On November 10, 2010, Bruce Cohen, CEO of Wrightwood Capital and member of Kellogg’s Real Estate Advisory Board, presented at the Real Estate Executive Speaker Series luncheon. In a lively discussion, Cohen provided an in-depth analysis of Wrightwood’s strategy and underscored several lessons from his 20-year career in real estate.
Cohen set the stage by listing the five key components of a successful strategy: “Who is your customer? What is your product or service? Who is your competitor? What is your competitive advantage? How do you make money?”
Wrightwood’s original strategy, which involves providing structured capital for middle-market real estate projects, remains largely unchanged today. “I contend that a really good business strategy is cycle-durable, and your credibility is enhanced if you can tell people you’ve never changed your strategy,” said Cohen. “The business we now have is [based on] a business plan that we wrote in 1992. The strategy itself has never changed. But we have evolved our tactics to be reflective of the environment.”
Cohen then reflected on his career development. “Relationship building is the most important part of career building,” said Cohen, who advised students to develop relationships with not only with peers but also with more senior professionals and people with access to capital. He also pointed out that when negotiating on deals, it is important to think about the longer-term relationship aspect, emphasizing, “Trust is the most important asset.”
Cohen urged students to think about their long-term path when choosing their next jobs out of school. “Find the job that provides the best first step on the journey of where you want to go,” said Cohen.
However, it is also important to enjoy the ride. “You must ask yourself, am I enjoying the journey enough?” explained Cohen, who added, “Be passionate about the path with an eye toward where you’re headed.”