Now is the time for Critics: Why the world needs another commercial real estate company.

Posted on January 26, 2017

My best friend and some of the most influential men in my life are football coaches and January 1st can be a horrible time for them. It's when the pundits, the personalities, the internet trolls come to life and thrash them, many with zero experience in the game.

"He has had two years, we should have won the Championship by now!"

"They don't know what they are doing!"

The reality is almost none of the so called experts has ever spent a day in the locker room, on the practice field or in the meetings. The critics don’t know the heart of the players and none of them know for sure the culture being created, good or bad.

However, that is the gig. Coaches sign up for it. Wins and Losses are binary equations and moral victories don't count in their world. But take a look at the programs that have the longest histories of success and I think you will see a couple of characteristics.

  • Long term leadership - they don't change at the drop of the hat.
  • Low inside criticism - they don't have a culture of sniping.

January 1st is similar for us in business. As entrepreneurs, as business owners, as associates, we want to know how we did last year. It is a time to focus on results, on performance, are we on track? But the simple fact in business, and in life, is this…

There is no hack for long term prosperity.

We are our own worst critics, right? This is actually a lie. We usually judge the person in the mirror through the lens of our best intentions, which is why we fail so miserably at New Year’s resolutions and why we are facing so many global cultural issues right now. We are always the worst critic of others, sometimes we can be really mean about it, and when those others are internal, our customers, our partners, then the funeral march is around the corner waiting for us.

 And here is the worst thing…it happens slowly.

 It can happen in corners.

 In offices with the door closed.

 It happens in whispers, and it can kill you.

 This is wholly different than:

 How can we get better?

How can we improve?

How do we not make the same mistake?

How do we, together, create the best possible environment for the success of our customers?
 Do you notice the difference? It's one word.

When we break down the game film to get better, look what happens when you replace the "we" with "you". The whole context changes. Because what people instinctively hear is:

You need to get better.

You need to improve.

What they hear is "You aren't good enough".

 And the sniping begins.

2017 is the Ten Year Anniversary of Foundry Commercial. Depending on the source, statistics will tell you that only 10-30% of businesses survive 10 years. Whether it is 10% or 30%, we are starting a phase of our journey that a majority of companies never get to. There is no question that we are doing some things right and there is no question that we have a lot to work on. What a great place to be!

Now is the time for critics and as I reflect back on when we started the company I remember them well.

 "Why would you do that?"

 "Does the world really need another Commercial Real Estate company?"

 "Good Luck with that!"

Some of those comments came from people I really respected and they hurt, some were sniping from competitors, most were jealous of what we were doing because they didn't have the guts…OK, hold on a moment, that is my ego talking. Let's be honest…

Foundry exists because it had to exist.

We weren't planning on starting our own company, it exists because of the disruption that has occurred in our space. M&A, big global platforms buying each other. Foundry exists because of an event, which I thought at the time, was the worst thing that could happen, Trammell Crow Company was sold.

But, the worst thing became the best thing.

Which is often the case. Foundry exists because our customers trusted us, and I can't thank them enough. Foundry exists because our partners took a risk and new partners join in that risk and because of our associates that have continued to build it. Foundry exists and has lasted for 10 years because of our culture, which actually acknowledges imperfection and is centered on serving the customer, serving each other and the communities we live in. We have learned to live with the "chaos of creating" and there has been a lot of chaos, but what could be more fun?

Foundry has also had its moments, its near death experiences. Almost always, those moments have been caused, have been created, and have emanated from the single greatest threat that still readies itself to attack us today…

Ourselves and our pride.

Look, honesty is critical, when we look at the game film we have to talk about where we can get better. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions. But here is another truth. Foundry is hitting the tape on the first 10 years of our journey faster, stronger and more dynamic than it has ever been. Yes, the statistical results are significant, 300 employees, over $600 million in fund investments, close to 50 million square feet of leasing and management and a record year for revenue and profits. But all of those are results, not what we do. All of those results come from one thing…

The customers and partners that place their trust in us.

Our investment partners are name brands in our industry and some of the finest people in our space. Their decision…their choice to work or partner with Foundry is what allows us to do all of the things we strive for, it’s binary. Everything we do has to be centered on what is best for our customers.

You disrupt the disruption by focusing on how we can serve the customer better than those being disrupted.

So, as we look forward to the next season as a company, don’t be surprised to hear critics chirping and sniping from the stands, let’s make sure we aren’t sitting with them. We have built something significant, something that is sustainable. I am deeply grateful about this opportunity because over the past 10 years we have been in the arena, on the field, in the practices and showing up on game day! We have been building day by day, brick by brick, customer by customer and your fingerprints are all over this business.

Let’s continue to encourage and rally for each other while keeping our customers at the very core of everything we do and the next 10 years are set to be better than the first.


-Paul Ellis