One of my most important accomplishments occurred during my association with a restaurant chain, for which I served as director of real estate. As a relatively new corporation, this business realized that it could only grow by opening more outlets. I played a key role in helping it achieve that critical objective. I was responsible for opening nine additional stores (there were six when I joined the company), which brought company sales from just under $10 million to $27 million by the time I left.
It was my assignment to find and lease appropriate sites for our new restaurants. This was a complicated process for a number of reasons. For one, due to construction restrictions and a brisk economy, there were very few buildings available in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. This created a landlords’ market, with high rents and conditions not generally conducive to restaurant expansion. In this environment, I had to be especially resourceful and aggressive in order to do my job. Then, once I found a location that met with top management’s approval, I was in charge of negotiating the deal. Such deals are complex because one is negotiating not only with landlords and attorneys but also with space planners, contractors, the city, and the health department. In the case of spaces in regional malls, I often had to work with the in-house architect and construction supervisor, as well as with the owner’s design review committee. It was necessary to understand and comply with the requirements of all these various entities, although negotiation was always very much a part of the process. In my earlier experience, as a broker with a major real estate firm, I operated from a different position, representing a buyer or a seller. As real estate director for a corporation, I was suddenly an in-house principal, part of a corporate team, and it was essential that I take into account how the details of each deal would affect our business. The restaurant chain is a real estate-driven business, so my work and accomplishments were particularly vital to the company’s success during this crucial phase of its development.
Another of my most important accomplishments was helping the homeless through my work for a foundation, of which I am a co-founder. This experience was remarkable because it afforded me the privilege of making a positive difference in the lives of others. The foundation achieves its goals in a number of ways. For example, for one local Family Living Center, we brought together builders and developers (who provided their services on a volunteer basis) to upgrade existing facilities, some of which were quite old and decrepit. I coordinated the work of construction teams doing the improvements. I would define the scope of the project and then assist the general contractor in subcontracting the work. I also had to go through the city permit process, which was quite unusual due to the fact that ours was a structure for the homeless.
Also, for three consecutive years, I was the operations man for a major 10K Race for the Homeless, which I originated and which was designed to raise both money and the public’s consciousness of this problem. Each year about six months of planning and work would be required to set up the event, which involved many elements. Among other activities, I had to coordinate all aspects of the race with the city, police, and fire departments, establish the course and have it certified, secure the cooperation of affected neighborhood groups, and set up a complex management structure (to recruit and train volunteers as well as handle a myriad of other details). During the three years I was involved, participation in the event increased threefold and the amount of funds raised increased fourfold.
During a recent spring, I was presented with an opportunity to make a big difference in another person’s life. At that time there was a six-car pileup on a highway in northern California. Heading north on the freeway just moments after this accident occurred and when the road was still open, I found my attention riveted to one particular car—crushed like an accordion—that was on fire with its driver still inside. I quickly pulled to the side of the highway, parked my car, jumped out, and ran to the car on fire. Its occupant, a teenage boy, was in a state of shock. I attempted to calm him down and then, with the help of another motorist, I used a crowbar to open the car’s door. I extricated the driver from the wreckage and carried him to the side of the road before his car became totally engulfed in flames. The boy suffered a broken leg and hip, but he survived. My act was heralded in the newspapers and recognized by a citation from the highway patrol and the county in which the event occurred, but this hardly equaled the feeling I received from having saved this boy’s life. Mine was a totally spontaneous and unpremeditated act, but I regard its consequence as one of my greatest accomplishments.