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When your World Turns Upside-Down.

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Have you ever gone to work and found out your work life is going to be turned upside down? How you deal with that type of situation says a lot about you.

Have you ever gone to work and found out your work life is going to be turned upside down? This has happened a few times to me. We all have choices in how we deal with these situations. Some will give up, some will cry in their Cheerios for a day or two, some will embrace the challenge put in front of them, while others will look to their leader to make their decision. No matter how you choose to react, the situation at hand remains and the resolution unknown. Sometimes we must take the time to process the magnitude of the situation and other times we need to make swift decisions. This, in my mind, is where men and women differ in the decision process. Male leaders tend to make a quick decision and female leaders tend to take their time to process the information before a decision is made. Neither one is right nor wrong. Speaking from experience, I have found that my quick decisions lead to more problems, while well thought out decisions have better results and create less work for all involved in the long run. Remember that as a leader the decisions you make in life affect others.

“Remember that as a leader the decisions you make in life affect others.”

Work decisions and sacrifices come in different shapes and sizes. I have been with my current employer for more than a decade. I will never forget my first day of work as a Marketing Coordinator for various companies in the conglomerate. I was not able to discern from my internet searches what companies were in the conglomerate because only one of them had an internet presence. When I asked my boss, it was apparent that the lack of external presence had seeped into the internal operations as the synergy within the four walls was nonexistent. I had my work cut out for me to market these companies in a way that was not counterproductive. By the time I had joined the company it appeared on the surface that they were quite successful. The reason I say successful was because of the image they portrayed that was ecstatic with the waterfall, frosted glass walls, and larger than life boardroom. It appeared they had their business model defined and refined to a mad science, but did they? The leadership was certainly accomplished for their age and trial by fire approach. Trial by fire was what I discovered to be the business model after a few weeks of getting to know the management through one-on-one interviews. Imagine for a minute a thriving real estate investment firm in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Do you know of any real estate firm in 2005, 2006 and 2007 that was not successful? I admired their accomplishments and their ability to take chances on real estate endeavors. And then comes 2008. I guess you know now where this story is headed. Yep, only the strong will survive in this story.

So, let’s roll into 2008, 2009 and 2010 as the company went from a real estate investment firm to an asset management firm foreclosing on assets on behalf of its investors and doing everything the companies could do to stay afloat. By this point, I had moved up into a management position, but not yet in the circle of trust of upper management. Survival mode was taking a toll on many of the upper management staff by this time. Some elected to depart for various reasons unknown to me. From my perspective, upper management saw the writing on the wall of the days of large salaries and bonuses came to a halt as paying the expenses of the companies became a challenge. This did not phase me at the time as the operation of the businesses were unnecessarily complicated. They were fighting to salvage companies that needed to be closed as they were a financial drain on other businesses. And most importantly, they had leadership that was unwilling or maybe unable to recognize the downsizing of expense, and yes, that included them taking a pay cut. This is when I started to have private conversations with the majority owner of the companies and my desire to help him salvage what might be left after the damage inflicted by the market correction and mismanagement of the company’s finances.

Let us just say that the majority owner siding with me did not go over well with the remaining upper management. I guess they did not like the fact that I was willing to tell him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear. Many people did not care for the majority owner either for whatever their reasons. I heard many stories that demoralized him and his companies. Funny thing is they never discussed what he did for their careers, or that he paid for their education, company cars, severance packages, or paid them well above the average salaries and bonuses for numerous years. Nope, never heard those stories, just experienced it firsthand.

The experiences of 2008, 2009 and 2010 were an adventure to say the least. Not many people would agree, but when you read some of these stories you may tend to agree with me.

How important is your hard-earned money to you? I imagine important. Were your investments in real estate or the stock market affected during 2008, 2009 and 2010? I imagine this answer is yes. Who did you blame for this? I imagine you are thinking about this answer a little longer, so I will ask again. Who did you blame for the economic meltdown? If the value of your house you were living in decreased, did you blame yourself? Your house is an investment after all. When your stock portfolio was tanking, did you blame your financial advisor? Did he or she make the value of your stock portfolio decrease single handedly? We were all looking to blame someone for the loss of our investments. As the value of real estate decreased in many cities throughout the United States, many would agree that a few cities felt the impact more so than others. Two words; Las Vegas. Imagine having a real estate investment firm with hundreds of millions of investors capital invested in Las Vegas? Our company did not have time to react to the steamroller effect that occurred. And, no, we did not have a crystal ball to see the catastrophe event coming. It was like being a hamster in a plastic ball. We were running to try and get somewhere only to hit the wall and having to go the other direction. There was nowhere to go and no way to get out. All we could do was communicate and protect the investor’s investment considering the situation.

The word “protect” took on a whole different meaning as some investors chose to blame our company and/or leadership for the impacts of the financial meltdown. We even received death threats. Even though this was happening I kept encouraging our senior management team to have conference calls and town-hall style meetings. At times, I will admit it was a bit scary. I still stand behind that decision. Good or bad, all we could do was communicate what steps we were taking to protect their investment by taking the properties back from the borrowers that defaulted on their loans through the foreclosure process. I remember having a shareholder meeting, which I asked my employees to work the registration tables before entering the meeting. I waited to tell them about the death threats until minutes before the shareholders were scheduled to show up. I told them not to worry, I had contacted the police department and they would be present throughout the registration and meeting. I am not sure if the look on their face was fear or anger that I waited until that minute to tell them. Nevertheless, they did what had to be done. They did not let a couple of people ruin an opportunity for the other hundred shareholders to understand the situation we were dealing with the best way we knew how. Then we got back in our plastic balls and kept on trying to do everything we could to preserve the investors capital investment in real estate that continued to decrease in value. To think that it got so bad that you could not sell some of the land in Las Vegas for pennies on the dollar. This is when we realized everyone in the real estate industry was in a plastic hamster ball just like us. Everyone, including our company, was not immune to the Great Depression of our time.

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