Learning Through Experience at REITs

REIT magazine: March/April 2019

Almost from the second your first child starts crawling, parents face a constant barrage of decisions about what warrants intervention and what can be chalked up to a teaching moment. Licking the electrical outlet—definite intervention. Trying to walk through the glass sliding door—maybe it’s best she learns that one the hard way.

A good parent naturally wants to protect their child and pass along whatever wisdom they have accumulated to ensure their son or daughter avoids as many of life’s pitfalls as possible. But that must be balanced out by giving a child the ability to experience life—good and bad—and learn and grow from the choices they make and actions they take.

Kids, especially my teenage daughters, think they know everything. So, even the times when I do step in and try and steer them in the right direction, they are more likely than not going to dismiss my advice as being overprotective. Or worse, I get the dreaded teenage eye roll and a dismissive “whatever, Dad.”

My wife is much wiser than I am, and she reminds me that we were the same way at their age—and that some of us (namely me) never totally lose that stubborn streak. She is absolutely right. Nothing beats experience, and failures are simply the first attempt at an eventual great success.

I think many of us can point to a few moments in our careers where the benefit of hindsight would have come in handy. There is a reason the cliché “if I knew then what I know now” exists.

In this issue’s Final Word column, we asked three veteran REIT CEOs to name the most important lesson they have learned over the years that they wish they knew on day one of taking the helm. While they mentioned the importance of developing and trusting your “gut,” focusing on achieving the goal rather than reaching perfection, and building a strong corporate culture, the consensus was that no pearl of wisdom could substitute for hands-on experience.

As Federal Realty Investment Trust (NYSE: FRT) CEO Don Wood says, “It’s hard, really hard, and maybe even impossible to be as good [a leader] when you are a new CEO as when you become an experienced one.”

That is why succession planning and communication between a company’s outgoing and incoming leadership is so important in maintaining continuity and organizational stability. With the proper support in place, new CEOs can better manage their new responsibilities and ensure that nobody walks face-first into a door.

Matthew Bechard
Editor in Chief