How Much Profit Is Enough?

In America, business moves, or doesn’t move, because of profit our system is founded on the belief that individual effort is directly related to the available reward. Other systems start with a different presumption. The difference between them is only money.. We make heroes of those who best understand the relationship between initiative and profit; We value those most who make the most money.

We’ve now proven that like anything else worth effort,free enterprise can be it/s own enemy..Enron and WorldCom have shown us that our revered profit motive can devour good sense..When we don’t restrain our appetite for profit , profit is no longer the engine that drives progress, but the virus that kills it.

When we buy groceries we can instantly compare prices. If Food World charges more than Kelly’s, we know it immediately. Services are not so easy. Whether the public gets better service from one doctor, lawyer, or plumber than from another may be known only by that provider.The stock market may be the same. We really don’t know the difference between some of the stocks reputed to be “sure thing” and those that don’t get off the board.

Real estate is still more complex. The market is harder to know.Mistakes are more costly and more permanent,and success may be measured in degrees of satisfaction, not dollars.

How we handl our real estate market, or for this article how , we handle our real estate development market, means everything to all of us.How much better have we handled condominium development in north Florida than the Enrons of the world( that we now know were never satisfied with a normal operating profit)handled theirs? Specifically,we build a condominium that should bring a 5 million dollar profit. We then discover that we can change parking from 1.5 spaces per unit to 1.25 spaces per unit, and if we can get it by the county inspectors,chances are the buyers won’t look closely, at least not until after closing, and then it’s likely to be too late. We discontinue doing business in that developer entity, put our money in the bank, and go plan another project. The buyers who have to live in the project may never know why during certain times they can’t find parking. America has a new hero,and the legal syatem has yet another lawsuit.

The lessons of free enterprise are expensive. If our industry doesn’t provide a fair product with certainty, we will find ourselves with no more credibility with the buying public,(which is our only important audience), than the stock market. I know buyers who invest in our real estate market because they believe they can do so more safely than they can invest in stocks. We owe our economic future to the commitment that they not be disappointed.

So how does this axiom, if it is one, relate to now,and here?

Our land planning laws are important. Too many times we spend time and money trying to figure how to avoid them. Those laws need to be intelligently passed, and then they need to guide the industry. Transportation facilities are like parking places in every way. We can get by with less, and the imperceptive, or someone new to the area, may never understand the problem. Those of us in the business know it immediately. Someone has cut another corner, or a council or commission again didn’t have the courage to pass or enforce an ordinance that imposed real and fair obligations on the industry.

The credibility of our industry depends only on how well we can fulfill the confidence that has been placed us. Our architects, engineers, inspectors, planners, lawyers, and real estate brokers and even politicians all owe a duty to each other, if not to the community to make sure we don’t fall into the Enron trap of idolizing the profit our clients make, not the product we deliver.