Starting Line: New Tools for a New Time

Hearing from our 2008 Executive of the Year Award winners has given me new reason to think about what it takes to surmount difficult markets. The executives’ reflections on achieving in markets good and bad reveal no traits that are unusual in and of themselves. Nor are their efforts foolproof, as the resignation of our top award winner days before the award ceremony indicates. But the executives’ application of a series of simple, even old-fashioned traits has for the most part to date won survival, success and certainly the admiration of their peers.Those traits include a focus on both internal and external relationships, flexibility, creativity, innovation and at the same time efforts to minimize unforeseen risk by such means as keeping debt low. The market that these top achievers face promises to be different than any they have endured before, and withstanding it will serve as a true test of their strategies. But surely the award winners’ characteristics put them in a better position relative to the market at large.And their leadership extends beyond their companies. A look at their biographies reveals extensive participation in their communities and causes. Though we mention only the executives’ current roles in our tribute, this involvement stretches well into their pasts. These individuals serve not just on corporate boards but also on those of universities, hospitals and arts, youth and religious groups, not to mention in high-level positions in commercial real estate associations and organizations.Many of the Executives of the Year have won CPN awards in the past, and quite a few won multiple awards this year alone, especially because we recognized not just the winner but also two honorees in each category. The number of multi-award winners suggests that though a variety of people have made noticeable marks on the industry, their numbers are also somewhat circumscribed.To provide you with a greater opportunity to benefit from their experience, we feature many of the winners’ insights in a special online component of the feature. In addition, you will be able to hear from some of them directly via CPN TV, which is launching on We start with a roundtable discussion among three of our award winners and, in the first edition in our CEO Series, an interview with Cushman & Wakefield Inc. chairman John Cushman III, who received CPN’s 2008 Lifetime Achievement award.In case you’re looking for input of a different sort, we’ve been talking with a variety of experts lately. In early November, for instance, we partnered with CoreNet Global for a roundtable discussion with leading corporate real estate executives and their service providers to talk about corporate strategies for surviving the downturn, which many are already calling a recession. An audiocast from the session will soon be available on our Web site. Among participants’ observations was a continued interest in workplace alternatives to attract personnel, not just cut costs. In addition, these difficult times are winning an increased role in corporate strategy for real estate executives and are providing a chance to pursue some improvements that may not have been so palatable before.Finally, a recent Webcast produced by CPN, Multi-Housing News and Contract magazines and interviews for CPN Radio’s Conference Series offer insights from leading economists. The Conference Series also features General Services Administration commissioner David Winstead’s look at his mammoth organization’s real estate plans. The radio programming is available through and the Webcast at hope such expert information provides more fodder to help you take on today’s difficult market.P.S. If you have thoughts on these or any other issues, please e-mail me at