Board Minutes from the Chairman: April 2022

Back on the Bike

Last month I joined several of my friends to circumnavigate the island of Hawaii on a bike. Our group has regularly created these adventure trips to check-in on one another, assure our ongoing fitness and enjoy a new challenge.

For one of my friends, this year’s trip was especially meaningful as he had recently undergone a laryngectomy or removal of his larynx and thus the removal of his vocal cords. He now breathes through a stoma in his lower neck which also served as his portal for his voice prosthesis allowing him to make sounds by pushing air from his lungs through a valve in his stoma and up into his mouth. Yes, it was amazing that he was recharged and back on the bike!

If you have ridden long distances with lots of climbing, you know how important drafting and conversing is to optimize energy and improve speed efficiencies. Key to this increased riding productivity is maintaining a predictable communication system… so during our riding, Peter taught me to become a better listener as we developed a new language of murmuring with added hand and body signals.

I share this adventure in my Chairman Minutes for several reasons as we shift from pandemic to endemic and get back on our own bikes. For most, this has been invigorating. We have missed the regularity of human interaction prompting an eagerness for us to re-engage to some sense of workplace rationality and life normalcy.

In my industry, there has been much debate about the workforce’s return to the office and the new world order of officing while exploring remote and hybrid working models. Undoubtedly, you’ve all read that Apple will be returning with a hybrid work model beginning in April, along with American Express, Google and Citigroup also leading their troops back. Certainly, a hybrid work model has its merits and was undoubtedly in motion pre-pandemic but is now being formalized within work etiquettes and employee handbooks.

Maybe some of you recently heard Bank of America’s market President for San Francisco, Gloria McCarthy, quipping “we’re a work-from-work company” or Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman, recently referencing that people who work from home are in “job land” and people need to be in the office “career land” and around colleagues if they want to develop their skills. Of course, one suit does not fit all, and certain customization will be built-in to allow for varied business cultures and their product and service profiles.

My accountant told me the other day that her firm will not mandate a return to the office as if they did, they would not be able to retain or hire their employees. Maybe that model can work for this profile of business, or maybe they’ll find out that their employees are not furthering their career skills while working remotely and will miss the connectivity with their workmates.

However, what remote working can’t optimize is that link to physical human interaction, collaboration, competitive exchange, and the benefits realized from a company’s culture. So, what is company culture… at Buchanan, we think of it as the heartbeat or personality of our company. From my recollection of French, I might frame it as that “je ne sais quoi” or “pièce de résistance” that a company has within their DNA… undoubtedly a significant differentiator of great organizations.

At Buchanan Street Partners, we have worked hard to quantify our company’s culture and its value-add to our business by building our ethos around values of knowledge, teamwork, trust, results, and leadership. We know these metrics and purposeful efforts lead to higher productivity, greater employee engagement, more creativity and lower turnover. But more specifically and recently, this prioritization of culture has not only kept our company intact during this pandemic but allowed it to continue to flourish, prompting our employees to want to be back in the office together.

Coincidentally and quantifiably, our company’s culture has kept our team together and has delivered ROI and tangible investment results. For example, we recently completed a significant apartment construction loan in Southern California, a third such loan with this particular borrower, where we were not the least expensive option for the client but due to a trusted relationship, our understanding and structuring of the business and our prior performance we completed the financing. This borrower regularly affirmed that he likes working with our team as he likes our people, and we add additional value to his process.

Similarly, we just completed the acquisition of a flex/light industrial project with a seller and broker with whom we had previously transacted, allowing us to preempt a formal marketing of the asset due to client’s confidence in our ability to perform at a fair price.

Lastly, our culture has established a meaningful brand and entrepreneurial reputation that recently enabled us to recruit a key hire to build a new business line. The hire sought us out as he was looking to make a change to an organization that would recognize his talent, and moreover, his aspirations to participate in building something new… a business which incidentally has now completed its fourth investment.

I’ve recently been reading that the great resignation might have some holes in it as former employees are now wanting their jobs back. There is no doubt that the pandemic caused a pause in our lives, reflection on our priorities and a reset to the next chapter. Most are recognizing that the one thing that they can’t live without is family, friends, and their workmates. For sure, the work environment is changing much like my bike has… with its new Red eTap AXS, it’s SRAM XG-1290 and increased tire width and I’m still riding. By the way, my friend Peter has the same bike and he’s doing just great… thanks for the trip pal!

Best to all,

View and download a full PDF copy of this quarter’s Board Minutes here.