Finding Your Path

A Service Provider Manifesto – The Good, The Bad and the What Are You Thinking?

By Lorne Polger, Senior Managing Director

Lorne PolgerOver the course of the nine years that we have had our doors open for business here at Pathfinder (and frankly, over the course of the collective 100 or so years that the Pathfinder principals have been in business), we’ve run across our fair share of service providers to the real estate and financial industries.

Service providers run the gamut, and include lawyers, accountants, bankers, property managers and contractors. And as a former service provider myself (having practiced law with medium and large sized firms over 20 years or so), I’ve remained sensitive to the service providers that we employ throughout the U.S.

I continue to be amazed by the dichotomy of those who “get it” and those who don’t. It’s a massive divide. Think Grand Canyon. Those who know me well, know that I’m a storyteller at heart. So I thought I would share a few stories of some our favorite service providers. And to keep it light, I’m going to call these annual Pathfinder service provider awards, the Pathies.

Category #1 – The Lawyers.

LegalAh, my favorite category. True to my former profession, known for their ability to focus on really important things like the proper placement of semi colons and the intricacies of paragraph numbering, the lawyers always seem to think they are at the cutting edge of everything (we all know the real truth). And the nominees:

Goldstein, Silverberg and Coppersmith (aka, the precious metals firm), for their performance in “I know it took us 52 versions to get this Operating Agreement right, but I think we really nailed it with this draft.”

Dewey, Cheatum and Howe, for their performance in “We realize we gave you a budget of $30,000 to review the loan documents that we’ve seen 158 times before, but it was really the lawyers on the other side of the deal that drove our fees up to $128,000.”

Bank, Rupp and Sea for their performance in “I know you emailed me five days ago, but our firm policy is to only respond to emails on Tuesdays.”

Category #2 – The Accountants.

Crunch, crunch, crunch. Really hard to think of a more exciting profession that would have been a worse fit for me than accountancy. I don’t own a single pair of green eyeshades and – for me – posting debits and credits would be a bit like watching paint dry for a living. So, hats off to those of you who audit our books and file our tax returns. And the nominees:

Mega International Largest In The Planet Accountants and Consultants, Inc. for their performance in “We only work with large public companies that have a minimum of $100 million in revenues, but please make sure to give us a call when you’re that big.”

Cook, Books & Hyde for their performance in “Do you think your investors would mind if the K-1s were delivered on May 1?”

Beancounter and Journal Junkie, CPAs for their performance in “As part of our audit, we noticed an excessive amount of ping pong balls, paddles and other accessories purchased during the third quarter.”

Category #3 – The Bankers.

Piggy BankAh, the bankers. When you have no money and need them, they’re nowhere to be found. When you have plenty of money and don’t need them, they’re all over you like white on rice. And the nominees:
World Mega Bank for their performance in “We know you don’t do recourse loans, but we’re not asking for recourse, just a personal guaranty from each of the principals and their progeny.”

Central Community Bank for their performance in “You know we have a $1 million loan limit which doesn’t really fit your needs, but we are giving free Padres t-shirts if you open an account with us. How can we work together?”

First Trust and Savings for their performance in “Tell you what. If you guys keep $2 million on deposit, we would be happy to provide you with a $500,000 credit line.”

Category #4 – The Brokers.

Love these guys. Selling ice to the Eskimos? We’re your team. Selling wood to the forest? We’re all over it. Selling Superman a new cape? No one better than us. We’ve done it a hundred times before. And the nominees:

BRE/Grubb/Cassidy/DTZ/Cushman for their performance in “Uh, Lorne, we’re going to have to change the sign on the building again.”

Northwest Commercial for their performance in “We don’t get down to Phoenix that much, but we really want this listing. Phoenix is in Arizona, right?”

Apartment Brokers International for their performance in “After all of the lunches and dinners, I can’t believe you didn’t give us that shopping center listing.”

Category #5 – The Property Managers.

Toughest job on the planet. Low margins, frequent headaches. Where’s the love? And the nominees:

A-1 Property Management Services for their performance in “Lorne, we got a call from the tenant and they have a little sewage problem they need some help with. Are you available?”

Big Picture Management Company for their performance in “We spent the day going to every Home Depot in the County and we think we can save you at least 19 cents for each light bulb at the property.”
Top Management, Inc. for their performance in “It’s not that we like to cover ourselves, it’s just that it’s our company policy to confirm every phone call with an email, and every email with a follow-up email.”

Category #6 – The Technology Consultants.

Second toughest job on the planet. A little like the lost luggage department at your local airport. Generally, you’re only getting calls and emails when there is a crisis and everyone is stressed out. Oh, and they speak a different language. And the nominees:

Acme Internet Consultants for their performance in “And we’ll need your password to contain at least 23 letters, four numbers and seven characters.”

Technogeek Technology Partners for their performance in “But, Lorne, most people don’t have 104,000 emails on their laptop.”

Bubbledot Edgesters for their performance in “It’s our company policy that no one is permitted to shave or wear socks at a client location.”

Category #7 – The Contractors.

Hardhat ConstructionFinally, the lovable contractors. They’ve never met a problem they can’t troubleshoot, a bid that’s too complicated, or a city employee they like. And they also speak a different language. And the nominees:

Pro West Property Inspection Services, Inc. for their performance in “It’s completely clear to us that the breezebinder is out of sync with the foteratus and you really need to have the seller clear that up before you close. It could be a really big problem.”

AAA Construction Pros for their performance in “We have a small change order. We’re going to need to redesign the structural steel. Shouldn’t take more than a week or two.”
Big D Contractors for their performance in “Gosh, we would have liked to complete the framing by now, but you know, it’s Colorado, and the fellas just don’t like to work when the temperature gets below 40 degrees.”

Keep smiling and make it a great summer. Go on, take a little vacation.

Lorne Polger is Senior Managing Director of Pathfinder Partners, LLC. Prior to co-founding Pathfinder in 2006, Lorne was a partner with a leading San Diego law firm, where he headed the Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Law group. Reach him at lpolger@pathfinderfunds.com.