I Failed, Then Learned Lessons

By on Jan 5, 2018 in Real Estate Investing | 14 comments

           Approximately three weeks ago, my law office, which rents space on the first floor of a mixed-use commercial building I own in another entity, was flooded when pipes in an overhead unit froze, broke and poured hundreds of gallons of water through the floors and ceilings from the second floor to the basement beneath my office. In the weeks since, I have learned several important lessons. Life can be like that.

            The most insightful things I learned are about my shortcomings as a leader. I learned that when a crisis happens, I, as the leader, need to fully assess the severity of the situation. What really is the problem? How bad is it? It was 4-5 days before I began to understand the true severity of the situation and how ugly the problem was. Until that time, I believed we could continue working from our respective homes and do everything virtually. My first mistake as a leader was failing to fully assess the extent of the problem. The full impact of the damage affected our ability to compute, type, edit and print documents, and have access to files.

            My second failing as a leader was not clearly communicating with my staff. While I was doing my best to try to continue with my workload and responsibilities, my staff was struggling and working valiantly to preserve and protect the contents of the office, including moving hundreds of files and all the salvageable equipment and furniture. It was 10 days into the disaster when I realized the extent of the demolition needed to remediate any potential mold growth and other problems. By that time, the insurance adjusters from the respective insurance policies had been consulted and had given the green light to ServPro to come in and begin a massive demolition and remediation project.

            My third failure is intertwined with the second, and that is failure to gather complete information from team members as to what they saw, knew, felt and thought. Because of those failings, we struggled to formulate a plan for what needed to be done going forward. I want to avoid the temptation to blame this on the fact that I was out of town for 2 days on a previously-scheduled business trip. The bottom line is that I clearly blew it.

            The fourth mistake I made as a leader was not having an emergency backup plan already in place. The very idea that my office space would become untenable had never really crossed my mind. I had contents insurance for it in the event someone broke in and stole things, but I never really thought about it from a property inhabitability standpoint.

            This brings me to another big mistake I made regarding insurance, which I will cover in my next post.


  1. Dear Jeff,
    1) God loves you despite your imperfections (thank goodness)!
    2) Years ago, my school was closed for over 1 year due to 7 different types of toxic mold. Unfortunately, my individual teaching space and also my office area (with 20+ years of files,etc, were salvageable. I lost a great many unique teaching artifacts which forced me to adapt, etc. This was not a pleasant experience for me at the time, but now I see how that experience forced me to become more innovative in my teaching. While my story does not exactly mirror your story, I hope you take comfort in your clear humility and acknowledging the growth in your leadership capabilities. I will pray that you discern God’s peace and trust in His faithfulness despite the trials you are currently experiencing.
    3) Waiting anxiously for the remodel pictures!
    Laurel Howard

    Laurel Howard

    January 5, 2018

  2. I’m so sorry that you suffered this blow, especially that it happened right at the holiday.

    I continue to be impressed by how humble you are. You truly inspire me to do the same.

    Shari Peterson

    January 5, 2018

  3. Jeff: Sorry to hear about your problem. I share a similiar experience which cost me out of my pocket over $85k. Because I trusted my condo BOD, property mgmt and insurance company. (I work from home. A fire sprinkler broke. (Just burst) Everyone will be looking out for their best interest. No one wants to HELP YOU, only want to pass on the blame to anther party. Even the Palm Beach County Fire Marshall was of no assistance. He only made matters worse when they didn’t want to believe that their inspector was not reporting fire violations in our building. (Which I had videos of) Not putting tags with dates on fire equipment. Not checking the fire alarm system to be sure it was connected to the fire department and the phone bill was paid and the phone connected to the fire system. Then each contractor I hired abused us (even after a thorough vettingand BBB review) because they know how to increase your bill for their services, because of your emotional situation. I was convinced to put everything in storage (which I did). This made it easy for the contractors but ran my bill up over $12 because of the disputes between me and all other parties which delayed work crews. You will need to be vigilant for EVERY MINUTE DETAIL. If I can assist in any way please feel free to call on me. Philli D. Mrozinski, Strategic Business Institute PhillipM@StrategicBusinessInstitute.org 561-477-1484

    Phillip D. Mrozinski

    January 5, 2018

  4. Thanks for sharing Jeff…..we are in process of establishing our “Disaster Recovery Plan” as well. You don’t know what you don’t know until it happens! To a Prosperous New Year!!

    Ken Lacy

    January 5, 2018

  5. Sorry for your misfortune, Jeff. But those are excellent points you emphasized. Thank you for sharing.

    Vlad D

    January 5, 2018

  6. I am so sorry to hear of this situation, but you are right, we should learn
    from bad situations and when things do not go our way. I am glad you shared this
    as it shows me once again, that even smart people have problems. I wish I
    could help you clean up but it sounds like you have a great group already.

    As a Christian we know that God is there to help us in these situations
    if we cast our cares on Him. He loves you and will help you to stand back
    up and be even better than you were.

    Thank you for all your information and counseling. God bless

    Mary Stead

    January 5, 2018

  7. Take it in strides.
    Dont dwell on it, u have seen your mistake now and in the future u will be better prepared.Everything happens for a reason.
    Bless the Lord at all times in good times,bad times and the ugly ones like this.Stay Strong


    January 5, 2018

  8. You are such a humble man, Jeff Watson. You are willing to help others by sharing your own mistakes. That’s the mark of a great teacher.

    Love you, my friend.

    Kim Cook

    January 5, 2018

  9. Jeff

    Sorry to hear of your loss and the trials of learning how to deal with the situation.

    I applaud you for accepting responsibility
    for what happened and your willingness to share with us.


    William Roll

    January 5, 2018

  10. Jeff,
    A terrible blow, but it appears you are making lemonade out of lemons. Your story has caused me to think about my own need to backup files and prepare a contingency plan.
    I await your description of insurance needs and solutions.
    Jeff Johnson, NewLook Realty

    Jeff Johnson

    January 5, 2018

  11. We can never truly know , in advance all the horrible things that can happen to us/our “stuff”. Just like we can never anticipate everything a tenant will think up to do to your rental unit so that we can cover every conceivable potential problem in their leases. Don’t beat yourself up for that. Crap happens, and we do learn from it (hopefully). I am so sorry that you had to go through that. But, just look at all the good teachable moments and training fodder you now have for future blogs!
    May 2018 be your best year yet!

    Barb Eichlin

    January 6, 2018

  12. Sorry to hear about your problem…. There is only so much you can plan for with emergency plans, backup systems, redundancy, etc. They are all good, but something very important is evaluating the root cause. There must have been an unusual situation that the pipes froze in the first place. Could it be that someone turned the heat down too low over the holidays in the suite upstairs? This extra long cold spell can cause all kinds of problems. Add in a power outage and it almost guarantees a freezing condition. Aside from preventing issues again, do some extra planning and preparing now that you have experienced this disaster. You will never know when a fire, flood, earthquake, terrorist, or a thousand other problems will happen, but it pays to do your homework and some extra planning up front. A little can go a long way.

    Dan Keating

    January 7, 2018

    • The heat was turned off and a window was left open AFTER we locked the unit up.

      Jeff Watson

      March 5, 2018

  13. Bad thing will happen..especially in business…it is part of business. Since I got in this business in 2009 we have many success and some setback as well. The key is never giving up and moving forward and forgetting that unpleasantness as soon as possible. Don’t let any one mistake take you out. keep learning, adjusting and continue doing no matter what. I am glad you share your hardship.. some time we think we are the only one that have them. Thank you Jeff for being transparent.”if God is for you, no one can be against you” Marches on.

    Paw Lim

    January 9, 2018

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