Contemplating Michigan construction cones, zones

May 19, 2010

On a lighter note this week, you know its spring when both the trees and the orange barrels start to bud.  Of course, the former is eagerly anticipated while the latter seems to become more and more frustrating and confusing with each passing year.

Even with the recent availability of stimulus dollars, municipalities, counties and the state are fiscally challenged.  You would think, then, that there would be more method to the madness aimed at greater efficiencies.

Travel to states west and northeast and you will see more roadwork at night. Worker overtime is involved, but overall productivity also increases when minimal late-night traffic and delays allow large stretches of roadway to be completely shut down. My office is on Telegraph Road in Bingham Farms in the midst of a construction zone that limits travel for many miles both ways. Why not smaller stretches at a time?

And what is the rationale behind simultaneously closing or limiting traffic along parallel routes? Why not coordinate and consolidate? Focus resources so that they don’t compete but, rather, get completed in a more time-effective manner without throwing a metropolitan area in a state of gridlock. Such methodology might also work to ease some of the financial duress on businesses along throughways embattled by roadwork. High-profile, advance notice can also make a difference. Remember “Dodge the Lodge?” You knew what areas to re-route around and, thankfully, alternatives I-75 and I-96 were not similarly plagued.

Here’s another one for you: Work on Orchard Lake Road in front of West Bloomfield High School is currently wreaking havoc on a zone already known for its bumper to bumper traffic. Isn’t school out in just a few more weeks?  It would seem some of those involved are already “out to lunch.”

The Era of the great Operator

April 12, 2010

As I mentioned previously, finding a great operator is essential to enjoying success, regardless of economic realities. Operating, managing and leading multi-family real estate investments for 30 years, I’ve come to know a few things about keeping a great operation going.

Other real estate professionals from around the country, also feeling the real estate pinch, ask me how I survive in the real estate business in Michigan; what my secret is. My response? Overcome the war by winning the daily battles. Put another way: sweat the small stuff.

We are in the era of the great operator. The person or persons who run your operation(s) is much more important to your business than ever. Tech upgrades no longer help you stand apart. High-speed Internet, unless it’s Google Fiber,, cable TV, flat-screens – they’re everywhere. The customer experience and interaction, set by the operator, is once again the rarest and most unique of commodities. You distinguish yourself today through service, service, service, not bells and whistles and smoke and mirrors.

Everything else is truly secondary. A great operator can make a mediocre asset perform in outstanding fashion. On the flip side, a mediocre operator can ruin a great asset. At the end of the day, the battle is no longer between properties and amenities, it’s about the whos, whats, whens and hows of the operator, and the best operator/operation always wins.

At Dover Realty Advisors, we survive by doing what great operators do – rolling up our sleeves every day, going to work wanting to be the best, never resting on yesterday’s successes, knowing how and when to react, and understanding that change is sometimes necessary. I also work hard to find the right people and instill these same values in them. More on that next time.

Smoking Ban

January 4, 2010

When I was an undergrad, I worked at a bar. The pay was good, the hours weren’t too bad, and my friends frequently stopped in to keep me company.

But arriving home at 3 a.m. and smelling like I’d rolled in a field of cigarette butts wasn’t pleasant. And waking up in the morning feeling like I’d swallowed a piece of insulation wasn’t great either.

People were allowed to smoke in bars then. I accepted it because there wasn’t an alternative, but I didn’t enjoy it. As a nonsmoker the idea of smoke-free establishments only seems fair. Why should I have to smell like your cigarette?

The pleasure of coming home after a night out and not having my hair and clothing carry the odor of sulfur is exhilarating. I don’t have to shower before bed for fear the ingrained smokiness will seep into my pillows. I can wear the same jeans the next day without getting a whiff of stale smoke every time I take a step.

I have friends who smoke, and though it might be an inconvenience for them, they have no problem leaving a bar or restaurant when they need a few drags. Banning smoking in public establishments is in the same realm as banning cell phone use while driving; it’s about the safety and consideration of others.

The smoking ban in Michigan is set to take effect May 1, 2010. Although most major cities already have a ban in place (even isolated Columbia, Mo.), it’s been a rocky road for Michigan legislators. And if you ask me, it’s been a long time coming.

– Missy Schwartz