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Susan Arledge: The Six Most Dangerous Words in Commercial Real Estate

If someone says “I’ve always done it this way,” it’s time to find someone else. Here‘s why.
Susan Arledge
Susan Arledge

“I’ve always done it this way.” It’s those six words that can be the most dangerous and career-ending words in commercial real estate. If someone says “I’ve always done it this way,” it’s time to find someone else. Damian Rivera, who leads E Smith Realty’s national accounts team, is our company’s “breaker.” His motto: “If it ain’t broke, break it.”

One of the most important success principles of all time was simply stated by Thomas Huxley who said, “Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not. There are 999 other success principles that I have found in my reading and experience, but without self-discipline, none of them work.”

Self-discipline is the key to personal greatness. Without self-discipline, a person with every fabled background, Ivy League education, or opportunity will seldom rise above mediocrity.

Zulily’s CEO Darrell Cavens said in a recent interview, “We at Zulily talk a lot about scratching out mediocrity. Zulily can’t be good enough. It’s got to be great.” He goes on to explain:

“We’re publishing a new version of our site every single day. It can’t be just another Tuesday. And that means a lot of volume and interesting editorial curation. We host 50 new events a day. That means adopting about 6,000 new SKUs online daily. A typical Costco store has about 4,000 SKUs. If we put the same product up, people wouldn’t come back—that daily newness drives the business. When people think about e-commerce, they don’t realize the complexity of what happens behind the scenes. We have 35 photo studios and do product shoots seven days a week.”

Cavens goes on to say that “Culturally, our mindset is to go fast and try things. Zulily can’t afford to celebrate mediocrity and for some very valid reasons:

• Not everything must be ‘fair.’ Fairness is neither a healthy ideal to pursue, nor a state that can ever be achieved. There are no trophies for just showing up.

• It creates a sense of entitlement or the notion that everyone should have whatever they want.”

Jeff Haden, a contributing editor for Inc. magazine, identified what he calls “The Cherished Beliefs of Incredibly Successful People.” Here are excerpts from his post on the topic:

I can choose myself. Once you had to wait: to be accepted, to be promoted, to be selected … to somehow be ‘discovered.’ Not anymore. You can do almost anything you want—and you don’t have to wait for someone else to discover your talents. The only thing holding you back is you—and your willingness to try.

Success is inevitable only in hindsight. Read stories of successful entrepreneurs and it’s easy to think they have some intangible entrepreneurial something—ideas, talent, drive, skills, creativity, whatever—that you don’t have. Wrong. Success is inevitable only in hindsight. It’s easy to assume that entrepreneurial path to tremendous success was a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t. Success is never assured. If you’re willing to work hard and persevere, who you are is more than enough.

I am not self-serving. I am a servant. No one accomplishes anything worthwhile on his own. Great consultants put their clients’ needs first. Great businesses go out of their way to help and serve their customers. If you’re in it only for yourself, then someday you will be by yourself.

I may not be the first … but I can always be the last. When others give up, leave, stop trying, or compromise their principles and values, the last person left is often the person who wins. Other people may be smarter, better connected, more talented, or better funded, but they can’t win if they aren’t around at the end. The one thing you can always be is the last person to give up on yourself.

I will do one thing every day no one else is willing to do. Do just one thing. Even if it’s simple. Even if it’s small. Do one thing every day. After a week, you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year, you will be incredible. Successful people form the habit of doing what unsuccessful people don’t want to do.

Strategy is important, but execution is everything. Strategy is not a product. Binders are filled with strategies that were never implemented. Develop an idea. Create a strategy. Set up a rudimentary system of operations. Then execute, adapt, execute some more, and build a solid operation based on what works. Success is built through execution. Incredibly successful people focus on executing incredibly well.

Real leadership is measured in years, not moments. Leaders aren’t just the ones who double the stock price in six months or the ones who are brave enough to boldly go where no man has gone before.  Incredible leaders can consistently inspire and motivate. They’re the kind of people you’ll follow not because you have to but because you want to. You’ll follow them anywhere.

Work comes first. Payoff comes later. Successful people earn promotions by first working harder. Successful businesses earn higher revenue by first delivering greater value. Successful entrepreneurs earn bigger payoffs by first working hard, well before any potential return is in sight. Most people expect to be compensated more before they will even consider working harder.  Incredibly successful people see compensation as the reward for exceptional effort, not the driver—whether that reward is financial, or personal, or simply the satisfaction that comes from achieving what you worked incredibly hard to achieve.

I can make history—and I will. You may not make it onto the pantheon of great entrepreneurs. Yours may not become a household name. But think about the past 10  years: technologies, industries, and ways of doing business that were once notions are now commonplace. You can be part of the next wave—whatever it might be. Or you can make a small change your industry. Or you can make a small change in your profession.

Susan Arledge is a managing director for E Smith Realty Partners in Dallas, and knows that every day “Out there, somewhere, someone else is practicing, and when you meet him in head-to-head competition, he will beat you.” Contact her at [email protected].