Cathy Sweeney: What Real Estate Pros Can Learn from Broadway

Cathy Sweeney
Cathy Sweeney

Last year, one of my D Real Estate Daily posts focused on lessons from great baseball movies. I wrote that blog, in part, because baseball is on my mind from January through September, as we follow my son around baseball fields in Texas. It occurred to me that there might be similar lessons learned from musical theater, which is my daughter’s passion.

Dallas’ history with stage musicals dates back to 1941, when the precursor to the Dallas Summer Musicals held stage in the State Fair bandshell. The Music Hall at Fair Park had been constructed in 1925, but the lack of air conditioning made the bandshell much more practical. The Music Hall has maintained much of its original architectural brilliance from the Spanish Boroque era.

Updates to the performance hall in 1951 (adding air conditioning, allowing for relocation from the bandshell), along with 1972 and 1999 remodels, have kept the Music Hall venue in demand for shows since the 1962 official formation of the nonprofit Dallas Summer Musicals. Today the hall can seat 3,420 patrons for each show in the DSM series, which lures visitors to the Fair Park area all year long. I am happy to say that our family has been in at least two of those seats for shows since the 1990s.

Competition came for venues when the Dallas Arts District expanded in 2009. The inaugural Lexus Broadway Series found a home at the Winspear Opera House, located on a portion of the 68 acres in the Arts District, and home to an additional 2,200 seats for future Broadway shows. One landmark feature is the brilliant chandelier that hangs in the center—a must-see to fully appreciate its beauty. At first, there was concern about the viability of two major venues for musical theater; but fans have stepped up and keep both series booked (including our two front-row seats, booked each year since the inaugural season).

So, as with the baseball blog, you might be asking, “What does musical theater have to do with real estate?” Aside from a few obvious things—architecture, location, community asset—there are other lessons. We spend a lot of our time negotiating in our business; sometimes those meetings are pleasant, sometimes not. Here are five things to remember as we hit the negotiating table in 2014, brought to you by our friends on the stage:

1. “Territory folks should stick together, territory folks should all be pals. Cowboys dance with farmer’s daughters; farmers dance with the rancher’s gals.” (Oklahoma!, 1943). North Texas is a big place, and real estate pros are found in every nook and cranny. All the more reason not to burn bridges; you’ll see each other again, and likely sooner than you think. Don’t let bad negotiating follow you around.

2. “I’ll help you be popular! You’ll hang with the right cohorts; you’ll be good at sports, know the slang you’ve got to know.” (Wicked, 2003) As Glinda learned, it pays to be familiar with your cohorts’ likings. Find something in common. Get away from the table and play a round of golf. Learning about others rarely has a downside. In fact, time away from the table can build trust, which can be brought back to the table to clinch the deal.

3.  “I’ve gotta crow! I’m just the cleverest fellow ‘twas ever my fortune to know.” (Peter Pan, 1954) and “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” (Into the Woods, 1987) The lesson? Check your ego at the door. Although I am sure that in any meeting there is one person who is the smartest in the room, you can bet it’s not the one who is crowing about it. Don’t be the one who is referenced after the meeting by another famous line: “Lord knows, he ain’t got the smarts!” (Roxie, Chicago)

4. “He had it coming; he only had himself to blame. If you’d have been there, if you’d have heard it, I bet you would have done the same.” (Chicago, 1975) Revenge makes for a great storyline on the stage, but it’s not a good practice at the negotiating table. The musical American Idiot asks, “Do you know your enemy?” Bringing revenge to the party is one way to ensure that enemy is you.

5. “If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned!” (Les Miserables, 1987) Business ethics. We are regulated by various licensing entities, and those groups set the rules for us. That being said, disclosure has its time and place. Don’t give away all of your information in one sitting. Be ethical, but don’t be ridiculous.

Cathy Sweeney is a managing partner of Wolverine Interests and a principal with Cresa Partners Capital Markets. You can find her in her office by following the sound of showtunes, cranked over her Pandora account. Contact her at [email protected]

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