Dennis Would Have Liked This

 

Dennis Lane would have liked this.  In fact, he would have liked this on at least two fronts. 

First, with an avid love of the water, biking and outdoor activities, Dennis would have appreciated what’s going on in downtown Cleveland along the banks of the Cuyahoga River just south of Collision Bend.  As seen in this photo from my office window,  the clearing of debris, dilapidated structures and scrub brush which began last fall is well underway for the first publicly funded portion in Cleveland of the Towpath Trail. 

 

The Trail which will extend all the way to Canal Basin Park in Akron traces the path of the historic Ohio Canal.  It will provide walking and biking enthusiasts with an opportunity to enjoy the Cuyahoga River in ways which could only have been dreamed of during the dark days of the Cuyahoga 40 years ago.  Those were the years Dennis lived in Cleveland while we attended John Carroll University together.

 

Public funding for this stretch of the Towpath Trail came from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants and Clean Ohio funds.  The project will restore 2,800 feet of natural shoreline and will convert nine acres of industrial wasteland into meadowland. 

 

That’s good stuff.  Dennis would certainly think so.  Converting valuable riverfront commercial property into recreational land is not normally high on the wish list of those in the real estate industry.  But Dennis was a different kind of real estate professional. 

 

He spent his entire career in real estate.  First working for the Rouse Company on the East Coast, West Coast and Sun Coast for many years, then with various other firms doing commercial brokerage and office development.  Yet, Dennis always appreciated a vision of what could be done with an underused piece of property and that did not always mean converting it to the most profitable use.

 

Dennis would have spoken out in favor of this kind of project in his usual direct and unvarnished manner. For Dennis was a prolific blogger on all things relating to real estate and politics in his home base of Howard County, Maryland.  His Tale of Two Cities blog exposed Dennis’s views on his beloved home towns of Columbia and Ellicott City.  If you want to see what good writing and blogging is all about, go to for his “Tale of Two Cities blog”.  He was universally recognized as the “voice of Howard County” and the most well-read blogger in suburban Baltimore.

 

Which explains the second reason why Dennis would have liked this.  Dennis always encouraged me to blog more and to post more items to this Real Estate Advisor Law blog.  In fact, he is likely the only person to ever comment on one of my blog posts – probably because I quoted from a Patti Smith song. 

 

But I failed him in this regard.  My last blog post was too many months ago and I have allowed others in our real estate practice to bear the obligation of blogging.  Dennis would have liked the fact that I blogged about the Towpath Trail.  He might even had commented favorably on it.  I could have only hoped.

 

Dennis Lane’s last Tale of Two Cities blog post was on May 9.  On Friday, May 10, Dennis was stabbed to death during the early morning hours in his Ellicott City home by the 19-year old boyfriend of his daughter.  Senseless.  Unbelievable.  Dennis was my friend for 40 years, my beloved fraternity brother, the best man in my wedding, but most of all he was a good friend to many, many people of all walks of life, a great father, a loving brother to his four siblings and a wonderful companion to his dear Denise. 

 

I will have to blog more often from now on.  Dennis would be all over me if I didn’t.

 

Five Points to Consider When Leasing Construction Equipment

 

 

As the construction industry starts to rebound from a down market, rentals of project equipment are on the rise. Whether you are an owner, principal contractor, or specialty trade subcontractor, you may very well be renting equipment for use on an upcoming project. Here are five important points to bear in mind:

 

1.    Do not accept the equipment without thoroughly inspecting it first. Failure to do a full, visual and utility inspection on a rental product could mean that you may be held responsible for existing damages or defects in the equipment. If damage is not documented prior to acceptance of equipment, it will be your word against the lessor’s—and the lessor is likely to have favorable contract language on its side. The best way to avoid this fight is to conduct a thorough inspection while recording (perhaps by taking digital photos) every aesthetic or operational issue with the equipment. Conduct the inspection in the presence of the lessor, provide the lessor with documentation or notes of all existing damage, and retain a copy of the documentation. Also be sure to reject the equipment if it does not appear to be fully functional.

2.    Be sure to obtain insurance coverage for the rental, or confirm in writing that coverage is otherwise in place. Under the lease agreement, the renter is typically charged with the duty to obtain insurance coverage for the equipment, both in the name of the renter and the lessor. Failure to have required coverage in place pursuant to the terms of a lease agreement will mean that you are responsible for casualty or loss to the equipment.

3.    Make sure your operating team is well-trained on the equipment’s maintenance. Required maintenance will often be spelled out succinctly in the rental agreement. If so, be sure to train your team to abide by it. If not, ask the lessor for its suggested maintenance in writing. If you fail to conduct required maintenance, the equipment may be damaged and you will be stuck with a hefty repair bill, or worse, you may be forced to purchase it —whether you want it or not.

4.    Meet the scheduled equipment return deadlines. Per most rental agreements, you will be charged an entire extra day (or week or month, depending on the duration of the rental) if you fail to return the equipment by the allotted time set forth in the contract. For large pieces of machinery, this could mean a significant price.

5.    If the equipment runs on gas or diesel, return it with a full tank. Much like national car rental companies, an equipment lessor can charge you significantly enhanced amounts for fuel if you neglect to “gas up” before
you return a piece of construction equipment. These amounts can add up and hurt your bottom line if your project teams are consistently leaving the gas bill to the mercy of your lessors.

With these points in mind, rent wisely and build safely, timely, and well.

Sign of a Turnaround ?

MSNBC is reporting that a parking spot in New York City just sold for $1 Million !  Could this be the sign of a real estate industry turnaround ? 

 

Embrace Change

As 2011 winds down and 2012 ramps up, I wanted to share with our readers the following thoughts from Seth Godin which he wrote on his blog recently:

Unexpected turbulence

Is there really any other kind?

If we see turbulence coming, we tend to avoid it. The art is in knowing that turbulence might come and looking forward to it, bracing for it and embracing it at the same time.

If your plan will only succeed if there is no turbulence at any time, it's probably not a very good plan (either that or you're not going anywhere interesting.)

See you soon !

What Is In; What Is Out: One Lawyer's Perspective

It is the time of the year to reflect on what happened this past year. What is trending? What did we do right? What did we do wrong? What can we expect next year?

Tweeting is in. Now the challenge is to figure out a way to monetize it as opposed to just joking with my kids. In fact, the whole social media thing is trendy. But to what end? Notwithstanding this Blog,  until someone way smarter than I can figure out some new way to utilize it, I am writing it out of my business plan. (It may stay in my social plan for a while because there is funny interesting stuff out there. You can follow me on Twitter and decide for yourself though whether anything I say is interesting or funny.  My kids would probably say NOT.)

 

Apple – computers, tablets, phones – is in. All the way in.  Even law firms who as an industry are ultra-concerned about security have made the switch. I resisted as long as I could in fear of my fingers being too fat to work the touch screen. People told me I’d get used to it – they were right. Not sure how I ever lived without my Apple phone, I-Pod, I-Pad and PC.

 

Urban life is in. In Cincinnati, it’s Over The Rhine. Washington Park being completely upgraded, several new restaurants, bars, shops and apartments, really cool old world architectural features, and Findlay Market. Gives local business owners a real chance. New Urbanism and Walkability are in.

 

3-D is in. New movies, remakes of old movies – all 3-D. I like the 3-D effect, but do I really need to see Beauty and the Beast all over again just to see a candle stick hover over my head?

Electric cars? Why isn’t that a done deal yet. I mean a real car you would actually like to own and drive. Why aren’t they everywhere?

 

Is it me or is the list of impressive politicians shrinking? We need to fix the system so that we are attracting the best and brightest to help govern.

 

Another thing broken is college sports. Division 1 football needs a playoff. The whole conference alignment makes no sense (San Diego State is in the Big East?). Title 9 does not work anymore. It has led to the elimination of whole sports programs at some schools, the reduction of baseball scholarships at all schools and other inequitable consequences. We need to support gender equity – I just don’t think Title 9 is the way to do that anymore. And the NCAA has lost its way. The purpose of the NCAA should be to protect the student athlete. It seems instead that it exists solely to protect the income streams of the largest universities.

   

Real estate lending has changed. Lenders are much more involved in the entire deal structure – not just the terms of the loan but the terms of the underlying deal. Much less willing to take risks. Leases, acquisitions, redevelopment – all tougher to do. Lenders may be right to take this approach. But it places increased level of importance on the experience, intellect and service attitude of the lender and its attorneys.  

 

I am concerned about business prospects for 2012. But I was concerned going into 2011, and 2011 ended up pretty good. Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous 2012. 

My Technology Wish List

Technology has revolutionized our practice.  Faxes used to be the greatest thing ever, and we have moved way past faxes in the last 10 years.  Technology will continue to evolve. My wish list:

1.    Phones as we know them are eliminated. All phone calls will be video calls over the computer, screen to screen (or tablet to tablet, or PDA to PDA, or any one of these to another.)

2.    The keyboard will be eliminated.  Instead, we can just dictate what we want and the computer will print it.
 
3.    Similarly, the mouse will be eliminated. Again, verbal commands replace point and click.
 
4.    Security concerns are eliminated. So remote access from any type of device can be used without concern.
 
5.    Passwords are eliminated.  Through fingerprint, voice or eye ball, users can be authenticated without having to supply (and remember) passwords.
 
Luckily, I do not think technology will in my lifetime advance to such an extent that a computer can replace the attorney completely.  There is no computer able to utilize the judgment required of a good attorney. It is not impossible to imagine though. 
 
Genesis, by Bernard Beckett, is a very interesting, creative, well written book which is based on that very premise. I think that it is an individual's unique judgment and the ability to apply it to unique circumstances and personalities and express conclusions in a meaningful and understandable way that make a good attorney. The job of technology is to make it easier and quicker to analyze a situation, reach conclusions and express them.
 
So at least for the time being, it is the job of technology to support us, not replace us.

Co-Working Office Space

As more workers and entrepreneurs are requiring space to hold meetings and appointments outside the company office, there is a growing need for locations away from homes in which to "plug in", make phone calls without the background music and noise of a Starbucks or other such cafe. The industry which addresses this need is referred to as the "co-working office space industry."

 

Two companies on the west coast are now meeting this need: NextSpace and Blankspaces. Both offer a table, chair, phone and Internet, coffee, conference rooms, private offices all for a daily, weekly or monthly fee. 

 

The benefits of "co-working office space" is that the working space is quieter, easy to plug in computers and cell phones, meet and collaborate with colleagues and clients. This is another way to take our over abundance of retail and suburban office space and adaptively reuse it. 

 

So, whether you are managing a work force and need space for them to operate from outside the company's offices or you are a property owner looking to turn empty space into income producing space, this is an idea worth considering!

Gorilla Marketing Hits Real Estate

Internet/mobile advertising company, Adzookie, is offering to paint your home and pay your mortgage if you keep your house wrapped in their ad.  Not a new idea, but this one will get much more attention for less marketing dollars than the cost of a traditional advertising campaign.  

Any reason this concept will not work for your business or enterprise ?  Wrap a car, a house, the bottom of an airplane.  The possibilities are limitless. (But check the local zoning rules and regulations first !)

Does Your Organization Have A VSE ?

Recently, representatives from our firm were invited to meet with and participate in executive level meetings at Cisco Systems headquarters in San Jose, California.  We thought we were going to spend two days playing with top secret tech toys which are being developed behind darkened windows and screens.  Although we did see some really innovative things, most of our time was spent interacting with Cisco executive team members discussing organizational strategies relating to how people collaborate and execute the organization's mission statement.  From the moment the first session commenced we knew we were in for a transformative experience.  Perhaps the best way to describe it is that we participated in a mini MBA boot camp. Over the next several posts I will share some of the information we learned.

Does your organization have a VSE ? Vision, Strategy, Execution plan.

Vision: 5+ years out;

Strategy: 2-4 years out;

Execution 12-18 months out.

There is nothing new about strategic planning.  What was impressive about Cisco is that every operating unit, every group and every executive had their own VSE!  Think how powerful that is when your entire organization is on the same page as the top management.

 

Optimists Unite!

The Associated General Contractors of America's and Navigant's recent industry-wide survey "Finds More Construction Firms Plan to Hire than Lay Off in 2011."  Read the AGC article with more links to state-specific data for the industry-wide Survey.  Included are numbers for Illinois and Ohio.  Survey results in both Illinois and Ohio indicate that the construction market should begin to grow again in 2012.  Hopefully, that prediction comes true a year early.       

Off Topic: 2011 Handbook of Living a Balanced Life

Thanks to our friend, Norm Khoury of Cassidy Turley, for sharing the 2011 Handbook of Living a Balanced Life.  The start of the year is a good time to remind us of these thoughts.  


Health:

1.       Drink plenty of water.

2.       Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner

          like a beggar.

3.       Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less

          food that is manufactured in plants.

4.       Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy

5.       Make time to pray.

6.       Play more games

7.       Read more books than you did in 2010.

8.       Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day

9.       Sleep for 7 hours.

10.     Take a 30 minute walk daily. And while you walk, smile!

Personality:

11.    Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their

         journey is all about.

12.    Eliminate negative thoughts and things you cannot control.

         Instead invest your energy in the positive and in the present moment.

13.    Don't over do. Know your limits.

14.    Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

15.    Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.

16.    Dream more while you are awake!

17.    Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

18.    Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner of his/her

         mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.

19.    Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate others.

20.    Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

21.    No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

22.    Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are part of the curriculum; they appear and fade away but the lessons you learn last a lifetime.

23.    Smile and laugh more.

24.    You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.



Continue Reading...

2011: Year of the Hotel ?

Jones Lang LaSalle seems to think so.  We hope that they are right.  As reported by Bloomberg JLL is forecasting a 25% increase in hotel/hospitality industry activity in the 2011.  The drivers are REIT money and foreign investors looking for investments which can still be acquired at reasonable discounts while the U.S. economy recovers from its troubles.  Business travel is up and all signs are indicating that the hotel/hospitality/travel industry is stabilizing.  Foreign investors usually consider first tier metropolitan areas for investment, but they should not discount the opportunities in the second tier metropolitan areas.

Resale Fees ?

Recently, The New York Times  published an article entitled Resale Fees That Only Developers Could Love . The article does a nice job describing what resale fees are and how they are created and even the securitization of future resale fees so we will not go into it here.  Briefly, resale fees run with the land as covenants binding all subsequent owners to their conditions.  The typical place you would find them, if created for a project, would be in the project declarations of covenants, conditions and restrictions.  Since this is a somewhat novel concept just starting to receive the attention of law makers and regulatory agencies, if you are a developer considering resale fees, make sure that your state does not prohibit them and that your buyers have full disclosure of the issue to avoid any possible future problems.  Also, lenders might consider the existence of resale fees and receiving an assignment of the same as collateral for a project's financing.  Creative and novel so caveat emptor !

Sales Tax Alert

The Ohio Department of Taxation has been enforcing the obligation to pay sales taxes by contractors and property managers for services received when the invoices do not separately identify sales tax as a specific line item.  Look at all of the invoices received for any services contracted for and make sure that sales taxes are separately broken out.  This will avoid an assessment for the unpaid sales tax and related penalties.  Of course the obligation can be shifted to the provider of the service by inserting appropriate language in the contract or invoice.

Take Control !

We have made a concerted effort in this Blog to keep on message for the Real Estate, Retail, Finance and Construction industries.  However, periodically we see the need to go off topic. Lately the flow of unwanted email has become so outrageous that I and several of my partners are actively UN SUBSCRIBING from these solicitations.  During the course of writing this post I have received 6 unwanted emails in my inbox from companies selling books, seminars, services, loans, property, you name it.  This unwanted constant distraction is an impediment to getting things done.  I view those who blast out these emails negatively.  Their products and services might be valuable, but the message and method of delivery gets in the way.  I now subscribe to the Seth Godin method of "permission marketing."  Take control of your inbox and take control of your day !

Excuse Our Indulgence !!!

Ulmer & Berne LLP Real Estate Practice Ranked 1st in Ohio; 7th in the Midwest by Midwest Real Estate News Magazine

Ulmer & Berne LLP announced today that Midwest Real Estate News magazine named the Firm seventh on its list of 2010 Best of the Best Midwest Real Estate Law Firms. Ulmer & Berne was also ranked first in the state of Ohio.  Midwest Real Estate News is one of the region’s leaders in commercial real estate coverage. According to the publication, each year hundreds of surveys are submitted by law firms from across the Midwest (a 14-state region) to the magazine for consideration. Rankings are determined by the number of real estate transactions in the previous year and the dollar amount related with those transactions above $5 million. In the 14-state region alone, Ulmer & Berne completed over 550 transactions with over 70 of those transactions valued at above $5 million in 2009. Areas of transaction included commercial, industrial, shopping centers, land, office buildings and multifamily housing. 

Ulmer & Berne, established in 1908, is one of Ohio’s largest law firms. A full service firm with approximately 175 attorneys in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Chicago, Ulmer & Berne represents publicly traded and privately held companies, financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, family businesses, international joint ventures and affiliations, investor groups, start-ups and emerging businesses, public bodies, and nonprofit organizations. 

Don't Be Anyone's Lunch !

I often think of an African proverb shared by Kip Reader, Managing Partner of Ulmer & Berne:

 
 
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.  When the sun comes up, you better start running.
 
 
I leave it to you to decide whether you are a lion or gazelle, because regardless of in which industry you work, the proverb has great meaning.  Whether you are hunting for new clients, new tenants, new retail space, new buyers, new investment opportunities, new employees, new engagements, new whatever - you name it, you are competing with others looking for the same new opportunity.  So, the trick is to be the fastest lion or gazelle every day - stay ahead of your competitors. Particularly good advice as we all navigate through the current economic challenges.

Location, Location, Location !

 Recently, Crain's Chicago Business  published an article about Vienna Beef's Hot Dog University.  Given the continued state of the commercial real estate industry many of our colleagues have had to "look" for new opportunities.  Hot Dog U struck me as just about the most entrepreneurial idea I have seen in a long time.  All of the skills a real estate professional has acquired are necessary to be successful in operating a hot dog stand:  drive, personality, street smarts and the ability to calculate cap rates on the fly, or at least make change for a $20 bill !  But the most important skill to make a success of a hot dog stand is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION !!!  Watch the video below:

 

AFA Does Not Mean Discounting Fees

Everyone is talking about Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs).  Some clients are demanding it; some firms market themselves as special because they will consider it; some attorneys are frankly scared of it because they think all it means is that they will be required to discount their fees.

In reality, an AFA is nothing more than a bill based on something other than the amount of time spent on a matter multiplied by the hourly rates of the attorneys doing the work.  Contingency fees are a prime example.  Fixed fees are another. There are obviously countless other "alternative" ways to structure a legal bill. Each may or may not be less than the traditional hourly rate fee. The reason for an AFA may be to reduce fees, but there may also be other reasons:

 

(1)        An AFA may provide certainty as in a fixed fee.  The ability to budget legal costs with certainty may be more important to a client than getting the lowest price.

 

(2)        An AFA may better align the interests of client and attorney.  AFAs with success fees or premiums for desired results may actually increase legal fees.  But the attorney is rewarded for obtaining the desired result in the most efficient manner.

 

(3)        An AFA may allow for the client to provide a larger volume of work. The larger volume should drive efficiencies which create a more profitable engagement for the law firm while providing an overall smaller legal budget for the client.

 

(4)        Where the assignments are repetitive or reusable, the law firm charging a fixed rate may lose on the first few engagements but then make it up in each subsequent assugnments.  Or, in a slight variation, a law firm can quote certain matters at a loss and others at a premium without having to account for hours where the client can afford more in some cases and less on others (e.g., more on a lease for a large space and less on a smaller lease even though the same amount of time and effort is required.)

 

(5)        The administrative costs involved with billing fixed fees, and with reviewing the bill from the client's perspective, are less than that with hourly billing. And this is actually a key benefit. A lawyer and client will never need to argue about an invoice - it is settled in advance and the issue about who spent how much time on what is eliminated. The only issue is did the attorney do a good job.

 

I think in some ways the AFA movement  may be akin to the shopping center landlords converting from charging tenants their pro rata share of CAM to now charging fixed CAM. When it first started, tenants were wary thinking it was a hidden profit center for the landlord and landlords were wary of taking the risk of loss. Eventually, landlords came to realize that it decreased conflict between landlord and tenant because they were no longer arguing what was CAM and how was it measured, and didn't need to worry about audits.  Similarly, tenants have come to see the benefit of budgeting exactly what their occupancy costs are without getting that extra reconciliation charge each year and not having to spend the time and aggravation negotiating CAM exclusions.

 

So the message is AFAs can be a great tool, and the effect on overall pricing is only one factor to consider.  They work well in many situations, not in all.  To be truly effective both the lawyer and the client need to feel fairly treated.  Like strategic business partners !

Legal Certainty

Long before 'billable hour" accounting became the norm in law firms, lawyers would price projects based upon what was fair to both the client and the lawyer.  That is not to say that billings based on time is unfair, only that it can be unpredictable.  Billable hour accounting dictates accountability which is and will remain a reality for all law firms now and into the foreseeable future. However, trying times demand flexibility from both the client and the lawyer. Clients, both entrepreneurial and institutional, desire certainty from their vendors to permit accurate project budgeting. Lawyers and law firms understand that to be and remain relavent to their clients and potential clients they must remain or become a client's "business partner, " add value and be perceived by their clients as a "well worth the expense."

Litigation matters have been priced by lawyers using contingency and success fees for many years. Rarely, do we see transactional matters priced using such tools. However, alternative fee arrangements such as tiered fixed fees, capped fees and blended rate fees all based upon size and complexity of transactions are being offered by law firms more frequently.  Law firms desire to build and maintain client loyalty. An alternative fee arrangement can be one tool in the law firm tool box to generate client loyalty and deliver legal services in a cost efficient manner; but, alternative fee arrangements are not appropriate for every client and every situation.

Successful alternative fee arrangements: (i) dictate that the client and the lawyer share intimate information about the proposed assignment, goals of each and their cost structures; (ii) should represent the client's valuation of the matter compared to the reasonable fee to the lawyer structured to take advantage of the law firm's resources and efficiencies; and (iii) should not be static arrangements.  In other words, be structured to change as the assignments and relationship changes.  

Look for the business partner who is the "value proposition" which will enable the achievement of the goals of the business plan and with a "long term" perspective on relationships.
 

We Are All Our Brother & Sister's Keeper (Lessons of Right & Wrong)

Our good friend, Abe Schear, Chairman of the Leasing Practice Group at Arnall Golden Gregory in Atlanta, pens a newsletter called Baseball Digest(able).    Abe's January issue is a powerful piece of insightful writing which merits all of our attention.   Since many of the deals in the real estate industry occur as a result of the reputation and faith we all have in each other based upon mutual experience, we are all put in the position of being an "enabler" at some time or another.  Therefor, it is in all of our best interest to head the lessons which Abe so aptly points out.   Abe has graciously given us permission to reprint the newsletter below.   Thank you Abe.

 

New Year’s Musings

Having just returned from Berlin where Linda and I spent four nights over the year end holidays, numerous reflections come to mind.  First, and somewhat surprising to me, there is so much to see I’d like to go back in the summer when the weather is more temperate and there is more than eight hours of day light.  Second, what is it about us Americans that wholly rejects timely and clean bus and train service?  The public transportation in Berlin was beyond wonderful – clean, efficient, affordable and it went most everywhere we wanted to go.  Third, most of Berlin appears to have come to grips with its history, good and bad, and the city is full of contemplative art and youthful energy. 

There is, in fact, a sculpture in a small park near the original site of an old synagogue where Jewish men were separated from their mostly non-Jewish wives and children near the end of World War II.  Their wives and their families protested night after night, blocking streets and creating a stir the Nazis neither expected nor wished to see gather wider support.  While these courageous women were not successful in completely stemming the tragic transport of these men and others to the concentration camps, their voices were heard, and the transport was slowed.  The part of the sculpture which comes to mind sits directly across the park from the memorial to these heroic women.  It depicts a man sitting idly on a park bench looking away from the other pieces, a man who wants to appear to know nothing, will do nothing, feels nothing, and cares for nothing and no one but  himself.  Our guide referred to him as the “ambivalent stranger”.
           
This “know nothing – do nothing” concern affects all of us around the world.  As we look at the tabloid-friendly Tiger Woods situation (or the never-ending baseball steroid matter for that regard), regardless of what Tiger did, what Tiger took, where Tiger took it and who he got it from, does anyone seriously believe that there was not a bevy of enablers, people as self serving and cold as the statue, who knew better but said nothing and did less?

For instance, is it remotely possible that Tiger’s caddy, his agent, his so called friends and representatives of his sponsors, did not know what was going on which led to this very sad fall from grace?  Under what pretense did they think that they were being Tiger’s friend?  Were these people simply protecting their own meal ticket?  Is there no circumstance when doing right is more important than making money?

Business, naturally enough, raises this quandary every day in the ethics and morals of our work. What is right and what is not?  When do we lend a hand and when do we turn our backs?  When do we take a moment to comfort and when do we fail to be a friend?

These issues are particularly important as we enter a new year.  Sport is, of course, a daily lesson about rules and teamwork and fair play.  Sport is a reflection on our society and on us – we follow sports that we care about and, as we do, we often learn a lot about ourselves.  As we set our goals for the new year, we routinely look at our productivity – hours worked, time billed, money earned – or whatever our productivity measures may be. We set goals to be better parents and better children, to go to our houses of worship more often, to do more volunteer work.  Perhaps we should ask ourselves what we would have done had we been in Tiger’s inner circle.  Would we have had the courage to try to correct the situation?  Would we have lied about not knowing anything?  Would we have done all we could to save our paycheck?

I have some idea how I would have reacted had I been in that inner circle, but there is no doubt that many of these people wish or will wish that they had taken the nobler path and will ask themselves why they didn’t act when there was opportunity.  I know that none of us want to be memorialized as a “know nothing, do nothing” person – not for ourselves nor for our families.