What I Learned from Publishing 30 Podcast Episodes

Starting The FORT Podcast has been one of the highlights of my year. It has connected me with a lot of great people, both podcast guests and listeners. I said from the beginning, if no one listens, at least I will have archived content for my kids to listen to one day—to show them what their dad was like “way back when”. I have always felt like I have a lot of great business conversations that I wish others had the chance to be a part of, and now podcasting has made that possible. 

Here are some key takeaways from my first 30 conversations:

1.    The perfect time to start anything you want to do is NOW. In essence, there is no perfect time, because it’s always the perfect time. 

2.    When you love something and are passionate about it, doors will open. Several episodes are with people doing things for the first time. That doesn’t slow any of them down. In fact, it accelerates their desire to learn quickly. 

3.    The goal isn’t to be perfect; the goal is to learn quickly—because failures are guaranteed along the way. In most conversations, some of the biggest ‘breakthrough’ moments were after a failure, not after a success.

4.    The tax rate, the stock market, and politics play ZERO influence on whether someone starts a business. While these are talked about highly in the media, I’ve found they have no influence on an entrepreneur’s desire to create something. 

5.    Small businesses aren’t all the same, but they do rhyme. We ALL deal with the same issues in some form or fashion. Don’t be scared to admit something to someone—you’ll be surprised to learn that they have probably experienced it or are experiencing it themselves. 

6.    Surround yourself with the right people. In every episode, there is an outpouring of gratitude from founders who have moved forward because of the advice, encouragement, sympathy, and kindness of those they surrounded themselves with. Don’t be scared to ask for advice or direction. It can help propel you forward faster than you can imagine.

Hosting a podcast has helped me understand how much larger the world is than we tend to think. I have learned more about not assuming everything I believe to be true and that asking the right questions can unlock a whole new world. Literally one great question might change your life—it can help you overcome any bias you might have had that was holding you back. Morgan Housel has a great quote, “Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.” Hosting The FORT has made that quote ever more true in my journey. 

The FORT has also reminded me that success comes in all shapes and forms AND that we all have shit to overcome. There is no “perfect” destination—the journey is the destination

-CJPJ

The Importance of Tough Conversations

The toughest thing about tough conversations is that they are tough. They may be hard, but they are effective and efficient. At the end of the day, these conversations will create more trust, instead of decreasing trust. I truly value people who can have tough conversations. It tells me that you think like an owner, take accountability, and want what’s best for the company, not yourself. 

I’ve always wanted Fort to be an inspiring place to work. A large part of this is creating a culture that allows and encourages these tough conversations. Disagreements can exist and different opinions are allowed to exist. It helps create the culture of iron sharpening iron—we will all rise together.

Tough conversations give us a chance to learn, improve, and move on—and do it all quickly. They come in all shapes and forms, but at the core, they come from a place of honesty. When had genuinely, the tough ones are the conversations that will create the most progress, clarity, and growth as you move forward.

There is a quote from IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, that I will never forget hearing:

“Growth and comfort don’t coexist.” If you are in your comfort zone, it’s hard to grow. As soon as you move outside your comfort zone, you grow.

In looking around at my closest relationships, I’ve noticed that these are the relationships where transparency and honesty flow freely, both with the easy stuff and the tough stuff. As long as someone else has to have the conversation for me, I’m cheating myself and those around me. I’ve also learned that if the person receiving the tough information can’t handle it, that’s on them, not on me.

Honest feedback and conversations are a gift to those looking to grow and improve. Even if you don’t like conflict, these conversations must be had, so it’s important to learn how to do them right.

-CJPJ

13 Simple Steps to Creating a Killer Investment Memo

At Fort, we have written countless investment memos to raise capital over the last 15 years. A great investment memo should be written in a fashion that virtually anyone with basic business knowledge can understand it. Warren Buffett often talks about writing his annual letters with the intended audience being his two sisters—both of who are savvy, but certainly not financial wizards. Keeping the memo simple, transparent, consistent, and to the point is always the best policy. 

We are constantly learning and evolving better ways to present information to our investors, and we treat our memos as a representation of who we are as a company. We take a lot of pride in making these the best possible, and I highly encourage others to do the same, especially for those raising capital for the first or second time. A polished memo goes a long way! 

Here are the 13 things we always include in our memos:

1.      Company Overview / Track Record. Who the hell are we, and why do we deserve your trust and hard-earned dollars?

2.      Investment Overview. For those that only like to read Page 1, they can leave with all of the highlights of the deal, financial summary / returns, and why we are buying it.

3.      Reasons to Acquire. What are 4 to 5 key reasons we are acquiring the property?

4.      Location Overview. Details about the sub-market.

5.      Property Overview / Specs. Details about the property and its specs. 

6.      Tenant Overview. Details and characteristics of current and future tenants (if applicable).

7.      Market Overview. What is going on in the market with which your property sits? Absorption, occupancy, key deals, growth, etc. Ideas here include:

  • a.      New construction in the market,
  • b.      Sale & lease comps,
  • c.      Market occupancy & absorption,
  • d.      Any key deals or additional market info, and
  • e.      Competitor analysis & current listings.

8.      Sources and Uses of Funds. Where is the money coming from, what are the terms of that money, and how will it be used during the investment period?

9.      Financial Summary. If all goes as planned (and it rarely ever works out exactly as planned), what can investors expect in return?

10.  Partnership Terms. What is the legal structure, waterfall structure, risks, fees, our skin in the game, etc.?

11.  Five Year Pro-Forma & Cash-flow Summary.

12.  Return Summary. For a lot of investors, this page combined with the investment overview is all they want to read. This page shows the return metrics our investors can expect to make. (A shortened version of this is also found in “Investment Overview”.)

13.  Property Photos / Map. We show detailed photos and a map of the sub-market with critical market information.

What other information have you found helpful to include in Investor Memos? I’d love to hear in the comments below! 

-CJPJ

The Case for Class B Industrial: On Demand Delivery

To say I am excited about the opportunities in front of us through ownership of Class B infill / light industrial real estate is an understatement! My goal is to write a series of articles that take a more detailed look into the trends that are backing our thesis of wanting to own more Class B industrial. 

Please keep Fort Capital in mind as an aggressive purchaser of these assets. If you’re a broker, we’d love to tell you more about our Broker Incentive Program for off-market purchases.

I’ve constantly asked myself, “What asset class offers the most ’optionality’ long-term for different use cases?” The answer is clear to me: Class B industrial. At the most fundamental level, it’s the least expensive asset class of them all, usually comes on larger plots of land, more in-fill locations by nature of when they were built, rezoning for higher and better uses is historically easier to achieve, offers lots of potential space & parking, can easily be redeveloped, and all of that leads to being an innovator’s dream. 

On-Demand Food Delivery

When Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber, starts buying core industrial buildings in major metros for his new startup(s), Cloud Kitchen & City Storage systems, I have to believe something big is emerging. I also have to believe that Travis hasn’t blindly walked into this venture—he knows something, because Uber is one of the biggest data companies of our generation, and nobody knows the data better than Travis. Travis invested $150M of his own dollars to purchase these companies—he’s putting his money where his beliefs are.

Gloriafood.com released some great data on the numbers behind food delivery.

Here are my key takeaways from the article:

  • 1. Nigel Travis, CEO of Dunkin Donuts, says the holy grail in the next few years for restaurants is building an efficient food-delivery model. 
  • 2. Between 2014 and 2016, online deliveries grew 300%.
  • 3. A survey done showed that 86% of consumers use a food delivery service at least once a month. 
  • 4. By 2020, restaurants who don’t offer online food ordering will lose 70% of their customers.
  • 5. The top reason most people don’t order food online is cost. 

The trends behind food delivery are growing every day, so why do restaurants continue to cook their food in high dollar kitchens, rather than to outsource some, if not all, their cooking needs to a lower dollar facility? If they did this, they’d have a significant cost savings (which could help mitigate the top reason most people aren’t ordering online more often). Lowering production costs can be passed onto the customer and help retain the 70% of customers who by 2020 would be going elsewhere. 

What Cloud Kitchen is already proving is the arrival of “delivery only” brands. These companies are coming to market with a delivery only strategy which helps them focus 100% of their attention on food quality, cost, and delivery speed. Check out this article written by TechCrunch. Companies like McDonald’s and Taco Bell are investing heavily in outsourced kitchens to minimize costs and create more focus on their delivery business. 

Convenience (aka time) is what we are all wanting more of. Today, adults ages 18 to 24 have lived the majority of their lives in a tech-driven world that consistently aims to deliver goods faster and cheaper. No matter the product, delivering it conveniently will continue to be table stakes if you’re looking to compete. It is hard for me to believe any argument that refutes delivery & convenience being the pathway way forward. 

As this trend accelerates, the case for Class B industrial will as well. Fort Capital has secured long-term, value-oriented investors who have the patience to watch this (and other) trends play out. As the demand grows and supply shrinks, our investments will deliver exceptional returns to our investors. 

The next question I’m asking myself: what other industries are ripe for outsourcing key elements of their business into core Class B industrial locations?

-CJPJ

Focus.

One of my best friends told me years ago “Be stubborn about your vision, and flexible in how you get there.” In today’s fast-paced world – it can seem impossible to predict where we will be in 5 years, much less 50 years. I believe all great companies & people have an idea of where they are destined to end up. What guides that idea is FOCUS. If you stopped reading here, my underlying message is:

“The best companies and people find value in staying focused, therefore making it easier.”

As Fort Capital has grown and achieved success along the way, the need to remain focused has intensified. I think that can be said for all successful businesses. Success breeds options or as we say “shiny objects” that can derail you quickly. One of those options is always the option to stay the course and keep getting better and better at a few things rather than become average at a lot of things. The best companies and leaders in the world are the ones who find value in staying focused. In my opinion it is easier said than done, staying focused is f**king hard! Technology, the internet, the constant sources of information can create a lot of distractions and noise if you allow it.   

I am the first to admit that I have to focus on staying focused. The difference between me today and me five years ago is that I recognize the power of staying focused. I am far from perfect – let me make that super clear. Having said that, I am now more than ever hyperaware that staying focused and having the courage/belief in saying “no” is ultimately keeping myself and our team on track for that big “YES”. Filling up your plate with distractions or “shiny objects” takes you out of practice and hence, not prepared for game time.

I have been a victim of trying to do too much. It is overwhelming, it is defeating, and it can quickly feel like you’re 3rd or 4th place in everything you’re trying to do. There is a reason why the #1 company seems to always be in the right spot at the right time, or innovate at the right time, or pivot at the right time – it’s because they are in the game practicing harder than anyone, so when it is time to play in the Super Bowl, they are always ready. That comes back to focus. 

The goal is to build Fort Capital into a world-class investment company with amazing people working on amazing investment ideas. To do that, we value focusing on work that maximizes our time and our returns to investors. We are now hyper aware of making unfruitful decisions that will lead to a heavy workload that yields little value. We are focused on developing our team to the be the best they can be and are intentional with decisions about how we spend our time.

If you’re reading this and feel that you’re losing focus, now is the time to write down your vision/goals and the things you need to be doing at the GREATEST level to get there. Be focused on the people you want to work with, the customer, the market, the risks, the opportunities, etc. Everything else is noise. Tiger Woods was the best golfer of all time because he relentlessly practiced his game, he knew he wanted to be the best, and when it was time to play on the big stage, he was the most physically and mentally prepared. Those that hold the #1 position in any field of work always practice harder than anyone else and even more importantly than that, they know exactly what to practice. They are focused.

-CJPJ

Some Good Advice

A year ago I made a commitment to 2 things that I think has helped make me a happier and more productive person.

1. I got off Facebook. 

2. I stopped watching and following all mainstream media. 

A mentor of mine told me to ask myself – “Ask yourself what the motivation is behind certain media outlets who provide you news, updates, information? Is it because they care about your well being or they care about hype and ad revenue dollars?”

I surrounded myself with sources that had my best interest at heart, and for me, Facebook and the MSM didn’t do that.

That freed up a lot of time and brain power that I could use to focus on sources of information that would push me to be better and see the world for what it really is.  I believe the world is in a much better place today than ever before. The majority of this world wakes up everyday pushing forward in some form or fashion – whether that is for their religion, their family, their friends, their city, their business – you name it. Are we perfect? No. But we keep pushing forward.

-CJPJ