization

I was sound asleep one night at our firebase when one of my teammates kicked my door in and said “We’ve gotta go.”  A truck carrying about a dozen of our Afghan counterparts had hit an IED, and initial reports indicated that everyone was dead or seriously injured.  When you have a mass casualty event like this and everyone needs your help, the principles of “first come, first served” don’t work.  You must perform a triage assessment, and rapidly classify the wounded based on the severity of their injuries and the likelihood of their survival.

This principle should also hold true in commercial real estate; you must triage your pipeline.  Pending transactions should receive first priority – what can you do to move pending to closed?  Assignments should be your second priority – work on moving an assignment to a pending transaction.  Finally, focus on turning targets, leads, exploratory meetings, and solutions meetings into assignments.

3. Be Flexible

You always have a plan for each mission that you go on, but that plan always seems to change once you leave the wire and boots are on the ground – you encounter an IED, find yourself in a gunfight with the Taliban, a stand-off with your Afghan counterparts, or a broken axle on your Humvee.  One of my teammates used to say that SF (Special Forces) actually stood for “super flexible”, because we always had to adapt to a changing environment or an unforeseen event.

In real estate; markets tank, financing falls through, mold is found, and expansion strategies change.  We need to be “super flexible” and figure out ways to find a new solution.  Think outside the box, have a back-up plan and don’t lose the fight because Murphy’s Law reared its head.


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