NEW YORK CITY—Effective communication comes in many styles. At a forum “Game Changing Ideas and Best Practices Among Leading Dealmakers,” Time Equities chairman and CEO, Francis Greenburger, minced no word in his videotaped message to the mayor.
After criticizing the high number of vacant retail spaces and pointing to costly real estate tax bills, Greenburger pointedly said, “The mayor needs to recognize his very important, very useful and commendable social programs are coming from the money that the real estate industry in New York provides. So, he’d better take care of us or the golden goose … the golden goose isn’t feeling so well today.”
Paul Massey, Jr., the president of NY investment sales at Cushman & Wakefield, who ran against Mayor Bill de Blasio, was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s event produced by CollabNet and Ellipsis, LLC, at the Pillsbury law firm. Massey’s message to the mayor was to “get out and listen.” He emphasized New York City has a very challenging situation with the middle class suffering from a housing crisis.
“It’s incredibly expensive to live and work here,” Massey said. The housing stock is approximately 80 years old and deteriorating and New York City will likely increase in population. The city will need massive housing on a scale it has not seen in decades, according to Massey.
He encouraged consensus building and praised the strength of New York City to welcome immigrants from all over the world. Massey stressed that international investment will create more housing, businesses and commercial opportunities. He noted during the recession in 2008 and 2009 foreign investment in New York real estate spiked from 6% to 13%, helping to pull the city out of the recession much faster than other markets.
This sequed into the panel discussion on best practices, including international markets. Paul Homsy, principal at Noonmark Capital Partners, and a partner at the law firm Eaton & Van Wickle, focuses on doing business in the Arab gulf states.
Homsy followed his academic and personal interests. He took Middle Eastern studies at the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate and learned Arabic. After graduating from law school, he worked for a US multinational company handling deals in the Middle East. Homsy then joined a law firm and moved to Saudi Arabia where he lived for five years and opened the firm’s Riyadh office. That was 25 years ago and he still considers that region of the world his second home.
“The Arab gulf states are one of the richest parts of the world. People there are leery of people who just want to put their hand in their pocket and do a quick tour on a deal,” says Homsy. “For me, these aren’t just businesses. These are friends. I’ve grown up with these people.”
Homsy also stressed the importance of understanding people’s cultures. Although Dubai and Doha have glass skyscrapers, and appear to be some of the most modern-looking cities in the world, Homsy said behind the glass, steel and facades are very traditional societies.
Panelist Jane Weng, president at DGW US Companies, a Chinese investment group, said it is important to acknowledge differences in cultures. In general, Chinese people want to know you as a person, she explained. “They want to do business with people they want to do business with,” said Weng.
“Even as a stranger when you meet them, to get a deep relationship with you they will ask you several questions: What is your name? Where are you from? What is your job? Then be prepared to answer the next questions: Are you married? How much money do you make? Don’t be offended. Chinese want to feel like they know you, then they know how to connect with you.”
Faith Hope Consolo, chair, retail, leasing and sales division, Douglas Elliman, unified the underlying advice for best practices in networking expressed by all participants. “You have to immerse. Connections are about giving what you can and being accessible,” she said.
When Consolo entered real estate, she joined what was formerly the Young Men’s Real Estate Association (now the Young Men’s/Women’s Real Estate Association).
There were 200 men, many from prestigious founding real estate families. She recalled they gave her the worst jobs. For example, she handled the coat check. At the golf outing, they put her in charge of refreshments. “What do I look like her? A barmaid?” she asked the audience. But she never said no to any job, and met everyone at the events.
With check-in duties, Consolo said, “I shook everyone’s hands. Larry Silverstein. Bill Rudin. Bernard Mendik. I said, ‘Hi, I’m Faith Consolo. I’m new. This is a great job (laughs) but I hope I can get a better one. What do you do?’ And everyone talked to me.”
Although there was a rule that people had to work in real estate for five years before joining the association, after only two years, with the unanimous voting of 24 men, Consolo was granted membership.
Consolo stressed networking is what you can bring and contribute to the group. Years ago, she joined what is now CREW New York (Commercial Real Estate Women New York). She sat on her dining room floor stuffing envelopes and later became the organization’s president bringing it from 50 to 500 members. She made countless relationships by volunteering, making lifelong friends, being genuinely interested in people and the work they did.
“How much business have I gotten through networking? I don’t know,” said Consolo, “You have to immerse. That’s what networking is. You have to embrace.”
“You have to bring as much as you try to take away. People go to events and they give out business cards, try to extract business,” said former New York Governor David Paterson, a guest at the event. “Whatever you give to the event is probably more important than what you receive. When you give in the end you receive more than anyone else.”