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Building ‘Ethical Muscles’ in Oklahoma’s Business Community

justin brotton - Thursday, November 01, 2012

By Staci E. Hensley


Ethics: “The principle of right and good behavior; the specific moral choices

an individual makes in relating to others; the rules or standards of conduct governing the members of a profession.”


Remember Enron? WorldCom? Bernie Madoff?

Corruption and illegal dealings by these business giants ruined countless lives, left employees, retirees and investors destitute, permanently tainted the public’s view of big business, and resulted in a 150-year jail sentence for Madoff.

The lessons learned about the costs of dishonesty shouldn’t be forgotten, especially as ethical crises in the business world tend to run in ten-year cycles, says Shannon Warren, founder of the nonprofit Oklahoma Ethics Consortium. The good news is that with an already above-average reputation for honesty and fair dealing, Oklahoma is one of the most proactive states in the country when it comes to ensuring ethical practices in its business community.

Much of the credit for this goes to Ok Ethics. For nine years the group has sponsored monthly forums featuring national speakers, hosted symposiums and provided other assistance, all designed to raise awareness and provide practical insights on dealing with ethical issues that arise in the workplace. Promoted mostly through word of mouth, today it has roughly 800 members representing more than 200 companies, with chapters in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

It also sponsors annual competitions like the Compass Awards, given only to those demonstrating the highest level of business ethics. Previous winners include Devon Energy, Coppermark Bank, Kimray and Ideal Homes.

“Oklahomans have always had a pretty strong sense about doing the right thing,” Warren said. “I think our growth has a lot to do with the fact that we’re in Oklahoma, where values such as honesty, fair play and commitment are important aspects of doing business. A great source of inspiration!”


Why an Ethics Program?

No matter what their size, companies function much better if they have an active and effective ethics and compliance program in place. These programs provide several key benefits. Specifically, they:

* Enhance the company’s reputation and stature.

* Establish a code of conduct that reduces the risk of criminal behavior.

* Detect wrongdoing, foster quick investigations and minimize consequences.

* Demonstrate the company’s ethical/legal philosophy during an investigation.

* Reduce fines if a company is found guilty of wrongdoing.

Ok Ethics offers a tool kit and other tangible assistance to its members who want to start their own program. There are also myriad sources of help available, including the Ethics Resource Center (www.ethics.org) and the National Association of Corporate Directors (www.nacdonline.org).

Yet putting a policy in place won’t do any good unless it’s enforced.

“Building a successful, ethical company requires more than a cliché open-door policy,” Warren cautioned. “Instead, leadership must get out of the office and be approachable.”


Who’s Most Vulnerable?

For some, desperate times can indeed produce desperate measures. Or at least it can be a strong incentive to throw ethical behaviors out the window, even in small ways. Today’s economy is rife with layoffs, corporate belt-tightening and elimination of many in-house ethics and watchdog programs. The lack of enforcement can sometimes tempt employees to take out their frustrations in various dishonest behaviors.

Some common examples: unauthorized use of company computers and other resources for personal business, swiping office supplies, calling in sick when they’re not, and covering for co-workers who are doing the same. Frequently it escalates to lying, taking credit for others’ accomplishments, abusing subordinates or co-workers, and taking “revenge” against those who report bad behavior through things like denying raises and promotions. And, of course, there are actions that are illegal as well as unethical, such as bribery, fraud and embezzlement.

According to the ERC, there are several categories of employees who are much more likely to commit ethical breaches, including:

*Younger workers (18 to 29).

* Frontline supervisors.

* Small businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Ignoring this behavior is a recipe for disaster, since ERC surveys have found that abuse of company resources has jumped an amazing 84 percent in companies undergoing layoffs and compensation/benefit reductions, and Internet abuse in particular increases by 81 percent. Small businesses are particularly affected during tough times, as employees tend to take cutbacks and job uncertainty much more personally.

“Probably some of the more dangerous issues have to do with rationalizing our own behavior,” Warren said. “Truly being ethical requires that we must first be honest with ourselves. It requires humility, candor and a sincere desire to do the right thing. I think most people want to be ethical, but find themselves in high-pressure situations that create challenges. What we do is provide an opportunity to build ethical muscles.”


Conscience vs. Necessity

As anyone who’s been in the workplace knows, when employees aren’t happy, productivity suffers. A key source of unhappiness occurs when workers find their job duties conflict with their personal values. An ERC survey found that more than a third know co-workers at all levels that routinely cross the line.

“Clearly, while Enron and other scandals focused attention on management ethics, we also need to emphasize the need for more ethical behavior all the way down to the office cubicles and shop floor,” said former ERC president Patricia Harned, Ph.D.

It can be hard to decide on a course of action when you see bad behavior in the workplace, especially if it’s a supervisor. On average, one out of three employees have observed misconduct but failed to report it, according to a 2011 National Business Ethics Survey conducted by the ERC. Instead, they often become disillusioned and either join in the activity or leave the company.

Depending on their size, most companies will have a policy in place for reporting wrongdoing, usually one that goes up the chain of command. Larger firms often have an Employee Assistance Program that can be helpful as well. Exposing wrongdoing may not make you popular in some quarters, but in the long run, you’re doing the company a favor, especially if your information reveals activity that’s illegal as well as unethical. No matter what the case, it’s better to report the problem than turn a blind eye and become complicit, although that can be easier said than done.


Conquer Complacency

Warren said that one of the greatest dangers is assuming ethical problems are “fixed” when they’re only dormant.

According to the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association, corruption scandals occur in ten-year cycles, since it generally takes only a few years for companies to start becoming lax about their standards. The slacking off leads to a ‘comfortable’ period that’s characterized by rationalizing, moral deterioration and nurturing the seeds of escalating ethical misconduct. The end result is a build-up, exposure, unwanted headlines and a public outcry.

“In other words, organizations must continually and painfully be reminded of the need to adhere to higher standards,” Warren said.

That pain often hits where it hurts the most – a company’s bottom line. Research studies from multiple sources have developed and analyzed a ten-point rating scale measuring a company’s reputation. For large corporations, a drop of even one point in public trust can mean as much as $53 million a year in lost business.

“Difficult times either bring out the worst or best behavior,” Warren said. “By 2015, headlines will tell us which companies took the wrong path by failing to recognize the signs that are so clearly apparent now.”

Meanwhile, companies that remain committed to integrity and honest practices will continue to attract employees, customers and investors. That’s especially true in Oklahoma.

But problems do need to be kept in perspective.

“We have to recognize that those getting the bad press are the exceptions to the rule,” Warren said. “Ok Ethics reinforces and reminds people that the norm and best way to do business is through time-honored principles of honesty and fairness. I think that our monthly meetings serve to inspire individuals that they are not alone in doing the right thing. Our Okie roots are firmly steeped in principles of down-to-earth honesty. We don’t really need bad news to remind us what’s important. So you can chalk up the continued commitment to integrity in the workplace as another ‘Oklahoma Standard.’”


Supporting the Next Generation

Sadly, universities across the country are dealing with an epidemic of cheating. In fact, a Bloomberg Businessweek article recently commented that catching college cheaters “requires a level of vigilance and research better suited for the corridors of the National Security Agency than the cluttered desk of a humble teacher.”

Nonetheless, Oklahoma’s students, like its business leaders, are ahead of the curve in their dedication to truth and fair play. With the full support of the nonprofit Oklahoma Ethics Consortium, universities around the state have established highly successful ethics programs aimed at producing trustworthy leaders and employees.

As only one example of their success, for the past two years members of the University of Oklahoma Ethics Team took first-place honors at the regional Ethics Bowl, and this year placed ninth in national competition.

The contest is fierce. A moderator poses questions based on a case taken from a set of 15 cases, focusing on topics such as the classroom, personal relationships, professional ethics or social and political ethics. The team’s answers are judged by a panel, based on intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations and deliberative thoughtfulness.

“The importance of the student initiatives at the state’s higher education institutions can’t be overstated, especially as many of these students go on to be hired by member companies,” says Shannon Warren, Ok Ethics founder. “The future lies in our youth’s hands, so it’s important to ensure that they understand how important ethics are to running a successful business.”

SOCIAL NETWORKING 101

justin brotton - Thursday, September 01, 2011

By Rachael Barry

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn have become household names, yet this stuff known as “social media” is still a mystery to many. And while these applications can be “all things to all people,” businesses, no matter the size, have co-opted these easy and accessible programs to help both define and expand their financial opportunities.

That social networking sites are grabbing the attention of business is reflected in these staggering numbers: from $40 million spent in 2008 to advertise to business audiences on online social network sites to a projected $210 million in 2012.

According to Rick Walker, of Walker Strategic Marketing, business owners have approached the new concepts with a sense of caution.

“I tell all new entrants into the world of social media marketing to simply relax,” he said. “Remember, social media is simply an alternative way to communicate. Some businesses use social media like my 96-year-old grandmother. She has a Facebook page that allows her to keep up on family news and see the latest pictures of her grandkids.”

Walker says that, unlike traditional media methods, online social network marketing has a guaranteed audience.

“While it’s always a challenge to determine the best way to reach customers and prospects, businesses can be sure of one thing – at some point during the day, most of them are online,” he said. “Whether it’s socializing, watching, buying, reconnecting, researching or keeping tabs on the latest sighting of a celeb in rehab, all potential customers are on the web.”

“Statistics tell us that 97 percent of consumers do online research before making a local purchase, and that 83 percent of all shoppers will read a review from total strangers to help them make their buying decision. It jumps to 90 percent when it’s someone they actually know,” Walker adds. “This has changed several dynamics in the business world, from maintaining an online presence to taking a closer look at customer service issues.”

Walker explains that the Internet can be both a blessing and a curse for businesses.

“Every time a customer has a bad experience with your business, they’re going to tell at least ten people. Now add Facebook and Twitter into the mix, and those ten people just turned into hundreds or thousands,” he said. “Social media is word of mouth on steroids, and it can kill a business very quickly. Exposure through social media is here to stay, so act to your best advantage and give your customers something good to talk about. Great customer service is one of the single most important aspects of a successful business.”

While Walker states that the set-up of websites and Facebook pages are a relatively simple affair, that function alone does not a marketing tool make.

“If you build it, they still may not come.” A first step, according to Walker, is to create an online presence.

“This is where many businesses get confused,” Walker said. “In order to get the maximum use out of a website, it should be ‘optimized’ for search engines so that it will appear on Google’s first page and get found on Yahoo and Bing. Businesses should also send out relevant Tweets and Facebook updates, and of course follow up with e-mail marketing to the opt-ins from their landing pages.

For those who feel this is out of their realm of expertise, Walker says that help can be easily on the way.

“There are companies everywhere that will Tweet for you,” he said. “They study social media, keep up with the very latest trends and find out what’s working and what’s not. They stay out in front of the constant changes and mix their knowledge with creativity to help those who just confirmed that ‘Facebook’ is in fact one word!”

Walker says that there are too many options to count regarding Internet marketing.

“A Facebook business page can share ‘how-to’ videos about products or services and virtually eavesdrop on prospects to get some unique insight into what they really think about your business,” he said. “You can make adjustments to your strategy or product line and address questions or concerns in real time.”

Twitter offers yet another online resource.

“One should ask their social media marketing team how they will utilize Twitter for business growth,” he said. “You don’t want to sell your product or service on Twitter. For the most part, people are on Twitter to socialize; attempting to sell something while they’re in that mindset will likely get your business ‘unfollowed.’ Twitter is to develop and promote your brand, interact with your customer base, or create a buzz around an upcoming sale or event.”

And then there’s LinkedIn

“Your business should also take full advantage of sites like LinkedIn,” Walker said. You can create a group that’s relevant to your industry, ask and respond to relevant questions in the “Answers” section, and eventually become the go-to expert for your particular niche. You can even follow relevant companies or those in vertical markets where you can add value with your products or services.”

Walker also points out that YouTube offers valuable usage as well.

“Simply putting a video on YouTube isn’t exactly going to create raving fans clamoring to buy your stuff. There’s a process that you need to follow for your videos to be effective,” he said. “By the way, online video is a must. There are over 300 video sites online, with about 30 that really matter and can help with your marketing efforts.”

Walker adds that most website visitors stay on a site for seven seconds.

“With this in mind, which works better – text or video? An article in the New York Times said that 77 percent of all Internet users are watching video online. YouTube is the third most popular website on the Internet – only behind the search engine Google and Facebook,” he said.

Social media can be a confusing animal. Tom Feltenstein, former marketing guru for McDonald’s and a mentor of Walker’s, believes many of the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will eventually merge into one huge conglomerate called “YouTwitFace.”

A few months ago, Feltenstein told a jam-packed audience at the annual Restaurant Leadership Conference in Arizona, “Adapt or become insignificant.”

“Social media is not the end-all, be-all. There is enough room for all forms of advertising and marketing mediums,” Feltenstein said. “Just as movies didn’t eliminate radio and TV, cable didn’t oust broadcast networks and MTV didn’t kill radio, social media isn’t going to blast other forms of marketing into oblivion. They can and should co-exist.”

In conclusion, Walker states that, despite all the jargon and button pushing, it is just about doing business the right way.

“Before you jump onto the social media bandwagon and hire some young guns to handle your social media marketing and eliminate all other marketing efforts, take a moment and think about your customers.” 

Even Better than Tin Cans and String – Cox Communications Goes Wireless

justin brotton - Sunday, May 01, 2011

By Phil Bishop

Talking has come a long way, baby!

From operators such as Sarah in Mayberry and her similarly named counterpart in Hooterville to “one ringy-dingy” as espoused by Laugh-In’s Lily Tomlin and Jack Bauer’s seemingly inexhaustible cell phone on “24,” the way we converse has evolved perhaps almost faster than most of us can speak.

This evolution, which most certainly will continue as long as we need to “have a word,” has reached yet another milestone with a new player on the field of wireless communications. This newbie, however, is a veteran in disguise – Cox Communications, the third-largest cable television company in the United States.

Launching its newest service on March 29, the new wireless plans, introduced under the moniker “Unbelievably FairSM,” will add to the other specialties the company offers its Oklahoma patrons.

“By adding wireless service to Cox’s existing bundle of video, Internet and landline telephone services, we offer an unprecedented value to our customers,” said Percy Kirk, senior vice president and general manager of Cox Communications Oklahoma City. “It will also introduce greater ease in integrating home and mobile services.”

Calling Cox’s approach “customer-centric,” Kirk said all of the usual amenities available from other wireless providers will be part of the Cox package.

“We will offer a robust portfolio of devices, a nationwide network, and the usual award-winning service customers have come to expect from Cox,” he said.

Citing Cox’s long history of innovation and customer service excellence, Kirk said the company’s market research repeatedly heard the word “fair.” With this in mind, the company responded with a program it calls “MoneyBack MinutesSM.”

“Cox is the first wireless carrier to provide cash back on customers’ bills for unused minutes each month – up to $20.00 a month,” Kirk said. “This offers a significant departure from the industry standard by which customers lose unused minutes or carry them over from month to month with no monetary benefit.”

While speaking of cell phone bills, Kirk also mentions that his company’s research discovered that consumers have become frustrated with surprise overage charges each month.

“Cox Wireless will always provide its customers a free text message Usage AlertSM when they approach their maximum number of monthly usage and minutes,” Kirk said. “We will also help customers save minutes by providing free mobile-to-mobile calling between customers and free calling between Cox wireless phones and Cox digital landlines.”

Existing Cox costumers will find their pot sweetened the moment they sign up for Cox Wireless.

“Cox’s bundled customers can choose one free upgrade when they add Cox wireless,” Kirk said. “With what we call our ‘Bundle BenefitsSM,’ advanced television customers can choose a free entertainment channel, which includes Encore, Epix, Sundance and Vutopia; high-speed internet customers can go from ‘Preferred’ to ‘Premiere’ status, or home telephone customers can add unlimited domestic long distance calling on their Cox Digital Telephone service.”

Part of Cox’s plan to bring its services to the public is to make it more visible. According to Kirk, the mobile solutions are now available at the recently unveiled Cox Solutions stores.

“At the heart of the in-store experience is the “Learning Lounge,” a comfortable area where a friendly and knowledgeable Solutions Educator is available to help customers get the most from their wireless device and mobile experience, as well as other Cox products and services,” he said. “This retail experience will hopefully make our customers feel excited and empowered in the wireless world.”

A list of the mobile devices – or as some of us call them, ‘phones’ – available from Cox will, according to Kirk, meet the needs of every customer, and will also continue to expand.

Among the phones available from Cox will be:

The HTC “Desire,” an Android-enabled touch smart phone with WiFi, 1 GHz processing speeds and HTC sense interface.

The Motorola “MilestoneTM,” an Android-enabled smart phone with WiFi, QWERTY slider keyboard, advanced processing with 3G speed, 3.7-inch screen and 5 megapixel camera.

The LG “Axis,” an Android-enabled smart phone with 3.2 touch screen and slide-out keyboard, WiFi and 3.0 megapixel camera, which supports panoramic shots.

The Samsung “Messenger® Touch,” Brew-enabled multimedia device featuring a 2.6-inch touch screen, QWERTY keypad, pre-loaded widgets and 100 MB of storage.

Kirk said there are other feature phones as well, and the Cox 3G U210 On-the-Go Modem for Cox High Speed Internet On-the-Go.

If words such as “cool” and “awesome” can be employed, those would be most appropriate when speaking of some of the Cox Wireless features.

“Integrated into our mobile devices will be such features as the ability to program the home DVR and see TV listings from their phones,” Kirk said. “The app to perform this function will be the beginning of many others that will soon be available to provide greater convenience and mobility for Cox features and services.”

Kirk said other services the phones will provide include a Universal Contact Manager to securely manage, back-up and organize all Cox High Speed Internet and Cox Wireless contacts into one place; also, Voice Mail to Text, which converts voice mail to text and then delivers the message to the Cox Wireless device as a text message, giving customers the freedom to read messages and respond without ever dialing.

However, for all their cutting edge technology, keen sense of customer appreciation and progressive vision, there will be one thing not heard over their new handsets.

“Please insert 25 cents for five more minutes!”

CREATIVITY IN COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: UNLOCK YOUR HIDDEN CURRENCY

justin brotton - Tuesday, March 01, 2011

By Bill Richert, CCIM, S.E.C.

President of Richert Properties, Inc., Tulsa


In today’s real estate climate, making your commercial property more marketable requires creativity and an open [JJ1]. There are fewer potential buyers looking for acquisitions, in addition to it being a difficult financing market. In order to bring your property[JJ2] to the forefront, you need to expand the benefits offered versus the rest of the market. Those benefits include much more than just the physical aspects of the property and the pricing; they can be advantages included in the structure of the agreement[JJ3]. By exercising creativity, there are numerous paths to a completed transaction that will appeal to both buyers and sellers, often providing better benefits than they had originally forecasted.

If you have never accepted something other than cash for property you’ve sold, then you’re selling yourself short. What you actually received for your property may surprise you. In reality, cash or currency are the least tangible assets. What you really got for the property was a note (from the Federal Reserve) backed by no specific security, with no interest rate, and no due date stated on the note. Essentially, it’s only a promise to pay you. The reason that note has any value at all is because other owners, merchants, bankers, businesses, etc. are willing to accept it for their goods and services as well.

The[JJ4] value of Federal Reserve Notes (cash) as payment is based on our perception of the value. In other words, people place the value on the note. When the perception is suspect, the value of other more tangible properties goes[JJ5] up (inflation). When the perception is strong, the note increases in value in relation to the tangible properties, i.e. cars, fuel, furniture, food, clothing, precious metals and, of course, real estate, and it takes fewer notes to buy them.

Early in my real estate career, I discovered[JJ6] that in order to help facilitate many transactions, additional assets, in conjunction with cash, were needed to complete the deal. That supplementary value could be in a number of different forms, but it had to have equity behind it. Equity can be in the form of real estate, cash, paper (notes), even a particular skill or expertise that one party can offer. Your own imagination is the only limiting factor in creating a value that is beneficial to a particular transaction. These additional equities (values) are your hidden currency[JJ7].

In order to explore this more thoroughly, we should start with the premise that people are more important than property. Real estate is an inanimateobject. Brick, steel, wood, plumbing, mechanical and other elements, even land, really have no value unless people perceive value in it. The property itself has no emotions, motivations, desires, ambitions or dreams. However, when people become involved or uninvolved, the landscape changes. Buildings don’t move, get a divorce, die or create profits. It’s only when you apply the human element that the intangible elements of real estate start to come alive. If you’ve ever driven through a small town wherein grand old buildings are vacant and boarded up, you understand this theory. Another common example is old, established inner-city locations once considered a commercially viable area, now hampered by crime, drugs and economic decay.

On the other hand, if you drive through Bricktown in Oklahoma City, Brookside in Tulsa, or downtown Ft. Worth, note the tremendous activity of people patronizing restaurants, shops, apartments or other venues. Without people, property has no value.

EXPAND YOUR MARKET

Perhaps the single biggest reason for failed real estate transactions is the inability to define the benefits necessary to satisfy the seller’s objectives, and to determine how those benefits will appeal to the needs of the market.

In today’s climate, expanding the market for your commercial real estate is the name of the game. In order for your property to appeal to the broadest market, you have to expand and enhance its benefits. Simply listing your property isn’t the only way to make a sale. There are a number of effective ways you can enhance the marketing of your property.

In order to get your goal clearly in mind, first ask yourself: “What will I do with the proceeds when the property sells?” You may initially say, “pay off the debt.” That’s a legitimate answer, but the truth is, as a real estate investor, you are most likely not in ownership of the property to merely “pay off debt.” Your business in real estate investing is to make a profit, either from the operation of the property (cash flow), from increased value created by your expertise (value added) or from length of time of ownership (appreciation). More precisely, ask yourself: “What will I do once I move out of ownership of this property?”

To open up additional opportunities, another question you should ask yourself is: “What are my areas of expertise?” How can you use your expertise to help sell the property you already own and move into another opportunity? Are you a developer, rehabber, planner, engineer, attorney or builder, or are you an investor capable of holding for an extended period? Depending on which of these skills you possess, you can create value through your purchase and ownership of property. You’re selling yourself short if you don’t recognize that the skills and expertise you have acquired through your experiences put you in a unique position – one that can financially reward you through your ownership of real estate.

Below are a few examples of transaction structures I have used in the past to help property owners increase the marketability of their property and accomplish a goal they sought:

  • A sale/ leaseback of your property to provide a return to your buyer.
  • This[JJ8] is quite common in commercial real estate, including many of the triple-net (lessee pays taxes, insurance and maintenance) leased retail, office and industrial property transactions you read about. Small property owners may do this also, in order to raise capital for their business or for other purposes.
  • Owner financing to help the buyer acquire the property. (Later, you can sell or exchange the note for cash or other real estate if you prefer.)
  • Owner financing helps bring some transactions together. Since the property is one with which the Seller is familiar, they should be comfortable with the value to secure the owner-carry mortgage. A note is generally more liquid than real estate; therefore, many investors are willing to take the created note as part of the purchase price of another property. There is also a large market of note buyers who will consider paying cash for the note at some value.
  • If you need to extinguish debt on a property, agree to sell at a discounted price with the option to buy back the property in the future.
  • You pay the debt off with the proceeds from the discounted sale and still have the opportunity for profit on the real estate at a later date by exercising your option to repurchase. This also offers the buyer an excellent return on his investment during his interim holding period (compared to what he could get for his cash in a money market account or CD).
  • I was involved in a transaction recently where a developer had acquired a land parcel and was anticipating developing it into retail/restaurant pads, including an apartment building and two hotel sites. The market changed somewhat during his preliminary planning and it became obvious that his development would take longer than he had anticipated. Most developers would prefer not to tie up their cash in land that will just be sitting for a time. He asked me if I could help him get his debt paid (about 20-25 percent of the value of the property when fully developed), which would solve his immediate situation and enable him to develop the property when the market returned.
  • In my marketing efforts, we found an investment partnership that was willing to acquire the property for a little more than the debt and give the developer an option to repurchase the property within two years for a reasonable return on their capital. The return would come from the repurchase proceeds of the property. The new buyers were comfortable with their security in the real estate (they had purchased the property for 20-25 percent of the developed value), and the return they would receive on the repurchase. Additionally, the developer freed up his credit line, took a liability off his balance sheet, and still had the opportunity to move forward with his development in the future.
  • Take another property in exchange for your property.
  • One reason for using exchange techniques is to increase the marketability of your property. You may have different skills and expertise than the current owner. For example, if you have development or rehab expertise, you are in a position to create additional value in the new property. If you have management skills, you could potentially increase the profitability of the operation of the property you are taking. Also, you may have ideas for remarketing the property you accept in exchange that have not occurred to the previous owner.
  • Early in my career, I owned a small apartment building near a university. The university was in an acquisition campaign and was interested in acquiring my property. After several months, we were still apart on the value, without much hope of coming together. I asked if they had any surplus property they did not intend to use. It’s not uncommon for a university to receive gifts of real estate from donors. Often, the property is not in a location that the school can utilize.
  • The university indicated they had a tract of land they had no intention of using, and would include that in our agreement. The value of that land brought us to a figure we were both comfortable with, and we completed the transaction. I sold the land after a few years and realized a nice profit. The point is, there are numerous combinations that can help a transaction come together if you keep an open mind.

The basic idea is that you are investing your equity as if it were money. The key is understanding the motivations of both parties, as well as the skills and capabilities each party brings to the table. If you can use your skills, expertise and experience to dispose and acquire property, you will be able to profit from your real estate ownership in any market or phase of the real estate cycle, and in the process, unlock your hidden currency.

Bill Richert has 36 years of experience in commercial real estate, specializing in the acquisition and disposition of large development tracts, as well as equity marketing. For more information, please contact him at brichert@ccim.net.


[JJ1]Deleted “by property owners”, if you are referring to the owner addressed at the beginning of the sentence it could be redundant. Wasn’t sure if that’s who you meant or the other party involved.

[JJ2]Is there a synonym for “property”?It's mentioned twice in the sentence.

[JJ3]Replaced transaction with agreement, only to break up the redundancy of the word in the next sentence. If it works better to replace the second transaction, you could change that instead.

[JJ4]You might prefer to break up paragraph somewhere else, but for an article it's best to keep them at 3-4 sentences.

[JJ5]Modifies “value”

[JJ6]Are you going to put your credentials or a boilerplate summary at the end under your name? This sentence flows better without “in my real estate business”, but I know it’s important for the reader to know your experience.

[JJ7]I deleted the end of the sentence because “transaction” is used too frequently.

[JJ8]You don’t have to italicize, you can make font smaller or tab over more. I just felt like since it’s a side note it needed to look like it.





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