An opportunity to do something different

EDITOR’S COMMENT: Picture the scene – you are a turkey and you’ve just voted for Christmas because someone told you it would mean a bounty of shiny gifts.

You’ve since realised you were lied to and actually what it means is you are going to have your neck wrung, your feathers plucked, an onion stuffed up your bum and you’re going to be roasted in an oven for many, many hours. But now someone has offered you the chance to say you’ve changed your mind, you got it wrong. What do you do?

You may think I’m talking about Brexit and our chance to go to the polls on 12 December and maybe, only maybe, have an opportunity to make a change. Or at least get some clarity.

And I am. A bit. But the turkey analogy can be applied to a number of situations in today’s real estate market.

Let’s start with the politics though, but only briefly, I promise. I can’t handle it either.

I voted remain. I still want to remain. And I wouldn’t mind eating humble pie with Europe and admitting we made a mistake, saying please forgive us and let us stay.

I, personally, would take the embarrassment and probably a little bit of lost bargaining power (not that it feels like we have much now anyway) in return for not being £70bn worse off and having a closer trading deal with the EU.

I know I won’t be alone in that view. Many will have been persuaded by the 12 consecutive months of outflows from property funds, the 45% decline in investment volumes, or the likes of LA’s Cloud Imperium Games pulling out of a deal to buy BASF’s HQ, citing Brexit as a key factor. I know, too, there will be many who won’t agree with me.

There will also be people afraid to admit they have changed their mind. That what initially felt like the right thing to do just doesn’t feel right anymore. That, they might fear, would look like an admission of failure.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Putting Brexit, politics and the economy to one side, real estate is rubbish at saying “Whoops, that was wrong. Can I change my mind? Can I pivot?” Really rubbish.

Let’s take our biggest example: WeWork. I would never call SoftBank a turkey, but given what we all know now, would you have ploughed so much money into a business without any corporate governance structure? And would you then double down?

I am acutely aware that there are much smarter people than me at SoftBank. But sometimes smarts aren’t the be all and end all. Sometimes you need to be humble and fallible to ultimately do the right thing, to do the clever thing.

A wise man once said: “Those who never change their mind will never change anything.”

Winston Churchill didn’t get everything right, but he did give good quotes.

We live in times now when it is increasingly difficult to predict outcomes. It means we need never be wrong. It also means we can change outcomes. And that if what we thought might be a good idea yesterday doesn’t feel like such a good idea today, we don’t have to keep doing it. (Let’s take a positive from the Capco saga; after years of stasis at Earls Court it, at least, is trying to make something happen with a sale – perhaps to Delancey – seemingly inevitable).

The power to change, the ability to have a choice, is always there.

To quote Churchill again: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Aren’t these difficult times the perfect opportunity to do something different?

To send feedback, e-mail or tweet @samanthamcclary or @estatesgazette