There is no doubt that the last two years have been difficult ones for the retail real estate industry. The facts and figures—and our personal experiences—demonstrate that no individual, family or company has been untouched by the “Great Recession.” Yet, I have noticed at least one silver lining in this very dark cloud—the continuing generosity of ICSC members.
Having been associated with ICSC’s Foundation, as well as our Leadership Development Program, I have had the occasion to work with ICSC members of all types, from students preparing to launch their careers to powerful businesspeople leading our Board of Trustees. Time and again, I have witnessed acts of personal generosity that have made me proud to be a part of this industry.
A particular case in point has been ICSC’s well-received Mentoring Program, managed by the Leadership Development Department. These one-on-one meetings started at the May 2009 RECon, as part of a larger effort, The Reconnect Pavilion, designed to assist ICSC members in economic transition. While we offered a variety of resources for sharing information and technical assistance, it was those individual meetings, between a “Mentee” and “Mentor,” where the genuine support took place. The mentoring program matched student members, recent graduates and young professionals with professionals from all sectors of the industry. For 15 or 20 minutes, the Mentees received the undivided attention of individuals of considerable business stature. The Mentors provided general advice about the industry and launching a career, during difficult times; suggestions about possible opportunities and new contacts; and, a strong voice of empathy and concern,. In short, life stories were shared. Indeed, a great many of those offering advice had endured economic decline before—they knew how the Mentees were feeling.
So successful were these mentoring sessions in Las Vegas, we have now organized the program at a number of larger ICSC meetings including New York Dealmaking, Florida Conference, Western Division, and CenterBuild. The response from the Mentors and Mentees, alike, has been universally enthusiastic. Obviously, students have gleaned much from their talks with the industry veterans; and, from my experience, the Mentors have left the assignment equally encouraged. Industry people with decades of know-how are excited to meet students, learn about their aspirations and hopes for the future, and to share the wisdom gathered over years of hard work. Many industry elders who have worried about “the future of the industry” are greatly reassured when they come to know talented and well-educated young people who are just breaking into the business.
I am happy to report that we recently passed an important milestone in the Mentoring Program—our 1,000th meeting. It is clear that those one-on-one conversations have had direct impact on both participants, but we may never know the ripple effect of one word of encouragement, a great idea generated from a brainstorming session, or a new relationships that rose from a quarter-hour discussions. I believe that this mentoring program is a prism through which one can really see the generosity of members of our industry.
ICSC Leadership Development Team