Commercial Real Estate

Executive Perspectives: Bill Cawley

The unexpected COVID-19 crisis creates a great opportunity to reassess priorities and strategies, says the Cawley Partners chairman and CEO.

It’s surreal to think about how our world has changed the last couple of weeks. For as long as I have been in the real estate business, everyone in the industry is always trying to figure out how or when the real estate cycle is going to come to an end. A virus? Really?

In times like these, I find it comforting to go back to basics. There is so much that none of us can do anything about, no matter how hard we try or how much we worry. Fear is never good and always creates a lack of confidence and a lack of decisiveness.

Any problem of this magnitude requires us all to pull together. I am always in a better place when I’m taking action. So, let’s look at the positives and action steps we can take:

  • Dallas is the right place to be when this is over. People are going to continue to move to Texas, and Dallas is on the top of the list for every company that is considering relocation. There will be demand once we get through this.
  • The community in Dallas is made up of special people with great can-do attitudes. They are generous and resourceful.
  • Small businesses are the core of the Dallas community; we need to find ways to support them. The government is going to throw money at the problem, which will help the economy and reduce fears. (It’s nice to see both sides of the political spectrum working together to help the country. It would be a big win if this event brought us together politically.)
  • This reset gives us all an excellent opportunity to focus on what’s important in life: family! Play board games, take walks together—pour into your family.
  • Reach out to your neighbors; see if they need anything. Run to the store for an elderly friend.
  • If you lead a company, be there for your employees. Stay in touch with them and show them you care.
  • As long as we are in lockdown, business is going to move slowly. Stay in touch with your customers; relationships will be built, strengthened, and broken in a time like this. There is never a better time to do the right thing.
  • Make sure you focus on family first, then customers and employees. God is a big part of my life; it’s where I always turn for guidance and creates a great sense of peace for me.
  • You must remember to stay home and protect you and your health and the health of your family. None of the financial fears will matter if you don’t protect your health—this a three- to a four-month problem.
  • The timeline will shorten with the steps we are currently taking. I am one who thinks we will be through most of this in 90 days. This is a great time to re-evaluate your business, do a 90-day business plan, so you have clarity as to what to do when this is over.
  • Look for opportunities to create liquidity, life insurance cash values, and equity in your home. Also check into refinancing your home, with the near negative interest rates you have an excellent opportunity to reduce your mortgage payment dramatically.
  • There will be a great opportunity to invest in the stock market on the other side of this. We have all been looking for value; it’s 35 percent below the high, and I think there is more down coming before the recovery begins.
  • The real estate market has become so efficient. People are taking a more long-term look at assets than in the past. So, I  think there will be opportunities, but with the liquidity, the government is putting in the system, the recovery will be relatively fast—my guess is by the end of the year.
  • There will be industries hit harder than others; their recovery will be slower and somewhat painful.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. My advice: Stay the course, be positive, plan for the new economy, be honest with yourself, and where you need to make changes in your company. It’s important to be decisive in times like this! Stay in touch with your team and let them help you with your plan. People are resilient; we all feel better when we are moving forward; it reduces fear.

I’ll close with a poem by Edgar Guest that my friend Joe Geary shared with me:

I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done; 
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run. 
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true, 
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do; 
For I might misunderstand you and the high advise you give, 
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

 

 

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