I remember the first time that I was traumatized by change. I was 11, and we were moving from my childhood home to a larger house in a nearby city. In my mind, this was absolutely catastrophic. I threw a fit when my parents told us. I was going to have to change rooms? We were going to go through my things and throw away what I didn’t need? What if I never, ever saw my friends from the old neighborhood again? A few weeks later, I recruited my younger sister in staging a “sit-in”: We planted ourselves on top of the stack of cardboard boxes that my mom piled in our living room with a handwritten sign that said, “JUST SAY NO!” (This was the days of D.A.R.E.) I proclaimed that we would not budge unless she said we didn’t have to move. That lasted all of five hours until she ordered pizza for dinner. Diabolical, my mom was, using cheesy goodness as a weapon.
Since that time, I like to think I’ve become a bit more accustomed to change. I’ve moved across the country four times, changed jobs, called off an engagement—after all, life has its ups and downs. And the only thing you can control about change is how you react to it.
In business, too, change is inevitable. And with change comes the good, the bad, the very ugly, which makes change simultaneously exciting and terrifying. For example, in the course of my journalism career, I have seen communication change from a predominantly print medium to a largely digital one. Our work now consists largely of Web-first news reporting, virtual events, special widgets on our website, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and more. We still spend time producing a quality magazine with in-depth coverage of the people, companies, and trends that matter to you. But that’s just one aspect of a multifaceted, multi-platform operation that didn’t exist just five years ago.
And those changes have been hard, requiring new skills and greater effort by my staff, as well as a willingness to cater to ever-shortening attention spans. But at the end of the day, we know the changes were necessary for our evolution.
Today, the forces of change and evolution are alive and well in the multifamily space, where we’ve seen asset managers become property managers; development associates become leasing agents; CEOs take on consulting roles; office developers become multifamily fund managers. The reality is that the world is very different today. And every executive, at every company in our industry, is eyeing new strategies and tactics for expanding their operations. (See “Prime Time,” by senior editor Chris Wood, on page 33, for four of these strategic paths.) Some will choose to tap into those changes by launching new businesses; others will opt to hire experts to build up their repertoire. (Marlton, N.J.–based Michaels Development Co. has done both—check out a profile of the company, written by senior editor Les Shaver, on page 26.) But the truth is that the world, the economy, and consumer psyches are very different today from even a few years ago, before the Great Recession. Multifamily companies that want to maintain their market dominance, or new players who want to make their mark, must understand and embrace this new, evolving, ever-changing dynamic.
In the final analysis, change is often for the better. My cross-town move when I was 11 was a blessing—my grandparents moved next door the following year, and “home” has never meant more. The moves made by multifamily players trying to figure out their role in a new world order? Some of those changes may just revolutionize the industry. But time, not anxiety, will be the judge. And no amount of pizza will change that.