Just got back to our house (rather than stay on the Strip, we decided to rent a private home) from the first day of the ICSC RECon in Las Vegas. Keeping in mind that I am a first timer, here are some initial impressions.
Thank goodness for the cool weather. That made walking miles and miles easier.
The morning breakout sessions were even better than I thought they would be. The panel on workouts gave good, practical advice for dealing with lenders in a variety of distressed situations. I learned some things I will use and I will also probably study up more and blog about what additional things I learn.
The legal special interest group session was also good with practical advice from in-house folks. Some of the advice was fairly obvious -- keep in touch, let us know about changes, bill regularly and with sufficient detail. The best advice I think was this: don't buy me lunch - make me want to use your firm. I was somewhat miffed -- perhaps wrongly so -- by a large firm lawyer saying something like, "You can't compete with the guy working out of his house on price, so you have to develop expertise or make yourself stand out in other ways." It made me feel cheap, until I learned my billing rates were higher than large companies want to pay for commodity work (not that I really do a lot of that). It seems like law firms are racing each other to the bottom on hourly rates. I will not do that. I charge a fair fee, be it hourly or an alternative fee arrangement; I work quickly and efficiently and make the client look good, thus adding value. So I am comfortable with what I do, and I cannot remember the last time a client complained about my bill. Like I say: try me once and you will not be disappointed.
Speaking of disappointment, let's talk about the keynote address from Sarah Palin. In short, it was a standard stump speech with a few superficial comments about shopping centers and retail real estate. It was awful and a borderline train wreck in my opinion. All Palin had to do was add in a paragraph about the pending disaster of carried interest and she would have not only won over the crowd but gotten significant fundraiser cash from the industry if she runs in 2012. As it stands, I do not know if she knows what carried interest is.
As to deal making: I am a first timer, so I cannot imagine a larger hall. There was buzz in the smaller (but still HUGE) facility. Some booths were empty and others were packed. I chuckled at the fact that Burger King and McDonald's were right across from each other, as were CVS and Walgreens. If you want a veteran report on the day, check out other bloggers. The always excellent David Bodamer comes immediately to mind.
Some other random thoughts:
Commercial real estate is very white male dominated and very red meat.
Sex. Still. Sells. Period.
One easy way to spot RECon veterans from newbies: shoes. Newbies wear stylish shoes; how you walk three or four or more miles in a day wearing tight lace-up shoes, 5" Louboutins or Pretty Woman boots is beyond me. Vets wear comfy shoes; my friends warned me of this so I showed up prepared. I nevertheless picked another pair of comfy shoes for tomorrow on my way home.
There seemed to be a lot of optimism on the deal floor. But remember we CRE people tend to be eternally optimistic. The direct operation booths were more crowded than broker booth. GGP was packed, I am happy to say. I did not get to some other major booths today.
Kudos to LoopNet, which rolled out a new low-cost property information service today. The marketing staff was kind enough to give me a tour of the product and I liked it. I made one recommendation and offered to do a little testing of the site. I plan to write more about the service after I have played with it a bit.
Tomorrow I will be attending the Dealmakers Magazine Tweetup at their booth; I hope to see you there. I will probably not be at the show at all Tuesday; if I make it I will just stay for an hour or so that day and leave for my vacation.
That's all for now. More tomorrow!